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Ferguson Plarre 2023

The Secret Ingredient to a Good Coffee – Mentorship

Case Study - Ferguson Plaare When Tarn Evans began working in Queen Victoria Market’s Dairy Hall in September 2020, he took on more than just the responsibility of running a business. He assumed the burden of sustaining his historic shop, Ferguson Plarre, during the height of the pandemic. With help from the Small Business Mentoring Service and mentor Sara Pantaleo, Tarn succeeded in not only sustaining this business, but also in propelling it toward rapid growth.

Tangible Business Growth

In terms of tangible growth, Tarn saw a 5% increase in his franchise's profit, a 40% increase in sales, and a 40% increase in new customers. In terms of structural growth, Tarn went from working alone in the market every day to being able to hire two employees and focus time on business strategy during the weekdays. In terms of emotional growth, Tarn reflected that his overall well-being had improved and he did not have to work in the market on Sundays. These shifts may not have been possible without Sara’s guidance.

Tarn already had a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and knew what it would take to run a successful franchise. Still, with lockdowns in place, he was having difficulty progressing with the strategy side of the business.

“Initially, it was a little bit frustrating to me because I was at a point where I was on my own all day, every day,” Tarn said. It was helpful to discuss ideas during mentoring sessions and find an objective voice in Sara.

“He’s a very positive person in a lot of ways, but when I first met him in 2020, he was feeling quite flat and thought that it was going to be very, very difficult to do anything during COVID,” Sara said.

Sara applied her own experience in a franchise to guide Tarn. As the former Director & CEO of La Porchetta, one of the biggest Italian restaurant franchises in Australia and New Zealand, she worked on online marketing, strategy development, and managing logistics. So her first steps for Tarn were conducting a SWOT analysis and building up a database.

Tarn Evans“When we did the SWOT analysis, we were able to highlight a lot of things he hadn’t thought about,” said Sara. Using this new information, Sara and Tarn could “highlight the things that were going on” and “actually go to the next step.” For Tarn, the next step was focusing on the marketing strategy for his franchise. Since the Ferguson Plarre location at the market could not have an independent website or social media page, Sara and Tarn had to find alternative methods to promote the site.

First, Tarn ensured that his business page on the Queen Victoria Market website was up-to-date and visually appealing with new professional photography. Using his personal social media page, Tarn shared an event featuring Ferguson Plarre cakes. Lastly, Tarn and Sara worked on an initiative that would celebrate the 90 years that Tarn’s shop had been at QVM.

 As the 90th birthday of Tarn’s Ferguson Plarre location approached, he worked with the franchisor to gather historical facts and materials for an article in the QVM Trader. Not only did this article highlight the business amongst others in the market, but it was also picked up by the local free paper in Melbourne.

I could tell immediately [after the article was published] – I had people coming up to me in the store and saying ‘I saw you in that!"  said Tarn. This publication was just as profitable as it was exciting. Sara said that people from the CBD who read the article came to the market to get coffees from Ferguson Plarre, and Tarn suggests that 30 to 40% of his customer base is now his fellow traders.

cupcake and coffee Ferguson PlaareThroughout this process, Sara helped with navigating the guidelines of the franchisor. “My experience in franchising helped me help the franchisee market without going against the brand,” she said, asserting that the experience was a productive collaboration between franchisee and franchisor.

Ongoing Business Support

Sara also supported Tarn through another major shift – hiring new employees. In the beginning, “Tarn thought that by working alone, he could just save money,” said Sara. But after doing an exercise on “the impact on the finance,” Tarn decided that hiring would allow him to take a step back and focus more of his energy on running his franchise rather than working in it.

“Now, his mindset has shifted,” said Sara. “He sees the value in having the employee help and paying them whatever he has to pay them, and then spending the off days on his strategy.” By making this change, Sara said that Tarn has been able to improve his well-being. He now can spend the days the market is closed building the corporate side of the store, and he can take Sundays off. Sara noted that Tarn “has more clarity now,” with an increased focus on strengthening the business.

“I’m starting to really see the benefit, with more to come,” said Tarn.

Name: Tarn Evans 

Business: Ferguson Plarre Victoria Market 

Address: Shop 77-80 513 Elizabeth St, Melbourne

Tel. 0435 656 616 

Email: [email protected] 

Website: www.fergusonplarre.com.au


SBMS Mentor: Sara Pantaleo

The Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS) has been empowering business owners to build resilient, prosperous and sustainable businesses since 1986.

SBMS provides mentoring services for business owners starting a business, growing a business and those who want to run their business more efficiently. We have a team of 180 experienced and knowledgeable business mentors ready to help you take your business to the next level.

The Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS) is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors.

 SBMS also partners with local government and other organisations to offer subsidised low/no cost business mentoring services including start-up programs, local business clinics, mentor-in-residence days, disaster recovery support and business resilience programs across Victoria.

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