In this episode of Producing with Purpose, I speak to Emily Hazell, the founder, owner and visionary behind Serotonin Eatery, an amazing plant based, happiness fuelled cafe in Melbourne.
Pivoting and finding the vision
We kick things off with an insight into Emily’s initial business idea, which was a Japanese breakfast venue, inspired by the positive and welcoming experience she’d had at a similar venue. However, a deeper personal investigation into happiness and the effects of the serotonin boosting amino acid ‘tryptophan’ caused the shift into wanting to start a ‘Serotonin cafe’.
Back at the start of the venture, Emily jumped on the [at the time] emerging platform, Instagram, and began focussing on producing relatable content, building an impressive organic following, sharing plant based recipes, insights into her journey, and laying the foundations for an upcoming launch.
This is a great inspiration for anyone coming into a new venture, in those early days where the content production is all about the grind and the build up to a following, but demonstrates just how valuable it can be with persistence and a transparent insight into your journey.
In anticipation of greatness
Emily takes us on the journey of the 9 months prior to launch, when the location had been selected, the rent was being paid, but all of the preparation was happening in advance of the big launch weekend.
We talk about the fine balance between perfectly executing your vision, and throwing open the doors and taking that first big step.
With a previously established following online, the hype was building, with people arriving before the cafe had even opened, eager to experience the longly awaited Happiness Centre and vision that Emily had created and shared with her followers.
Emily perfectly captures the entrepreneurial spirit, expressing that in this phase of build up, at some point, you have to make the call that you will never be truly ready, and you just have to jump in with both feet and let the vision go from a dream, to a scary and exciting reality.
“You never have enough knowledge You're never ready. So you’ve just gotta jump. You just do it!”
A great piece of advice we hear from Emily is that you have to fail fast. There is no such thing as overnight success, and you have to get stuck in, make the mistakes, learn from them, and grow into something bigger every single day.
This advice is backed up with Emily’s stories on how the first weekend, she and her team were mostly new to the hospitality industry and had to learn on the fly, make instant hiring and firing decisions and be ready by the next weekend to improve, develop their offering and keep building the hype that was already surrounding Serotonin Eatery.
Paid for with persistence
Business ventures are funded in many different ways, but few founders can say that they were saving to make their dream a reality from the age of 12. Emily can. From 12 years old she was working cash in hand jobs, demanding her worth and demonstrating her ethos of hard work and dedication, which has evidently been a part of her ever since.
With money saved, and sacrifices made, week after week, there was no alternative than to succeed - not when this much heart and hard work had paved the way.
We cover the importance of recognising that an integral part of being a founder, is getting yourself everywhere. Building your presence and building your network. The work is not limited to your core role.
“I would just go sit in there and I would just come up with any marketing activity I could. I would call newspapers.I would go in to Facebook groups. I would do stories. I would do Facebook ads. I was just literally doing anything I could. I'd opened up a magazine and I'd find an article written with a similar topic and I'd reach out to that journalist. So I was just doing anything I could to get people in.”
Maintaining the vision and the Serotonin Formula
When creating any business, but especially one that has come from such a place of personal connection, it’s crucial to ensure that those who join you on the journey share the passion, and the connection to the underlying ethos.
With staff playing a critical role in the perception of Serotonin Cafe, we talk about the hiring process, the training process and the framework to maintaining the quality.
You can tell that the passion for the business is just as strong as it was from day one, with Emily still working the floor and sharing her vision for a welcoming, well designed Happiness Center with her community.
Emily shares a sample of her well respected ‘Seroronin Formula’, which you can read more about on their website, and even pick up a poster to help you on your happiness journey, which really captures the essence of Emily’s goal to share her journey towards happiness with the community.
The emotional rollercoaster of reviews and making your ‘hundred list’
For a business that positions itself a Happiness Center, we talk about the struggles of dealing with the very few bad reviews that sit amongst a plethora of praise, and how it still cuts deep when you are sharing a venture that’s so close to your heart.
But bouncing back from the emotions of reviews, we talk about the consistency, the growth and the expansion of Serotonin Cafe and the five years of operation that have flown by.
I personally love the tip that Emily goes on to give, encouraging people to build their network by thinking big and creating their ‘hundred list’ of people that they want to connect with when embarking on their journey.
In the context of the Producing with Purpose podcast, I know I’ve since gone away and starting working on my list of who I’d love to have on the show, and as I hustle over email, LinkedIn, Instagram and any way I can make contact to make great connections, I know I’ll be thinking of my ‘hundred list’.
A plant based success story
We come towards the end of our chat discussing the experience of introducing a plant based, happiness inspired experience to the market, and hand over to Emily to let everyone know about how they can support Serotonin Cafe in the future.
We talk about the monthly dinners that are hosted at Serotonin with amazing speakers, which will be resuming next year and you can find out about on the Serotonin Cafe blog
- You can join the Serotonin hosted free exercise classes every Saturday morning (which is a must-do as we’re now coming in to our Melbourne summer).
- And the event I’m really excited for, which is the The upcoming Friendmas Dinner on December 23rd (which I’ll be attending for sure)!
And we finish with Emily’s parting advice on creating an ethical business.
It’s the simple advice, which is so often overlooked. Go back and do your business plan, (you can get on to the government website where there is guidance on business plans) and start thinking about your customer, finding a gap in the market, and make sure you can shift your mindset to thinking from the perspective of your customer.
Lastly, Emily closes out with ‘The eight rule’
“You have 8 hours to sleep, 8 hours to work and 8 hours to do whatever else you need. If you are working 9-5 and you think you don’t have time, get off of instagram, and focus.”