March 1, 2017
full of beans
When Shane Hepburn finished high school he lacked determination and direction, but after a stint on the high seas and an educational sojourn in Melbourne, he returned to the Sunshine Coast full of beans. Now the university and TAFE dual graduate is giving the coffee business his best shot.
“I don’t want to drink so much coffee, but this is my day, you’re my fifth meeting and I’ve had a coffee at each one, that’s why I drink piccolos,” Shane Hepburn says, it’s not even 10.30am and he’s already buzzing.
“I followed the same progression as a lot of people, I was introduced to coffee through Starbucks, because I met a girl on a date and she drank there. I was 16 and I had a chai latte and I thought that was coffee, I was that uneducated.
“Then I moved onto caramel lattes and after my first trip to Melbourne I stopped going to the chains and started drinking only speciality coffee.”
Having grown up in Currimundi, often chasing the first wave of the day with his mates, Shane is accustomed to the early starts that come with owning and running a coffee shop. But while this savvy entrepreneur opens the doors to his 13th franchise, he admits he was a little lost when finishing high school.
Having trialled careers in music promotion and real estate for a few years, Shane headed overseas where he spent two years working on superyachts in America, sailing throughout the US, France, Mediterranean and Caribbean.
Upon returning to the Coast, Shane joined the first cohort to complete a combined University of the Sunshine Coast degree and TAFE Queensland East Coast diploma.
The combination of the theoretical business marketing and management degree with hands on hospitality training gave Shane the tools he needed to launch his own business in 2009 – a coffee shop in Mooloolaba.
“Ten years ago people just wanted to talk about the weather and get their coffee and go, whereas now it’s more about the coffee professionals, you need to know where your beans are coming from,” he says.
“That’s what drew me to it, I could see it progressing the same way wine was 15 to 20 years ago, when people wanted to know the region and the wine grower.”
Much of Shane’s knowledge has come from spending time in Melbourne before attending uni and TAFE, and he says the Victorian capital is a ‘crystal ball’ for foodie trends bound for the Sunny Coast.
I could see it progressing the same way wine was 15 to 20 years ago, when people wanted to know the region and the wine grower.”
“It’s always been that way and it always will be, just because of the culture they have down there, it’s too cold to surf so everyone goes out to eat. While we are slightly different in our palate – they like their darker beers whereas we like pale ale, it’s still the same, they like craft beer and we like craft beer. And they like speciality coffee, we like specialty coffee, just in a slightly different format.”
And it’s this passion for wanting to know more about the coffee, not just whether it tastes good or not, which is why Shane says they always have their coffee machines in pride of place at the front of the shop, so the customers have direct access to the barista.
Almost two years ago, Shane made the bold move to franchise and now has seven stores across Queensland, five in Melbourne and one recently opened in Sydney.
“All of the training is done here on the Coast, because this is how we can portray the culture,” he says, gesturing to the man standing beside the barista inside, he’s the proud franchisee of the Sydney store.
“At first I never thought you could franchise what I had, because it has such a human element to it, for our franchise to work you’ve got to be passionate about coffee and passionate about people and you’ve got to work in the business – sometimes people buy franchises and don’t want to work, but with ours it doesn’t happen that way.”
Shane has also dabbled in bar ownership over the years, but now with two young daughters, is more receptive to the early morning starts – which are fuelled by coffee of course, the beans picked by aficionado of coffee and fellow local Tim Adams.
“I’ve been friends with Tim for a long time, so my passion is to get my coffee in as many hands as possible, his passion is the best quality coffee, he lives, breathes and dreams about coffee.
“Tim does all of the sourcing and roasting, he just went to Brazil and he goes to India this year, so he’s the one physically going over and grabbing it.”
With the espresso bar formula working in their favour, Shane says 2017 will see him experiment with more locations and layouts, while making sure they don’t sacrifice the flavour.