Cafe owner Holly Smith believes in the power of a happy team, trusting your gut and really great coffee.

How many years have your owned your own business?

I took over The Coffee Incident from the previous owner in November of 2019 – so two and a bit years!

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

My biggest tool in being able to have work and life balance is having such a great team at the cafe. I am so lucky to have such a solid group of women on my side who love and care for the tiny cafe as much as I do. They bend over backwards to make sure everything runs smoothly every day, so I have been able to let go a bit and enjoy the fruits of my personal life. My second tool is making sure any business-related work finishes at 4pm, no matter where I am up to. My day starts at 5am, so I need to cap the day to avoid burning myself out. These two things alone have created so much room for me to keep up with the responsibilities of my personal life, as well as enjoy it!

What’s the best business advice you have been given?

Trust your gut – it is your business, your baby, and you know better than anyone what is best for it.

What keeps you up at night?

My staff being happy and cohesive would be a big one. As I mentioned before, having a solid team is, above all else, the reason that everything runs as it does at The Coffee Incident. So making sure everyone is happy and well is huge for me. Another one is new ideas. I think of a project I would like to do and continue working on it past my 4 pm workday deadline, you bet I’ll be laying awake. My partner and I call it my work tunnel, sometimes I see the light at the end, but sometimes it’s a long time crawling through.

Who inspires you and why?

I get my biggest inspiration for my work from visiting other venues. For this reason, my general answer would be that other business owners inspire me. I love going into other venues and watching how the cogs turn. I like to make a point of always going somewhere new, you can learn something from every venue and every business owner just by being there.

All small businesses have their challenges. What have been some of yours, and how did you persevere?

One of my biggest challenges when I first took over was that I was trying to be everything to everyone. I was trying to have every product, I was trying to have the cafe open all the time, I was trying to say yes to every single suggestion. I would change things based on one person’s opinion – I was running myself into the ground to please people. Accepting that I couldn’t possibly please everyone was a huge challenge for me. Funnily enough, the pandemic really helped me here. The whole world stopped, and nothing mattered anymore, no one cared if we didn’t have scones that day, no one cared if I only had one salad instead of two, no one cared if we closed early because it was COVID-quiet. Everyone was so grateful that we were even open at all and it just created a huge shift in the pressures I once put on myself. We started taking a less-is-more approach and everything just started to work – I could breathe, and this was when myself and the team really learnt The Coffee Incident dance.

Like for every other business, COVID has created some great challenges, but if I am being honest, some of these challenges I am grateful for and I do think it has helped to grow The Coffee Incident. It challenged me to think outside of the square on how to make sales and look after our community, which for me turned out to be quite fun and rewarding. We have kept a lot of these projects around beyond lockdowns and it has sparked ideas for more projects in the future. I feel as though The Coffee Incident really found strength in adversity.

Where do you envision yourself in five years?

I am always on the lookout for other side-hustle opportunities, so I hope that I will have another small business running alongside the cafe. At 27, I think the next five years will bring big moments in my personal life. I envision being able to start a family while being a business owner. When I have such a great team on my side, anything is possible.

location: Glen Innes, NSW

website: thecoffeeincident.squarespace.com

instagram & facebook: @thecoffeeincident