The Goldfish Bowl – 2012 Business Awards

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The big winners on the night of the 2012 Business Awards were brothers Nick and Josh Oxley from the Goldfish Bowl. We find out how they felt being announced BEST BUSINESS before an audience of over 260 local business people … 


Nick, how did it feel on the night to hear ‘The Goldfish Bowl’ announced as Business Of The Year?

It was a genuine surprise and then, as I accepted the award, a pleasure to see so many familiar and supportive faces in the audience. The Goldfish Bowl has been around for many years, so Josh and I had assumed that this award would go to a newer business – and possibly one where the owner didn’t have dreadlocks. It’s always nice to have your work recognised, so the overwhelming feeling was one of gratitude to the business community for their kindness.

Josh, when and why did you first open The Goldfish Bowl in Armidale?

The Goldfish Bowl started off life as a much smaller Espresso Bar on Dangar St, which we opened in 2005. The shop had a huge glass front, which passersby would press their face up against to see what was going on inside – which led to the name ‘The Goldfish Bowl’. As to why, both Nick and I were at a stage in life of wanting to start our own business, and we felt there was an opportunity to open a café that was a little different to what was already available in Armidale.

Josh, why is The Goldfish Bowl so unique?

I think The Goldfish Bowl works because it pulls together the best of the country and the city. I read a review recently that described the shop as “almost fool[ing] you into thinking you’re in a trendy inner-Melbourne café”. That’s what I mean about the ‘best of the city’.

We always wanted The Goldfish Bowl to disprove the idea that because you live in the country, you should accept second-rate food and coffee. That said, the fantastic part of being outside a big city is the way of life and the community. We wanted our business to capture that friendly, welcoming feeling that you only get in country towns. We aim for the best of both worlds.

Nick, where did your business concept come from?

Having been to heaps of excellent cafés, it doesn’t take long to realise that people come for two things – exceptional coffee and excellent food. Our drive to always create a better cup of coffee led us to investing in a coffee roaster – giving us the ability to source green beans from all over the world, roast weekly for freshness, and expose Armidale to the world of speciality coffee.

The bread is a similar passion – organic, sourdough and wood-fired; it’s taken years to develop it into the quality it has become today.

Josh, tell us about your bakery?

We have a brick, wood-fired oven at The Goldfish Bowl, which we use for all our baking. We use it to cook our sourdough breads and pastries, as well as our wood-fired pizzas for lunch on Fridays. It creates this lovely, unique flavour to the food that you just can’t get from a conventional oven.

Baking sourdough bread on site was an idea that was inspired by Sonoma Bakery in Sydney … however, no one mentioned the 4am starts that go with making bread!

Nick, what interest do you guys have out of work?

My passion outside work is aviation, and I’ve recently clocked up enough hours of flying time to receive my pilot’s license.

Of course, that’s not much use without a plane to fly, so I just need to make another million coffees, and I’ll be there! I suspect that Josh would say his passion is his family, as he’s absolutely besotted with his two little boys. And we both have an avid interest in sleep … lots and lots of sleep.

Josh, what is it like working with your brother?

We come from a very close family, and Nick and I have always gotten along well. That has been a huge boon in our working relationship, as it means we can be totally honest with each other, without worrying about damaging our friendship.

Particularly in the early days, when there were hard decisions to be made and we were both overworked, we always knew we could speak our mind, because there is a depth of understanding and a strength to family relationships. Now I simply can’t imagine working with anyone else. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a simpleton, and the whole business would fall apart if I wasn’t in charge!

Nick, who would you like to thank?

There are so many people who have been critical to our success over the years, that it’s hard to even start a list of ‘thank yous’. I would have to start with the Armidale community, who took the idea of quality coffee and local food to heart and then provided us with a third ingredient we hadn’t expected – this wonderful, friendly atmosphere in the café.

My family, and in particular my dad, have been a bedrock of support from the beginning, and I have to thank our wonderful staff, who make the café work.

I suppose I have to thank Josh too, for recognising that he is the Deputy and I’m the Sheriff!

Josh, your tips on running a successful business?

No one likes to hear it, but running your own business really is about hard work and long hours. This is especially true in the start-up period, where everything is new, you make stupid mistakes, and there is no one else to fall back on. Obviously your product has to be consistent and different to your competitors’, but I really think business success is about more than just what you are promoting. People want to know who they are supporting, and they have to trust you.

Which is why it’s lucky that I’m here, as Nick looks too shifty for anyone to trust!

Thanks guys.

This story was published in issue 62 of New England Focus

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