17 March 2012

From account ledgers to Arabica beans

After 3 weeks of near sleepless nights, my mind was made up.  I woke the missus at four-ish that fateful morning in November '02 and told her, "I'm taking it".

"Are you sure?", Oi Len asked, blurry-eyed.  She knew straight away what I was talking about.

"I've decided".  I was going to leave the company I'd tirelessly served for nearly two decades; or in Oi Len's case, 18 years.  We were both going to step out of our comfort zones... together.

The whole episode began three weeks prior when every employee of the bank we worked at was given a big, white envelope (gulp!).  In each was an offer for service severance (or as they very nicely put it, "voluntary separation").  To be honest, it wasn't unexpected; rumours had already been going round even before the dreaded envelopes came.

All of us were given 21 days to decide whether or not to accept it and within a fortnight, Oi Len had already decided that she would.  Where I was concerned, however, we were mulling whether it was wise for the both of us to leave the company for fear of totally losing a steady income stream.

Anyway, after having made my decision at stupid o'clock that November morning, I told Oi Len of my plans - no, our plans - for life post-HSBC.  I recall telling her that I wasn't afraid anymore.  Change is never easy and it would be fallacy if I told you there weren't any uncertainties still swirling inside my head then; but at the very least I was now unafraid.  Fearless even.

"But why a coffee shop?", the missus asked.

Well, for starters, it'll be the first of its kind in this one-horse town.  Hell, we'd be the first on the entire east coast of the state!  Pioneers, if you will.  Ours wasn't going to be just any coffee shop; it was going to be special.  A boutique coffee shop was what I had in mind.  I was confident it'll work, for the idea was God-sent; something I'm totally convinced of to this day.  And that at my first time of asking.

You see, before bed that evening, I prayed - something I had not done in eons - and asked to be shown "the way".  By then, twenty days had passed and we were to inform the company of our decisions the next morning.  Never before nor since have I prayed so hard... so earnestly.

At about three that morning, I was awakened by a sound not unlike that of metal being hammered on.  Fearing a break-in, I went downstairs to check, only to find all was well.  Sleep didn't come thereafter and I decided to turn on the telly.  Dortmund were playing Bremen, I still recall.

I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee and then out of the blue, it hit me... of course!  Coffee!  Why the hell not?!!  I knew there and then that my time with the bank was up.  It was time to move on.  That is why I believe the idea of operating my own coffee shop was God-sent.  There never was going to be a burglar in my backyard; God merely woke me for coffee.  Now I know what they mean when they say He works in mysterious ways.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years, it hasn't always been smooth sailing.  Hardly so.  Things were especially challenging during the first year and a half or so as, until then, the locals weren't used to paying MYR6.00 (equivalent to £1.30) for a cup of coffee.  And on top of running the shop's day-to-day operations, Oi Len and I also had the onerous but necessary task (during the early days, that is) of educating the folks here about gourmet coffees and teas.  Remember; to many - if not most - of them, this was novelty stuff.

I've been asked countless times to choose between being self-employed and working in the bank.  As usual, I'd say there are always pros and cons.  In the latter's case, you know you're gonna get paid on time every month and enjoy the staff benefits as well as your 20-odd days of annual leave.  On the other hand, it isn't always easy being one's own boss as there are things like payments to meet and staff matters as well as sourcing of goods to attend to.  Even our income levels aren't always constant.

But if I must, I'd say I wouldn't swap what I'm doing now for anything in the world.  Yes, our holidays are much shorter and the challenges greater but at the end of the day, we're still enjoying ourselves.  It's been very rewarding really.

So for now at least, I can still see myself making cappuccinos and lattes and Oi Len baking her divine cheesecakes (the best in town, to be honest) probably well into our fifties.  God gave us the idea for this coffee shop and thankfully, by His graciousness, He's guided and seen us through the last nine years.  I've no reason to doubt now that He'll not continue to hold our hands for the next nine.  Latte, anyone?


  1. how brave of you both to give up secure employment and take a risk.and one that has paid off:). i still would love to have my douwe egberts in the little corner by the book case.maybe one day lol. loved reading this thankyou vincent.

  2. Thank you, Doe sis. Can't believe it's been 9 years already.

  3. Well I'm definitely pleased you decided to open the coffee shop :-) You know me, I love my morning coffee and I always enjoyed it along with a wee chat with yourself and Oi Len. I am even more pleased that you are still going strong after 9 years...but not surprised :-) Well done to you both and long may it continue!

    1. Hi, Kay Dee. This was actually written a year and a half ago - so it's ten and a half years now. Another ten and a half perhaps? Thank you for your kind words.