Ever wondered what it's like to run an empire? Have a peak inside the mind of Tanya Argent, the brains and heart behind empire6714.
Tanya is a firm believer in supporting small business, enjoying all the Pilbara has to offer and staying true to yourself. Her favourite things range from daily lists to wine. Now that's something we can all relate to! Read on to learn about what inspired her to open a cafe and her experiences along the way.
Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
My name is Tanya Argent. I am a new mum to Acacia who is 7 months old. I am on maternity leave from my full time job and I am also the owner of empire6714. Yes, that means I opened empire6714, while working full time and being pregnant. I think that means I like a challenge? I am WA born and bred and grew up on a wheat and sheep farm in the small community of Lake Grace. After leaving school I worked in the winemaking industry, making (and drinking) wine travelling around Australia and overseas. Six years ago, my partner and I moved to the Pilbara. I guess you could say that in some way I have always been attached to food, fresh produce and things that just taste yummy!
Before empire6714, transitioning from working in the winemaking industry to a corporate role was one of the most difficult things I have done to date. I had never really had to even do an interview before as my wine jobs were always landed by simply texting a mate. I had to relearn how to apply for jobs and it was a difficult time for me. Opening empire6714 of course is one of my biggest and challenging achievements to date.
In my spare time, I play yoga. When I get time. And that is all. So I would not say fitness fanatic although I daydream about it. I do however love fishing. Much to my partner’s dismay that’s ocean fishing, not so much barra fishing in a creek though. Equal to being in the outdoors taking photos, I love coffee at a café and even more, wine at a wine bar.
I am also rather fond of Australian history and I am very pleased to see there is finally some work being done in the culture and tourism areas in the Pilbara. I would like to see more preservation in Roebourne town and surrounding stations itself as there is so much history that sometimes I feel is overlooked. Stations were the backbone of life up here outside of mining and I think a lot has been lost throughout the various mining booms. For example, I am so happy that Whim Creek pub is open again! Things like old pubs and the annual race meets are a part of WA history.
What prompted you to start your own business – empire6714?
It was an idea that formed over drinking red wine. The idea would not go away. Even after more red wine! I left the wine industry as I didn’t have the capital to set up my own label or brand and nor did I ever want to become a corporate winemaker. In a way, I was always curious about owning my own business, but never thought it would actually happen. Although café is a far cry away from pressing grapes and playing with ferments, the vibe, the tastes & the happiness it brings to people are alike.
What does a typical day look like to you?
BUSY. I wake up early and start with coffee or tea and breakfast. Breakfast right now is actually Greedy Nanny’s Granola. I was lucky to get a few bags at the last Dampier Markets and I am in love with the texture and flavours. I must have food or I will not function for the day! If I am lucky to get time in before Acacia wakes for the day it’s a great opportunity for me to answer emails. The majority of the rest of the day revolves around my list. I always have a list of items to do. Some items are more of a wish list, for when I get time, some are the important “must dos” for that day. Being a little more sleep deprived than normal with Acacia, if I don’t write it down, I will likely forget about it. Some days I go into the shop early (and score a second breakfast). By the evening, I will try to get home before sunset and my goal is to go for a walk. I just love the Pilbara sunsets.
Working in your own business is never as easy as people first think – what’s been the hardest part of starting your own business?
Learning to take a step back from the operational side of the café was the best thing I did. When I first opened I was in there before working at my “other” job, after work and weekends. There was a haze between what “had” to be done and what was a “wish-list” item. Reducing my “touch” hours allowed the staff to own their day to day activities and it allowed me to see the café business as a whole. This meant I could make decisions objectively as opposed to reactively. Yes, it is as equally important to support the team and be in the store and see if they need anything to improve their operations. But, as daunting as it was to walk away and focus on some background work it was the best thing I did. Some of my “wish-list” items are even ticked off now!
It takes a lot of guts to launch your own business, do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t do business with emotion. By that I mean, yes I love empire6714. I am super proud of the community that has been created within the walls and dearly love the impact it has had on our community. What I mean is that you must recognise that what you love may not be to the taste of others and no matter how much you love it, it may not be your biggest seller. You must emotionally detach yourself from this and make decisions to suit the business or your potential future business. It sounds easy, but this can often be a challenge and can inhibit you from moving forward. My motto is be true to yourself and don’t worry about what other people are doing or saying.
The food and beverages at empire6714 are always exciting, fresh and beautifully presented. Was setting a high standard of quality the top goal when you started planning your cafe? Is it difficult to maintain that standard due to the remote nature of our city?
Thank you for your kind words! We have a great team and are super proud of their work. Yes, setting a high standard was and still is one of the main goals. And, sometimes sourcing specific products to put on the menu can be really difficult. There has been a number of great recipes that we have come up with, but cannot source the critical element and have had to drop the item or modify it.
I am very proud of the team we have at empire6714. I do try to choose our team members carefully however through regular training and team meetings we have created an empire family. I love working with our team and we choose people who are proud to work at empire. Let’s face it, I love them all!
You stock some great products from small businesses. Is supporting other small business important to you? How do you select which products/brands to stock?
Supporting local is something that is very important to me. Without local business you don’t really have a town to live in. Even when I live in cities, I try to shop at local markets or local designers for gifts and accessories. What I try to do is source products that are unique to Karratha. Being the transient town that it is, we have great designers that come and go and I try to showcase their work from time to time. I will then aim to contact other artists from WA before seeking interstate. I have learned also that what I like, is often not what our customers like. So, for me, it is about listening to our customers.
Just for fun…
Favourite coffee shop (yes it can be yours!)? Other than empire6714 I love going to my local, Hullabaloo.
Favourite restaurant? With so many amazing venues in town, this one is really tough. I love the gang at Vita, our neighbours. Often I’ll be at empire working late and I can place an order for some yummy sliders and curries and the girls will bring them out the back for me to take home for dinner. The sliders will never make it home to my partner though.
Favourite event? This is a tough one as there is so many up here! Between the City Events Team, Wrapped Creations and many others we are really spoiled for choice. I really enjoyed Gossip Festival when it was on. The REAF Music festival last year was fantastic with the Waifs and Ruben’s playing. Marble Bar Cup is a MUST do. Roebourne Cup is part of the history of the region. Cossack Art Awards is mighty fine. The vibe at the recent REAF opening Launch Street Party was unreal.
Favourite homewares/gift stores? Dunnart Picture Framing and gifts. I love Donna’s beautiful work!
Best keep secret in the Pilbara? Sunsets. You can be anywhere, even in the backyard taking photos with Acacia, the light at sunset up is truly amazing. Backbeach, Hearsons, The Jabarua Trail or under the Palms are just some of my favourites.