Small Business: Starting up instead of retiring

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David and Dale Fiu. Photo / Supplied
David and Dale Fiu. Photo / Supplied

David and Dale Fiu retired, found they weren't ready to retire, and thought a café might be a bit of fun. So, two years ago, they bought Botany Town Centre's well-known Columbus Coffee outlet, one of the specialist coffee brand's 30-plus stores around the country.

It was a drastic departure from their former careers especially for Dale. Working in a fast paced hospitality background has presented many challenges for the couple and now, working six days a week, the duo are as far from retirement as possible. Understanding the current market and adapting the way they approach their business has been a continual lesson for the couple.

The Fius' goal for the business is to grow it. In an ideal world, in they'd like to be retired in five more years, perhaps to a peaceful home in Whitianga, where Dale dreams of living.

Dale Fiu: "I guess you couldn't say we're cautious people. David, my husband, and I retired a few years ago. He had been a long-haul flight attendant for Air New Zealand and I was in sales and marketing for Yamaha Motor New Zealand.

Long story short, we got bored, and we thought a café might be a bit of fun. Two years ago we bought Columbus Coffee at Botany Town Centre. It's been a popular café there for a long time and is a well-known brand. There are 30 or so Columbus Coffees around the country now.

The single biggest challenge we have is the rising cost of running a business. It's an all-consuming job and there's no time for relaxation. David and I are there six days a week, and we have help from our daughter Jarna, who has a degree in marketing, and our 15 staff. The people make it special, and we have a huge following of regulars who we look after. We know their names, and all about their families. One man comes in every day from Pakuranga, because he loves us and our coffee.

Looking back on it now, I would say the highlight was finally understanding what we were doing and how to do it correctly. It took six months. The lowest point was those six months. I didn't have any serious worries during that phase, though. I'm 60 years old, and I stopped having fears at 50.

If I had a shot at a third career, I'd be a doctor. But with the café, we've had so many wonderful encounters with customers who have become friends and all share in our journey. It has broadened our outlook on the current economic climate and we've seen how everyone's daily lives are affected. Retirement is overrated, and once you lose the purpose for getting out of bed in the morning, you may as well say goodbye."

- NZ Herald

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