I’d like to do a shout out to Billy Haoda – founder of Billy’s Coffee in Cairns, which is celebrating its 20 birthday this year.
I first met Billy before he had his own coffee business. He was working in a cafe on the Esplanade in Cairns. I would stop in for a coffee from time to time, and we always had a great chat about business, life and coffee. It was pretty clear to me that Billy was an entrepreneur, he just needed his first opportunity.
One day Billy told me that he had an idea to start a coffee stand in the busy produce market called Rustys. As it was a food business he needed to write a proposal for the council and he was having some trouble with getting it done (because a lot was riding on it). He asked me to help him, which of course I gladly did.
I wrote a simple one pager, explaining why Billy should be given this license, the kind of man he was and his commitment to making the business work. The license was approved. And Billy’s Coffee was formed.
Go forward 20 years – Billy has two thriving coffee shops, a coffee roaster, a wholesale business – and he imports 12 tonnes of coffee a year from his family connections in Papua New Guinea. All of his kids (he has lots) and his lovely wife, work in the business. And whenever I am in Cairns I go and visit Billy, he kindly refuses to take my money, but insists that I have one of his awesome coffees.
I love this story for so many reasons. I love that Billy was brave enough to ask for help all of those years ago. I love that he let his entrepreneurial nature come out. I love that he does great coffee and that he has built a wonderfully vertically integrated business. And I love that this is truly a family business in every sense of the term.
Happy 20th Birthday Billy! You are a good man and a true entrepreneur.