Kamelle and Duane took the ‘leap of faith’ in 2017 to leave Sydney and open up their own restaurant in the rural mining town of Collie, two hours south of Perth in Western Australia.
In a classic case of Kamelle being made redundant and their expensive Sydney flat lease coming up for renewal, Kamelle was looking for an opportunity. She found it in Collie only two hours south of her hometown of Perth where a family friend had purchased a motel.
Previously Kamelle had leased a restaurant in similar circumstances from the owner so it was not hard to put a proposal together and convince her partner Duane that it was a good idea.
‘We just couldn’t see how we could cope in Sydney so we left it all behind,’ Kamelle explains.
Well, to be exact, Kamelle left it all behind. The plan was for her to get the restaurant established using Duane’s earnings to support her during the start-up phase.
Duane stayed on in Sydney but he also couldn’t wait to escape. ‘A casino is a very depressing place to work,’ he admits. ‘You can’t smile and be happy because people are losing their money.’
With a background in hospitality he was 100 percent behind Kamelle’s plans, so when she rang to say that she was run off her feet with a conference at the motel, Duane had no hesitation in quitting his job and following in her footsteps.
‘I needed to be by her side,’ he smiles.
With most bank managers making themselves scarce when approached to finance a new ‘dream’ café or restaurant, this young couple were able to avoid a big capital outlay by negotiating accommodation and use of the kitchen and dining room in return for work at the motel during the day. But there was still money to be spent.
‘We anticipated spending $10,000 to set up the kitchen but it added up to $15,000’ admits Duane. ‘Our parents have been very supportive and wanted to be part of it.’
Both admit to being nervous in the beginning but are feeling optimistic with the results to date. They open six nights a week for dinner and offer a buffet breakfast on Sunday mornings.
‘It wasn’t such a big risk because there were already customers on site it being a motel,’ explains Duane. ‘But now, even the locals are starting to find out about us.’
So far they have used Facebook and flyers to generate publicity but, as always, word of mouth is their biggest ally.
Their business plan seems to be an organic one but they are clear on what they are offering their customers and where they are heading.
‘Our aim is to offer great service and good value,’ explains Duane who clearly loves being front of house and chatting with the customers. ‘If someone is staying for a while we can make it more homely for them.’
An excel spreadsheet has proven sufficient for their simple accounting needs and the purchase of a square reader gave them immediate access to EFTPOS and receipting without a five week wait.
Their long term plans are to start delivering lunches to workplaces, attract tourist buses, and eventually taking over the whole motel in three or four years.
Only eight weeks into their new enterprise and both are extremely happy with the decision.
‘In Sydney we hardly saw each other but now we spend every day side by side,’ says Duane. ‘It’s been a great decision.’
Which brings me to the second significant proposal in eight weeks. Duane asked for Kamelle’s hand in marriage the day after I took their photograph and she said yes!
Congratulations Kamelle and Duane!
Postscript: Sadly Duane and Kamelle hit a few barriers in their business journey and have moved on but their story has some great learnings regardless.
KERRY ANDERSON: Author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE
Kerry recently published her first book with 20 inspiring case studies for rural communities and business people READ MORE