• Author:

    By Ron Maxwell - CEO

Connection and culture INSPIRES Coffs entrepreneur to start coffee business

A love of culture, stories and connections has inspired Maria Saunders, who has lived in Coffs Harbour for 18 years and worked in the aged care industry, to start a new business venture called Mmm Aunty’s Coffee.

Supported by the Australian Government’s Self-Employment Assistance program and delivered by not-for-profit employment, training and apprenticeships provider VERTO on the NSW Mid-North Coast, the proud Koori woman is delighted to see her vision become a reality.

“My business idea was born out of the belief that a great cup of coffee connects us as we share stories, build bonds, and nourish relationships,” Mrs Saunders said.

“This was particularly important to me a couple of years ago, when I was dealing with sorry business after losing significant family members in my life, and a cup of coffee and having a yarn felt very healing.

“That was the inspiration for starting Mmm Aunty’s Coffee, and while I’ve very driven by my Indigenous culture and spirit, I’m the first to admit that I had very little experience running a small business,” she said.

In April 2023, Mrs Saunders turned to VERTO to help turn her business idea into a viable enterprise.

Mrs Saunders signed up to 12 months of support through the Self-Employment Assistanceprogram where she receives regular mentoring in business and entrepreneurship, as well as financial assistance. This has been invaluable andfilled her with confidence, knowing that advice is only a phone call away.

“In a really short space of time, I’ve gained so many practical skills, everything from balancing accountsto writing a business plan,” she said.

“An important part of my business strategy is ensuring that Indigenous culture is embraced in every aspect of running my business. From sourcing Indigenous coffee, DHUWA, to using native ingredients in the food that I serve to my customers.

“The Self-Employment Assistance program is helping bring this vision to life, while giving me the important skills I need to run the business and make it a success.

“I’ve only been up and running for a month but I’m already starting to build a loyal customer base in the BotanicGardens, and I have an event booked for an upcoming NAIDOC celebration.”

VERTO Self-Employment Assistance Team Leader, Kim Hastings, said it’s inspiring working with Mrs Saunderswho is driven by rich traditions, great coffee, and a need to give back to her community. 

“Maria’s a wonderful woman doing amazing things. She has strong networking skills and a clear business strategy, and I can’t wait to see her business go from strength to strength,” Ms Hastings said.

“I am so proud of what she has achieved so far. The sky’s the limit.”

In the lead up toSmall Business Month (1-31 October), VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell is encouraging those considering starting a business or wanting help transitioning an existing small business into a thriving one, to contact VERTO.

“We’re really proud to deliver the Self-Employment Assistance program in the Hunter, Mid North Coast, Murray Riverina and Far West Orana regions,” he said.

“The program allows you to choose the level of support that meets your needs and those of your small business, from training workshops to specialist mentoring.

“Maria is the perfect example of how, with a little support and guidance, you can turn your ideas into a thrivingsmall business.”

For more information about the Self-Employment Assistance program and how VERTO can help bring your small business idea to life, phone 1300 483 786  or visit: https://www.verto.org.au/our-services/employment/self-employment-assistance.

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