How this 21yo opened her own cafe in Sydney

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Just a few months after her 21st birthday, Paris Hookham opened her own cafe.

Nestled on a marina at Berowra Waters, in Sydney’s northern suburbs, the Water Vista Cafe brought years of hard work, dreaming, and saving to life.

“I’ve been in hospo my whole life, I started at Macca’s as soon as I could apply,” Ms Hookham told news.com.au.

“At 14, I worked in cafes and filling in, jumping round all sorts of places. I just loved meeting new people and customers.”

Paris Hookham saved $25,000 to buy the cafe. Picture: Instagram.Paris Hookham saved $25,000 to buy the cafe. Picture: Instagram.Paris Hookham has worked in hospitality since she was 14. Picture: Instagram.Paris Hookham has worked in hospitality since she was 14. Picture: Instagram.

It seemed working in hospitality was always on the cards for the 21-year-old Box Hill woman, who admits she used to “play cafe” as a kid.

“Then I stayed at one cafe for a while and the owner had a baby, so I took that on board and I was basically running the whole thing,” she said.

“It was pretty much my baby.”

Ms Hookham said she was thinking about whether she should strike out on her own “for ages”, but a brief detour into real estate helped cement her plans.

“I knew this is what I wanted to do,” she said. “So I set a goal for a year, started researching for places, and kept saving, kept saving, kept saving.”

The Berowra Waters Marina. Picture: Instagram.The Berowra Waters Marina. Picture: Instagram.Ms Hookham’s parents’ moored their boat in the marina. Picture: Instagram.Ms Hookham’s parents’ moored their boat in the marina. Picture: Instagram.

As serendipity would have it, the perfect shopfront was right in front of her: the cafe in the Berowra Waters Marina, where her parents moor their boat.

The former owners abandoned the shop, leaving a fully-fitted kitchen, service benches, display cabinets, and customer dining space for someone else to get up and running “immediately”.

Ms Hookham said she fell in love with the space and knew immediately she could “bring it back”.

So, with an encouraging nudge from her parents, she put the $25,000 she saved over the last year on the line.

“I didn’t just jump in saying I was going to buy this and get a loan. I wasn’t going to do that. Not even with the renovations. I did heaps of research to save money,” she said.

“And having the kitchen already fitted was a huge help, and my parents were in the building industry so that helped me get good prices, too.”

Ms Hookham documented the renovations on her social media channels, which included installing walls, faux-plant walls and ceilings, neon signs, a ‘marble’ bench top, and a bubblegum pink phone booth – which was built from free doors she picked up from Facebook Marketplace.

@parishookham

@Watervistacafe 🌺🧡 #startingabusiness#cafeowner#fyp#explore#foodblogger

♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

“We really scraped for everything we could, my partner and I drove around picking up all of this stuff in one day,” she said.

“The biggest expense was the flowers, the paint, and the plates and all the decorations and stuff like that.

“But the renos and stuff was all hard work by my family, which I’m so grateful for.”

Ms Hookham said the easiest part of the job so far has been managing the business, since it was something she had the most experience and confidence in through her career.

Even finding staff was a breeze, she said, with most of the former staff who were left out of a job after the previous owners abandoned ship applying to staff her Water Vista Cafe.

The Water Vista Cafe had a major facelift before opening. Picture: Instagram.The Water Vista Cafe had a major facelift before opening. Picture: Instagram.The pink phone booth was basically built for free. Picture: InstagramThe pink phone booth was basically built for free. Picture: Instagram

Ms Hookham said her story was the perfect example of somebody sticking to their guns and getting rewarded for their hard work, no matter their age.

“I’ve always been told, my whole life, I’m not my age,” she said.

“People say, you’re not 21. But I think my baby face gives me away!”

“I finished school in Year 10, and started full-time work straight after. I might look at some more, but I’m not a studier. I realised that studying is just not for me.”

And, her big advice for anyone thinking about following a similar path to her: do your research.

Many of the staff from the previous cafe returned to work at the Water Vista Cafe. Picture: Instagram.Many of the staff from the previous cafe returned to work at the Water Vista Cafe. Picture: Instagram.

“Don’t just throw everything into it without thinking. Don’t just say ‘I want this, I need this, I need the most expensive bench.’ We just got outs from Ikea, it’s basically a sticker on top!” she said. “You can get nice stuff and make it all happen without breaking the bank.”

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She said though she had the upper hand with friends and family working in and knowing their way around the building sector, she believed anyone would have similar success if they spent time hunting down the best deals.

“Do your research, that’s seriously the biggest thing. Just do your research!” Ms Hookham added.

Read related topics:Sydney

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