Small Business Spotlight: Café the Bethel
This month we sat down with Eba Nam, founder of Glebe’s Café The Bethel, located in the heart of Sydney’s inner city. Café The Bethel specialises in Australian and Korean-influenced food and, of course, coffee!
Eba, who brings with her a strong background in hospitality from Korea, is a first-time business owner, opening the café in December 2019. She credits the supportive and nurturing nature of the Glebe community with helping her launch a successful business at the dawn of COVID and the ensuing lockdowns.
What made you want to start a business?
I wanted to start a business, or at least get back into the workforce, when my eldest daughter started high school. But I kept being told how difficult (or impossible!) this would be as I didn’t have the experience or the qualifications.
People said I was too old, or that I wouldn’t get a job, so I decided to start my own business! It was actually my mother who suggested running a cafe. I have education and qualifications in hospitality from Korea, but with very limited ‘on the job’ experience, so I made sure to:
- Employ people with those skills and improve my skillset along the way
- Find a venue that was affordable and manageable, and
- Start small – only coffee – until customers asked if I could add a food menu
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received, personally or professionally?
It’s not really advice I’ve received, but the advice I would give to others professionally is ‘just start somewhere’. Your skills and the quality of your output or work will improve over time. So be patient about growth and learn as much as you can from others, including your employees.
Finally, love your customer. Get to know them and be thankful as they are spending money in your shop/on your business and thereby keeping the business going.
During your startup phase, what was your biggest obstacle?
During our startup period, it was actually our saving grace that COVID came along. Glebe was such a supportive community during that time; people wanted that luxury of a well-made coffee that they might not get at home.
Government incentives and dining vouchers also made it viable for the business to flourish during that first year.
When Sydney began to open up again, our revenue did drop as people returned to work and with more and more people going back into the office, it has been extra challenging. So actually, allowing people to work from home does allow for small businesses like ours to flourish and be supported.
What do you like to do to unwind after a long day?
I am a single mum to two kids (8- and 16-year-olds) and a demanding black cat, and the café is open 6 days a week, 6am-3pm, so I don’t have much downtime. I’m up at 3am daily to get ready for my day and help my daughters prep for theirs.
Why do you continue to run your small business and what keeps you motivated?
I love knowing that my kids’ friends think what I do is a ‘cool’ job (because it is!), and not a ‘boring’ traditional profession. I love my customers too, and really enjoy developing relationships within my wider community.
Last year I went to Korea for a holiday and found myself wanting to get back to work. The café is a place to call my own and I am very proud to be a business owner, of my products and our service.
What’s your advice to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
I say this to my younger daughter, who wants to start a business one day: “Keep going! There isn’t a right way to start or run a business but patience and persistence is key.”
Connect with Café The Bethel: