Words: Josie Evans | Photography: Brydie Thompson

In this our regular series, where Josie from Excelso interviews a local doing great things, we meet Rachel Miles, a past Excelso team member who has taken the plunge and gone into business for herself with Willow Espresso, a coffee bar in The Cottage on Second Ave in Tauranga.

Josie – Did you always want to own your own place?

Rachel – I definitely had a vision and a dream. When travelling I kept a coffee diary noting what I saw, liked, hated … This though was an unexpected opportunity. It happened really quickly, and my vision had to change to fit the space and opportunity.

Josie – So tell us more about the vision for Willow Espresso

Rachel – Coffee is my passion, so it’s something I wanted to focus on. Willow is an espresso bar with a small cabinet offering. This focus on the coffee has brought in new customers. I opened up the space and moved the coffee machine, so it faces forward. In fact my set up is a carbon copy of Excelso’s as it‘s so easy and efficient.

Josie – What has been the hardest thing?

Rachel – There was a lot of panic! It all happened so quickly. I knew I wanted this but when it happened I started to freak out. A guide to all you need to know and do to open a cafe would be really handy. Carrie and you were great mentors, guiding me through so many of the things I wouldn’t have known, from where to get an eftpos machine to negotiating with the landlord and creating a feasible budget.

Josie – What stood out for us was we see so many people do this who leap and then fail. All the planning you did was great and is paying off! So what’s the best thing so far?

Rachel – Knowing I can do it, plus all the great feedback from customers.

Josie – You were such a key member of Excelso. We were equal parts sad and proud to see you fly the coop.

Rachel – I really miss working for Excelso! Your family, support and values helped grow my passion and a lot of this is reflected in Willow Espresso.

I recycle as much as possible and want to look at composting on site. I offer my coffee grinds for people to take away as I don’t like putting anything that is compostable in landfill.
I don’t have a loyalty card, instead I encourage keep cups and offer discounts for those bringing their own. I have even offered my containers to people taking away lots and asked them to bring them back. Making the space more warm and inviting has seen more people eating and drinking in.

Before taking over, the power bill was $600–800 a month. I have slashed this to $300 by looking at efficiencies. So all the things I have seen Excelso work on over the years have been implemented here too.

Josie – What’s next?

Rachel – On the 23rd of March, I have planned my first Preserve/Swap/Eat and Meet day which will be a chance for people to exchange ideas, recipes and preserves. I would also like to start doing high teas and develop the private garden at the back.

Go and say hi to Rachel at Willow Espresso, 30 Second Ave (inside The Cottage), Tauranga.
Open Monday to Friday 7am – 3pm

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