We are Fi and Lance and these are our kids: Manu and Enzo.
Our family, and raising our kids in a healthy environment, is our number one priority. Our business comes close behind.
It is through Sipping Duck that we teach our kids about resilience, respect towards others, passion for what we do and love for one another. Those are the core values that guide the way we run our business. We want to leave a strong legacy.
Of course we want to bring you the most delicious fresh coffee possible. To achieve that, we source great quality, high altitude beans, store them in a temperature-controlled room, roast them weekly in a small batch roaster, and pack and grind it to order.
We can’t do that without a strong backbone that delivers a great experience; a team of people that care about, look after you. You see, it’s not just about the coffee, it’s about the people behind it.
Lance and I believe that through this business we can change the world, or at least the world around us, the world of those that our business impacts, from our staff and their families to our customers and the rest of the world through a ripple effect.
Sipping Duck was born in late 2012. The founders are Erik Ruelin (a very talented barista, latte artist and coffee roaster) and I, Fiorella. We used to work together in a Far North Queensland cafe when we decided to buy a sample coffee roaster and learn more about the manufacturing side of things.
Back in 2012, we used to get together with friends and have wood-fired BBQs every Saturday. Before everyone arriving, and while Lance was getting the fire ready, we would roast some coffee, talk about our ideas and play business. It didn’t take too long for us to get our first retailer, a little supermarket in Palm Cove that catered for tourists selling 75g bags of coffee. Within two months, we were so into it, we put all our combined savings towards buying our first coffee roaster and a coffee machine. In May 2013, we went to the first market, at the Port Douglas Carnival, and then to the Yungaburra markets. Lance was helping out from day one; who doesn’t need a tradie? He had the ute, the tools and the strength to help set up at the markets with Erik who was the best barista Cairns had at the time. I had the will to become the best administrator I could. Back then, our coffee was roasted in our carport, our labels were cut by hand and we were learning so much!
In July 2013, an opportunity came up to set up the roaster in the corner of Cairns Car Audio shed and by August we had opened our first coffee shop in the most awkward location. Erik made the sign by hand. Outside we literally had a sandpit with an umbrella and some chairs. Inside, the walls were made of rusty tin (it actually looked great). We were fully compliant with the law, and, with very little, we had managed to run a legit business. We didn’t even have a car back then, so we used to catch the bus from the northern beaches.
People started coming in and talking about us, spreading the word, working their magic. It was considered a tourist attraction… one of those places that people visit because they can’t believe it has good coffee. But our product could speak by itself, and everyone that visited knew that everything was made with love and care. I think everyone could see that we had potential, so they supported us. Before the end of the year, we were busy enough to need a third person… and that’s when Lance came in. He started helping on Saturdays and then had to reduce his other job to 4 days, and then 3 and then we needed him every day of the week.
It was a dream we had never dreamt about; it was better than what we thought it would be. We were broke, but we were proud and happy, working with our friends, doing things the right way, having a positive impact on our lives and those around us.
In 2015 Lance and I had our first baby, Manu, who used to go to work with us every day. The business was growing so we employed our first staff, Myia, the Canadian cross-fit freak that everyone loved so much. We still miss her, but she is Ok back at home, actually in Seattle.
In 2016 we had to move our roaster and that’s when we opened our second cafe, in Bungalow. Then Surya came in asking for a job, and that’s when our good luck began and our team started to form. Yes we had some ups and downs, people came and went, but now we have the best team anyone could dream of. Rachael, Jess, Surya and Caterina, you are the best!
A year later, in 2017, our first lease was coming up to an end, and we had the opportunity to move two doors up the road, next to Jonssons’, where we would have aircon to cope with the tropical summer. We first had to trade from our trailer outside the new place. It was a tough summer, but it came with many rewards.
In 2018 our second child was born: Enzo. Due to health complications, we had to spend a lot of time at home and in hospital. He will need ongoing support until we can get him fully on track. We had the idea to expand to the Sunshine Coast so we could live closer to family, but it had to be put on hold for now.
Seven years in, we decided it was time to part ways and Erik moved on to a new chapter. He remains our friend and the founder of Sipping Duck, you will probably see him around and he will still roast your coffee from time to time.
Now, in early 2020, the world has been hit with something that looks out of the movies. We are all facing this together, and I think everyone is moving into a new stage. Sitting here, writing this story, I don’t want to end it here. We have many dreams. 2020 was the year for polishing our whole business, getting to all those details and fine-tuning all our processes. Right now it feels like we are in one of those books that were out when I was a kid “Choose Your Own Adventure”. It’s up to every single one of us to choose how this story continues, and we know we have a very bright future ahead of us. We do not doubt that we will experience significant growth, maybe not the economic kind of growth, but a very meaningful type of growth, the one that really matters. Priorities and paradigms will shift.
We are heading into our new chapter with a team we are proud of and a story that is as powerful as it is filled with love.
Thank you for reading and helping us write the rest of the story.