How ‘expecting the unexpected’ helped this cafe achieve success

Adrian Maher built his cafe Heresy from the ground up.
Adrian Maher built his cafe Heresy from the ground up.

Melbourne isn’t exactly short of cafes. But there will always be room for those that focus on what matters. 

Adrian Maher’s Heresy is proof of that.

From the ground floor of an apartment building in Cremorne, in inner-city Melbourne, the slick, minimalist operation serves gourmet coffee, healthy salads, and light rolls and sandwiches made from quality produce.

The cafe’s focus on serving great products in a friendly and laid-back manner has won it legions of fans among the design studios and advertising agencies that pepper Cremorne’s, and neighbouring Richmond’s, streets – a success that can at least partly be attributed to Maher’s willingness to “expect the unexpected”.

“Just when you think you’ve modelled it and got it right, something will change,” Maher says.

How to: Find the right property for your business

heresy cafe

Heresy has built a legion of loyal customers.

The unpredictability of entrepreneurship is one of the reasons why Maher advises all aspiring business owners to do as much research as possible before signing a lease. (It’s advice that rings true with the founder of Arise Studio Health.)

“Ask as many questions as you possibly can. Know as much as you can at the start, and then continually feed yourself with new questions,” he says.

“Before we started, we wished we knew a little more about the costs associated with outgoings and the risks involved, and [we also wished] we understood the insurance costs associated with running a small store.”

heresy cafe

Their focus on quality produce is a key business pillar.

It’s a mindful approach that has so far served the business well, and one that Maher hopes will lead to more success in the future.

“Our goal for Heresy is to continue to grow the number of stores in Melbourne, and then our horizon is beyond Melbourne, looking at Sydney, Brisbane, and one day perhaps, overseas,” he says.

Should Maher forge ahead with his expansion plans, chief economist Nerida Conisbee says he’ll have to chose locations with “high levels of pedestrian traffic”.

“A poor location can break a small business so you need to make sure you get the best you can afford,” she says.

Another thing to consider would be the lease. Leases can sometimes be inflexible, and flexibility is important for new businesses. For example, it can be difficult to know how much space you will need in three years. Which is why having some flexibility around lease terms should be an aim.”

Find out: How Think Thornbury went from living room to high street