Emma Maslen, Four Espresso

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Emma, you are the bundle of enthusiasm behind one of Port Macquarie’s much loved cafés, Four Espresso. Can you tell us a little bit about your business and how it came about?

I have always wanted to create a space where people can feel relaxed, welcome and be able to forget about the outside world.

I wanted to give them this opportunity on their lunch break, on their morning coffee run before work, or simply because they deserve it. I wanted to provide a place where people can enjoy great coffee, healthy (and not-so-healthy) meals, while providing a view on to one of the busiest intersections in Port Macquarie.

And can you tell us a little bit about your background before starting Four Espresso?

Before opening Four Espresso, I was employed with one of the big four banks.

I originally came from a hospitality background. My father owned a local business in Port Macquarie nearly 30 years ago, and I worked alongside and learned the ropes and  all the tricks of the trade. He was the master of making people feel happy and at ease in his presence.

From there, I went on to work in numerous kitchens, front-of-house management positions and helping my husband, who is a baker, to manage a successful bakery here in Port Macquarie and Ballina.

I then left hospitality to try and obtain some balance with a growing family and work life and joined the corporate sector. Nine years of working within the finance industry taught me a lot about customer relations, high level management, values and integrity.

After a family illness and becoming really unwell myself, I realised that my passion was not within finance. My happiness comes from making people smile and happy through food, coffee and friendly service.

You recently took out the “Best in Coffee” Award in the Tastings on Hastings Favourite Foodie Awards. What has this award meant to you?

You are only as strong as the team behind you and we are lucky to have an amazing team, from the roasters and producers of our coffee, PADRE, to our local suppliers and mentors, to our family and the Four Espresso team.

What is it that you love most about running your business?

One of the most rewarding experiences in running our business would have to be seeing someone enjoy what you have created for them and be truly grateful. Since opening Four Espresso, we have witnessed marriage proposals, birthday celebrations, pregnancy announcements, births of babies, and loved-up honeymooners. We love being part of these life celebrations and believe this all happens around us because of the environment we create.

What is the toughest business challenge you have face, and what did you learn from this?

My toughest business challenge would have to be the fact that I’m still trying to find that great balance between family and work life.

When we started the café, I had these great expectations of what that was going to look like. However, reality kicks in, and it is sometimes a really tough pill to swallow. The struggle is real. But you have to pat yourself on the back and know that you are doing a great job.

Running a business involves being present at all the right moments. You need to know when to switch off and to pick your battles. And never compare yourself to another family or parent!

What is one thing that no-one ever tells you about being a business owner?

No-one ever told me how hard the little things were going to be. Actually, they probably did – I know my father and family would have, but I never listened.

I’ve always had my eyes set on the prize. It’s hard to have the ability to be able to let go of the control when it is a project that we had been planning for over 11 years. I knew what I wanted from the start, right down to the serviettes, music and cups.

That, and learning to switch off when it is family time, by trying not to bring work home.

What have you learnt about employing staff in your business?

I feel privileged that I had learnt a lot from the finance industry in regards to people management. I had learnt how to establish what makes each team member motivated and unmotivated.

It is important to recognise each one of my team’s potential and to tap into that.

Not everyone will gel with your energy and vibe, and that is OK. You are a disservice to them and to yourself if you try to force a square peg to fit inside a round hole.

It’s important to understand your energy and vibe, and the right people will gravitate towards that.

And finally, if you could invite any three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?

Samantha Wills. We’d have great chatter about business. I’d love to learn when to let go of the emotion of passion and love and when to start thinking about investors and growing the business, as she has grown hers to the heights that it is today.

Thich Nhat Hahn: A Zen Master. He keeps me grounded. When I feel that I get caught up in the world of social media, self-judgement and politics, he is the one that I listen to or read from in order to bring things back into prospective.

And local legend, Shelley Watts. Wow. She has some really interesting insights into self-empowerment, strength and belief. Her story is powerful. I am only scratching the surface in our conversations, but I am sure over a great feed and a bottle of wine, Shelley would teach me a lot.

Thanks for your time, Emma!

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