From horse float to cafe

Sunday Star-Times - - BUSINESS - ANUJA NADKARNI Stuff is the me­dia part­ner for Small Busi­ness Month, sup­ported by CAANZ.

In just 18 months West Auck­lan­der An­abelle McCusker has turned a horse float into a pop-up cafe – with a loyal fol­low­ing.

At first the cafe was just to earn ex­tra cash over the sum­mer.

But last year, af­ter quit­ting a decade-long teach­ing ca­reer, McCusker de­cided to turn her mo­bile busi­ness, Melt, into her full­time job.

McCusker and her hus­band Scott bor­rowed money from fam­ily to start the busi­ness.

The McCuskers are self­con­fessed food­ies and wanted to serve up cheap and healthy food to their neigh­bour­hood.

The pair serve up real fruit ice creams made from berries, fei­joas and figs sourced from neigh­bours and nearby or­chards.

McCusker is also a pot­ter and dis­plays and sells her mugs and tea cups at Melt.

‘‘It wasn’t planned but the cafe has helped get my pot­tery out there.’’

But switch­ing ca­reers and de­cid­ing to open up a cafe is not all rosy, she says.

‘‘We don’t just turn up and turn on a switch. It’s a phys­i­cal job, it looks re­ally sim­ple when you’re stand­ing there mak­ing some­one a cof­fee. But be­cause it’s the trailer, we have to move it in and out ev­ery day.

‘‘Run­ning your own busi­ness is hard. But it’s re­ally good learn­ing.’’

Although Melt has its reg­u­lar cus­tomers, McCusker says, the past few months have been rough for the busi­ness.

‘‘We’re do­ing all right now, but I got wor­ried over win­ter be­cause spend­ing dropped off a bit. But I spoke to neigh­bour­ing busi­nesses who have been run­ning for years and they said it was nor­mal and ev­ery­one feels it.’’

McCusker says if the prod­uct is no good, no amount of ad­ver­tis­ing or mar­ket­ing will help.

‘‘Word of mouth is our big­gest tool. Peo­ple come to us not only be­cause our cof­fee is re­ally good but be­cause of the com­mu­nity as­pect.

‘‘We’re in an iconic spot parked out­side a 1940s or­chard and vine­yard, a land­mark fea­ture of Swan­son.

‘‘It’s friendly. Peo­ple talk to each other when they’re wait­ing in line, it would be un­usual for cus­tomers not to in­ter­act.’’

What makes their cof­fee so good?

McCusker be­lieves it’s the lo­cally roasted vel­vet bean cof­fee they use from the sub­urb over, Hen­der­son. The blend is or­ganic and fair trade.

Serv­ing the com­mu­nity is a big deal to McCusker, who has lived in the area for more than 15 years.

‘‘We might not get the same traf­fic we could in town, but I think if we left there would be a gap for Swan­son.’’

On sunny days sheep and hens on the farm en­ter­tain cus­tomers wait­ing in line.

Melt also sells honey har­vested by Bees Up Top, an­other West Auck­land based com­pany that re­homes bee­hives from ex­ter­mi­na­tors and main­tains the hives for their cus­tomers.

Melt cafe is parked out­side a res­i­den­tial prop­erty. The owner wel­comes the bus­tle the busi­ness brings to the area.

‘‘We’ve got the gen­eros­ity and sup­port of our com­mu­nity be­hind us and we want to of­fer some­thing back.’’

McCusker says the next 12 months look promis­ing, and she’s look­ing for­ward to a sum­mer spike in sales.

‘‘Run­ning your own busi­ness is hard. But it’s re­ally good learn­ing.’’ An­abelle McCusker


Self-con­fessed food­ies An­abelle and Scott McCusker bor­rowed money from fam­ily and took a punt on a mo­bile cafe.

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