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Urban Soul Karaka

Karaka, NZ

Words: The Ozone Family

TRACEY BARTLETT | OPENED: JULY 2016

What did you do before you opened Urban Soul Karaka?

Mum and dad had one of the first coffee lounge style businesses in New Zealand. Everything was home baked. As a 12 year old, I’d spend Friday nights serving bottomless cups of coffee, curry and rice, and iced chocolates with cream on the top. At the age of 18, after many 5am starts at a thriving lunch-bar, I never thought I was going to stay in hospitality. However, life had a different plan for me; I met a chef called Dave, and that sealed the deal!

I spent decades working in the restaurant business – firstly with Muffin Break, then as Operations Manager at Robert Harris. I naturally slipped into the franchise sector and spent the next 10 years in a corporate job. I was doing long hours and had managed 50 café openings. If that’s not enough, I was away from home for 12-14 days at a time in a super stressful environment. By contrast, my husband Dave had a suburban Auckland café. He was playing golf two days per week. He had this amazing freedom and I became really envious of the way Dave was managing his business.

I became really restless and wanted to do a café of my own. We came across a site in Manukau, South Auckland, and Urban Soul was born in 2010, with the Karaka site opening July 2016.

How did Ozone get involved? 

I first discovered Ozone Coffee at Lush Cafe in New Plymouth, which left a big impression on me. As I found out more about Ozone Coffee Roasters, I was impressed by their growth and business mentality. In addition to their coffee, I loved the packaging and marketing. Plus, they invited my whole family to come meet the team in New Plymouth!

How do you develop your team & keep them engaged & motivated? 

It’s important to be profitable and make money, but I’m more motivated to see people grow, learn and become leaders in their own right. For example, Tori started as a 17 year old, with no customer service skills. She left us for a little while, but has been back now for six years and is now managing a multi-million dollar business with 30 staff. It’s really inspiring to see that. Another one of our staff members was a phenomenal dishwasher. You need to realise if you don’t do something to keep your best staff, you’ll lose them. So even though she was the best dishwasher ever, I gave her some new challenges, and now that same person is running the kitchen at Manukau, and has head chef qualities. I get emotional even when I talk to her about that.

Sometimes, people don’t believe in themselves. We can help them transfer the skills that they have from that first role and help them overcome their struggles. It’s funny to watch people getting so deeply surprised by their own achievements.

What’s your reason for getting out of bed in the morning?

I’ve got no problem getting out of bed when I’m feeling challenged. The motivation here is that we’ve opened a business way beyond our expectations.