The crêpe escape
“Sorry, we’re experiencing a bit of a rush”, final-year Bachelor of Media and Communications/Bachelor of Commerce student Elizabeth Brumby says when this reporter arrived to interview her and her friend and business partner, Masters of Management and Marketing student Benjamin Vaughan about their fledgling business.
At 4:15 on a Thursday afternoon, their crêpe stand was inundated with customers looking for an afternoon snack. Once the rush eased, they explain the genesis of their thriving business.
They were inspired to open a crêpe carte after seeing how common such businesses were in Paris and in Japan.
Mr Vaughan says starting his own business had long been a goal, but he didn’t know what form it would take. It was only during holidays in Nagano, where crêpes were a common snack for skiers, that Mr Vaughan had his “light bulb moment”.
Mr Vaughan explains: “I turned to Liz and said, ‘Liz! Crêpes! The University! I like crêpes, I go to Melbourne University, it’s perfect!”
The business partners applied for one of the University’s Dreamlarge Student Engagement Grants to finance the project.
The grants are available to enrolled students to broaden their experiences while they are studying by enabling them to apply their learning in projects which develop skills and leadership.
“We wanted to start a business which was a little bit different, which did something more meaningful than just making money for ourselves,” Mr Vaughan says.
“We wanted to be innovators, which is what the grants are all about, and wanted to engage students with the project as much as possible, to show other students that if we could do this, other students could do it too.”
Ms Brumby outlined some of the ways in which Crêpes á la carte was engaging its clientele though its website, through social media and a competition to design the business’ uniform. She said the project’s overriding aim, and the reason they received the grant, was to contribute to the growing youth entrepreneurship culture and connect with students.
Crêpes á la carte is accomplishing this by engaging with University curriculum programs in relevant areas through a partnership with the Faculty of Business and Economics.
“We ran a student volunteer program during the summer break which enabled students to gain experience in fields related to their studies, such as marketing, graphic design and strategic communication,” she says.
“We also held an interactive session with market research classes last semester, and will likely be involved in more of these classes this year.”
Sustainability is another focus for the fledgling business. The crêpe cart’s design and construction caused minimal environmental degradation and was built from sustainably harvested timber, the business uses biodegradable napkins and cups, and rather than sell bottled water, customers are encouraged to fill their own water bottles from a tap.
The crêpes are made from local ingredients, including Healesville-produced Jam Lady jam, and Victorian and Kangaroo Island free range eggs. The crêpe batter is made fresh each day, and more is made throughout the day as required, so there is minimal food wastage.
After only six weeks of operation, the business is going from strength to strength. Ms Brumby said they would like the business to grow, but if they were to expand, it would be to other universities.
“We’d like to continue doing what we’re doing here, promoting sustainable and ethical business models,” she says.