I can pinpoint the exact moment that First Things First Coffee came into inception. It was October of 2013 and I was living in Geelong, Victoria where I’d just become freshly unemployed! I had studied at uni for 4 years to complete my Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and pretty soon I had realised the industry just wasn’t for me. At the age of 23 I felt like the path I had mapped out for myself had gone awry! All of a sudden I found myself reassessing what I was passionate about in life. I knew one thing; that for a very long time I had loved coffee! In fact it was probably the one thing that got me through my degree! I’d even had some experience making it. My girlfriend (now fiancé!) Hana, had spent most of her adult life in the coffee industry and she already had a wealth of knowledge on her side. A drive-through specialty coffee shop was an idea that we’d thrown around. We thought that just maybe, with a lot of hard work and a lot of learning we might be able to pull something off.
Back to that day in October.
My phone rang. On the other end was Aaron Box. Boxy and I went to school together where to be honest, we never really hung out! It was after high school, through some mutual friends that we connected and became pretty tight. Boxy had just finished a contract working in a mine. He was/is a qualified fitter and turner and had worked on some major mining and refinery projects. Little did I know it but he was starting to feel the same way about his profession as I was about mine; starting to get the sense that he wasn’t in the right place.
He asked what my plan was now that I was officially unemployed! I told him that the realist in me was telling me to go back to uni and get my diploma of education and become a teacher like my parents… but what I really wanted to do was open a drive through coffee shop! What he said next lit the spark that would soon ignite a great partnership: “Get out” he said, “that’s what I want to do!”.
Boxy, Hana and I pulled our knowledge and our resources and got to planning. Where should we try and set up? What should we call ourselves? How do you even run a business?! When you’re trying to get a business up and running at 23 years old and your surname isn’t Rinehart, one of the biggest questions you ask yourself is “how are we going to afford this?”! The answer?…“We’ll build it ourselves”!
For 6 months Boxy was not ‘head barista’ or ‘company director’; he was ‘site supervisor’! Hana and I learnt to drill, grind, cut and concrete and during the space of the construction period we went from useless, to slightly less useless! The construction was a hell of a lot of fun but we worked hard! We worked just about all day, every day.
The most memorable day of construction for me, was the day we received our shipping containers; which would later form the building that we work out of every day. I managed to convince my parents to let us modify the containers in the front yard of our family home in Ocean Grove, Victoria! There they sat for 10 weeks while we slowly cut, grinded and welded away, attracting the curious gaze of confused neighbours! More than 3 years on and the grass underneath where the containers sat still hasn’t grown back…
After a solid 6 months labouring away on site, we were ready. Ready to do what we’d set out to do 2 years prior: to serve Adelaide coffee!
Like everyone who has ever owned a small business, the early days were tough. We worked ourselves to the bone. It was the opposite of glamorous. We were each working 95 hour weeks to make sure that our dream stayed alive and viable. We were getting home ridiculously late and starting ridiculously early; so in order to get some rest Boxy and I would take turns napping in the office.
Slowly, as our drive- through became busier and busier and the coffee lovers of Adelaide began to stumble upon our humble shipping container store on Main North Road, we began to realise that maybe we were here to stay!
I’m super proud of our beginnings as a business. When people ask if this place is part of a big franchise, or an offshoot of some mega coffee corporation, I beam with pride as I tell them that it isn’t. We’ve achieved what we’ve achieved without mega investors or a head office telling us what to do. We’ve worked our butts off to ensure that Adelaide coffee drinkers are getting the best the industry has to offer and we feel confident that we are now firmly embedded in the Adelaide coffee scene. On behalf of Boxy, Hana and myself, I want to thank you; our customer, for supporting the dream that three kids had back in 2013. It’s because of you that we’re able to wake up every morning and continue the pursuit of making the best coffee in Adelaide.
-James Carrigg: Co-owner of FTFC