When Calvin Leung was fired from his steady job, it ended his successful IT career — but he couldn't be happier.

The self-described "computer nerd" had worked in Canberra for five years when he had a run-in with a member of staff over what he described as a "simple admin mistake" in 2008.

The incident escalated quickly, and Mr Leung's contract was cancelled the next day.

Despite having witnesses who were prepared to stand up for him, and colleagues who resigned in solidarity with him, the decision was final.


But Mr Leung, 36, said while he had initially been disappointed by the incident, he quickly realised it was a blessing in disguise.

"I grew up in Canberra and stuck to the status quo in life — I got a job, worked my way up, did fairly well and made a decent salary but I realised I didn't enjoy it that much," he said.

"I was without a job and preparing to fight it legally because it was so wrong … but when I thought about it, I realised I didn't actually like it that much and that I would love to get into hospitality instead.

"So instead of fighting it I decided I wouldn't go back to IT."

Instead, Mr Leung bought a cafe in the Canberra suburb of Dixon, and after learning the ropes he discovered he wanted to set his business apart by using fresher, locally roasted beans instead of coffee imported from overseas.

He found a supplier in Melbourne's Veneziano Coffee Roasters, upgraded his cafe's machines and grinders and retrained his staff. Within months, coffee sales had more than doubled.

Not long after, he sold that business and opened one of Canberra's first specialty coffee bars.

It was an instant success, but Mr Leung then decided he needed to be in the centre of Australia's coffee scene — so he packed up and moved to Melbourne in 2012.

He soon bought in to Plantation Specialty Coffee's original store in Melbourne Central.

Since taking over, Mr Leung has expanded Plantation into a multi-location business, with five stores across the city and several more in the pipeline.

He has grown the team from just five to 40, and the business now sells around 500,000 cups of coffee annually, compared to 75,000 in Plantation's first year — an increase of 500 per cent.

And this year, the business is forecast to turn over $2 million, up from $400,000 in its first year.

One of the keys to success has been a unique partnership with Myer. Plantation Specialty Coffee branches have already opened in Myer stores in Doncaster and Southland, with another soon to be added in Eastland.

Mr Leung said one of the reasons why the partnership had been so successful was because he was able to use his own point of sale system, Square, within Myer stores — allowing the entrepreneur to run everything, from point-of-sale to invoicing, inventory and even employee management, from the one system.

Despite his booming coffee empire, Mr Leung said that initially friends and family thought he was "crazy" to change careers.

"Even though I didn't hate my job at the time — it was fine, it was OK — I've only realised now how much I didn't like doing what most people thought was the dream in Canberra," he said.

"People thought I was crazy to give up my IT career to wait tables and make coffee — they thought I was absolutely nuts.

"But it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me and I couldn't be happier."

Despite his growing coffee empire, Mr Leung said he wasn't a "coffee snob" and was even known to drink instant coffee, as he doesn't have a proper machine at home.

His beverage of choice is a soy latte, and he said Plantation Specialty Coffee's biggest sellers were milk-based coffees including lattes and cappuccinos.