City slickers build a country empire


When I’m in the Yarra Valley, one place I go to for a fix of caffeine, freshly baked pastries and some cool jazz music is a little hole-in-the-wall called Essenza.

Over several visits I got to know the story behind the savvy business owners of this little establishment (which is only a small part of a larger empire). That story inspired this week’s Enterprise post on the business opportunities you can find in the country.

When entrepreneurs dream of making it big, they often look to expand internationally. However, one entrepreneurial couple has shunned the idea of going offshore and have proven that you can start building a mini business empire in a country town.

Last year, David Shepherd and Gianpaolo Federici moved from inner-city Sydney to the town of Healesville, located in the Yarra Valley in Victoria (about 1.5 hours from Melbourne). They began by buying a bed and breakfast business in October 2011. By November 2011, they opened a cafe, Essenza, in the main street of the town. They also run an online store selling hampers featuring coffee tea and chocolate called Next month [SUBs: this means October 2012], they open an 80-seat restaurant in nearby Mont De Lancey. And they have plans to purchase one house every year to operate as a bed and breakfast.

“When we were considering moving on from Sydney, we were thinking London, New York, Paris,” says Shepherd, 43. “But we came to Healesville and saw an opportunity. It’s a beautiful town near the wineries and we just love it here.”

Healesville may seem like an unlikely town from which to build an empire. However, the couple are building a business which they hope will ultimately fund their retirement in about 10 years. Before starting their businesses in the town, Shepherd was in a senior corporate role as national key accounts director for Sensis. Federici was an officer working in the Australian Federal Police. They gained experience in hospitality when they ran a cafe in Darlinghurst in Sydney from 2004 to 2006.

You can read the rest of the post here.

About Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is founder and national director of the Australian Writers' Centre, the country's leading centre for writing courses. She is a journalist, blogger and author. Her latest book is "Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business" (Wiley). Valerie is a keynote speaker, small business commentator, and investor and mentor to startups and businesses in Australia.