Life in the fast lane

Dubbo busi­ness ex­pand­ing into new mar­kets...

Dubbo Photo News - - Front page -

The cof­fee con­nois­seurs of Dubbo are no strangers to The Fast Lane Drive-thru, with two lo­ca­tions in busy parts of Dubbo city. But it doesn’t stop there, with the chain ex­pand­ing into south­ern NSW and Queens­land. NATALIE HOLMES caught up with com­pany founder Paula An­der­son. As a con­sumer, what is your favourite cof­fee?

My cof­fee of choice is an al­mond milk flat white on Milk Lab al­mond milk only (painful I know!)

Where did you get the idea for drive-through cof­fee?

My hus­band Brett saw the idea whilst on a busi­ness trip to Gee­long. My friend Karen Chant and I were look­ing for a niche, scal­able busi­ness. The Fast Lane was born. I was for­tu­nate enough that Brett owned our first site in Bultje Street and it pro­vided the per­fect lo­ca­tion so things be­gan to fall into place.

How did you get started on this jour­ney?

I had pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with run­ning my own busi­ness with Sticks and Stones, so that part was okay... the cof­fee sec­tion was an­other story. I was at a stage where my chil­dren were older and I had the time and head space to work on some­thing for my­self.

Once the idea was on the ta­ble, The Fast Lane was a se­ries of small steps with a lot of help from Brett, Karen, so­lic­i­tors, ac­coun­tants and the in­ter­net.

Dubbo Coun­cil were great to deal with as it was a new con­cept for them but were very proac­tive in help­ing us out.

The Fine Food Fair opened my eyes to prod­ucts and we had a con­sul­tant from a roaster in Mait­land help us ini­tially with set-up and train­ing.

What did you do be­fore you started this busi­ness?

I have had a few hats: phys­io­ther­a­pist, mum, co-founder of Sticks and Stones Wood­fired Pizza, teacher’s aide at Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice.

What has been the evo­lu­tion from be­gin­ning the busi­ness to own­ing an in­ter­state chain?

I think flex­i­bil­ity in my life is the big­gest mo­ti­va­tor for own­ing my own busi­ness, and with this in mind I needed to de­velop the model to al­low this. We opened Bultje Street in 2009 and White Street in 2011 and, from the start, the con­cept has lent it­self to repli­ca­tion. Fran­chis­ing was a per­fect way to ex­pand.

It has been quite a slow process as I en­gaged my first fran­chise con­sul­tant two years in, and it took un­til 2015 for our first fran­chise to open in Rockhampto­n. It was not the most log­i­cal lo­ca­tion for your first site, but our first fran­chisee Patti worked in our Dubbo sites and was keen to open her own site in Rockhampto­n. She opened a sec­ond site in 2017.

In the in­terim, we found a great lo­ca­tion in Wagga Wagga and Tracy opened ‘Wagga 1’ in 2016 and ‘Wagga 2’ in early 2018.

I sold my com­pany-owned sites to Ricki in 2017 to al­low me to con­cen­trate on ex­pan­sion.

We are now fo­cus­ing on build­ing our con­cept in the ar­eas around our cur­rent lo­ca­tions and opened a com­pany-owned store in Mary­bor­ough, Qld late last year with the idea to fill in the gaps be­tween Mary­bor­ough and Rockhampto­n. We cur­rently have a DA in for a site in Glad­stone and are about to lodge one in Her­vey Bay. Every town we go through, we are al­ways as­sess­ing po­ten­tial lo­ca­tions as they are the hard­est part of our jour­ney.

We started roast­ing our own cof­fee a cou­ple of years into the busi­ness and now have two roast­ers in Hawthorn Street where we roast and dis­patch to all lo­ca­tions weekly. In May, Ricki will open a small walk-up-only site at the front of our roaster.

Has Dubbo’s em­brace­ment of the prod­uct helped you to ex­pand?

Of course. Dubbo’s suc­cesses and fail­ures have taught me a lot and al­lowed me the con­fi­dence in my model to go to the next stage.

We have some cus­tomers that have been with us from the first day and that is just beau­ti­ful. We can have the best of days and the worst of days and I am so grate­ful and ex­cited to still be go­ing strong in our tenth year of busi­ness.

Now that you have so many out­lets, what is your ul­ti­mate aim?

I am at a stage that I need to ex­pand the skillset of the com­pany and am look­ing to em­ploy fran­chise-spe­cific man­agers in head of­fice with the skills and knowl­edge to cre­ate a more pro­fes­sional and pol­ished prod­uct that we can see Aus­tralia-wide (and beyond).

What would your ad­vice be to others who want to start their own com­pany?

Prac­ti­cally: Ask lots of ques­tions

Watch your cash flow

Del­e­gate/out­source what you aren’t good at Emo­tion­ally:

Be pa­tient

Be grate­ful

Re­mem­ber the motto “this too will pass”.

PHOTO: DUBBO PHOTO NEWS/SOPHIA ROUSE

Dubbo en­tre­pre­neur Paula An­der­son has taken The Fast Lane Drive-thru into the world of fran­chis­ing.

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