Business

Auctions, DIY, and R120,000 in crypto. Here’s how a KZN couple funded their dream café.

Business Insider SA
Robert Wallbridge and Paige Howland (Facebook)
Robert Wallbridge and Paige Howland (Facebook)
  • A young KwaZulu-Natal couple documented the journey leading up to the opening of their country farm café on social media. 
  • It cost them almost R350,000 to start the business. They used money from personal savings, a personal loan, and R120,000 from crypto investments
  • They capitalised on going to auctions, and DIY on ways to save money and cut costs. 
  • For more stories visit www.BusinessInsider.co.za

It took Paige Howland and Robert Wallbridge only four months and about R350,000 to bring the café of their dreams to life.

What would have been a vegetable grocer soon became Renishaw Café, a cosy country farm inspired establishment in Scottburgh, on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

The idea of starting their own café was sparked after several visits to Wallbridge's mom, who lives in the Renishaw Village retirement village, in Scottburgh. On these visits they realised there was no place they could all go to get a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.

Soon after relocating to the south coast for work the two began drafting their business plan for the shop in November 2021. With limited experience in the hospitality industry the couple pulled off a successful high tea prior to the official opening and began trading on 27 March.

cafe, business, entrepreneur, renishaw
They celebrated the opening of the café with a buffet spread. (Facebook)

Wallbridge, 22, a former barista and Howland, 23, once a waitress had one aim: to establish a time capsule that would take their customers back in time. The café is located in a country house, on what once was the the estate's rum distillery and sugar cane mill, and they wanted visitors to feel they were back in that era. 

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Each day the cafe reveals a 'Cake of the Day'. Their recent cakes have been granadilla and vanilla; pinacolato and raspberry and elderflower cake. (Instagram)
cafe, business, entrepreneur, renishaw

This is how they did it…

Financing the shop

Wallbridge an accounting student is also the junior accountant at Renishaw Village. He has assumed the role of handling the finances of their small haven.

Thanks to his keen interest in investing, the couple used R120,000 in crypto investments towards the business. "We also had personal savings of around R70,000 that we put into the coffee shop," said Howland, she added they sought further financial assistance to complete the final touches to the shop.

Howland resigned as a mental health practitioner and works at the café full time. The most challenging aspect of financing the business, she says, were the small costs that crept up that weren't accounted for.

Though the pair sat down and drafted a tight business plan they did experience minor hiccups along the way, "To be honest, there were many costs that we didn't factor in that truly ate into our budget," she added.  

To cut costs the couple prioritised certain projects over others which meant cutting down on the interior design budget.

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Among their projects was acquiring a Italina pizza oven.

As the creative of the two Howland's passion lies in many things but her first love, you could say, is interior design. She hopes that one day they will be able to fulfill another dream of turning one of the old houses in the village into a B&B and establish their veggie grocer in the café.

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The café's interior design of rustic wallpaper, fitted steel pipes and wooden furniture takes on an industrial theme commemorating the village's history

Water colour art pieces of beetles hang in the shop painted by Paige...

… along with their hard to miss DIY chandelier, sanded and painted white, which glimmers from the ceiling. 

"It was very important to us that we put our blood, sweat and tears into this coffeeshop in order to save as much as we could," the couple said.

They took an old window frame and turned into the shop's menu board which now displays their menu curated by their head chef and sous chef.

@paige_how

First DIY project done and dusted ??????

? Sunroof - Nicky Youre & dazy

They managed to save thousands on their furniture, as they designed and made the tables themselves. They also curbed costs by hunting for second hand décor and buying through auctions. 

Being a good bargainer came in handy when trying make sure they had enough cash on hand. Instead of paying contractors in full, they negotiated to break up the payments into two months, ensuring they had enough money to pay all of their contractors.

Aside from finding innovative ways to cut costs they knew that they had to account for loss and wastage in their development phase. Certain costs were factored in like trying out their new recipes. 

It's virtually impossible to start an establishment without accounting for loss, they say. Each morning it costs the shop R30.00 of coffee and milk – this is solely to test out the coffee machine and make sure it's running on all cylinders before serving customers. "Its important to know where you are losing money and monitor these costs to ensure that your loss is covered elsewhere," they said.

During the first week of their opening the café has been fully booked largely due to the community who by word of mouth have marketed their business.

"We have been very grateful in that we have a space like no other so people have been excited to try something new," Howland said.

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