Nick Stone : Founder & CEO of Bluestone Lane

Episode 443

Nicholas Stone is the Founder and CEO of Bluestone Lane, a fast growing, premium café brand in the United States. Almost a decade ago, Bluestone Lane reset the coffee scene, introducing New York City to the Australian-inspired café experience. Now with over 65 locations across 8 markets, Bluestone is committed to providing great café experiences that are focused on the human connection. We hear all about this as well as what it was like going from being a professional athlete to a startup Founder and CEO. Nick shares some incredible lessons that I know you’ll want to hear. Now on the #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I’m so excited to have my next guest here. I’m a huge fan of this brand and I had not met him before, but I’m so excited to get to know Nick stone a little bit more and hear all of the journey behind this incredible brand called bluestone lane. So Nick, just to give you a little bit of an idea, once you hear him talk, he has a little bit of an accent, I guess. I have an accent as well. But he’s been living here for a little while. But he’s a an Ozzy from Melbourne. He reset the coffee scene introducing new york city to the Australian inspired Cafe experience. And now with almost 65 locations across eight markets bluestone is committed to providing great cafe experiences, but a bit more that I’ll let him jump in and share a bit more about that. But I’m excited to hear more about Nick’s overall journey. It’s not a traditional one, which is sort of norm I guess for many of the guests that we have on this podcast. It’s never a straight line, as we like to say so. So anyway, let’s get started. And welcome, Nick.

Nick Stone 2:03
Hi, Kara. How are you? Thanks for having me on.

Kara Goldin 2:05
Absolutely very, very excited to have you here. So before we get into hearing about bluestone Lane, the company that you founded and are running, can you share a bit more about your origins. So you are an Ozzy, but what were you doing?

Nick Stone 2:22
Yes, I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and I grew up, grew up there. And I’ve had a couple of careers actually before launching bluestone lane I, when I was finishing high school, I was selected into the Australian Football League professional indigenous football code, they’re the most popular football card in Australia, played there for six seasons, three different teams. So a bit of a journeyman, and then went to university at the same time, fortunately. So my career there started when I was 17, you get drafted at a high school, typically, and then went to university. And luckily, and then went straight into investment banking, worked in banking for 10 years. And during that time, I had a chance to exchange with my MBA and I was trying to chase my girlfriend who became my wife who got landed a job in New York City, and I was desperate to always work in New York, I was fascinated by New York City, the capital of the world, and just the diversity of industry and the multicultural melting pot it is. And while I was there, I was just struck by how different the coffee culture was from what I was familiar with in Australia. And that was really a lot of the impetus to to branch out a few after a few years of sort of sitting in my hands and pondering whether I was actually going to do this or not launch the first one in midtown Manhattan around the corner from where I was working. And yeah, here we are. 10 years later.

Kara Goldin 3:53
Were you looking to start a business? I mean, did you think that you would become an entrepreneur?

Nick Stone 3:59
Well, both my parents had come from small business background. So I was familiar with with that as part of my childhood environment. I always had done things in in a bit of an entrepreneurial way. I was never someone that would just also just focus on one thing. While I was at school, I was focused on trying to make it professionally in sport. And then when I was playing NFL, I was studying the same time and when I finished AFL I was doing banking but doing my master’s degree then I did my MBA. So I was always juggling and then the first three years of bluestone. I was still working in finance. I didn’t actually jump into full time until we had 12 locations. So was in mid 2016. So we’re already going for three years before I decided to take a one year sabbatical to see what I could do as a full time so Founder CEO, but you know, I think I’ve always said has had this interest in learning and improving. And being part of teams, I love being part of teams, whether it’s sport or in banking, or banking is very much a team environment, and then at Blue Stone. So I think that just, it’s just a manifestation of that. And it all came together. And this one was a clear one, because the coffee culture in Australia is just so different. There’s a whole host of sort of historical reasons. And then there’s sort of practically like the way of life in Australia is, is built around these moments of human connection. And I think Australians do that particularly well, they love socializing, they love catching up, whether whether it’s at the pub, or whether the cafe and that was something that I just noticed was quite different. In the states that go to a coffee shop was often to solve a need for a product, you know, solving a need for caffeine, I need to get my coffee, they stopped me on the day, and everything was built around convenience and speed, particularly when you think that Starbucks and Dunkin have nearly 70% of all coffee shops. Either either Starbucks or Dunkin. So, in Australia, the land of independence where Starbucks failed, and there is no Dunkin, it was just interesting to try and bring something different. And I thought there might be more people that my wife and I that, that are interested in high quality experience, and certainly built around hospitality. And, you know, that was the catalyst. And here we are now we just had our 10 year anniversary actually last week. So from when the first store opened. So it’s pretty cool.

Kara Goldin 6:29
So when you talked about how the culture is so different in cafes in Australia versus the US? And obviously the brands that you mentioned, are we’re all familiar familiar with those? Are you? How would you describe bluestone lane to somebody who has never visited one? And what are they going to? What do you hope as the founder and CEO that they’re going to feel and that environment that maybe they’re not going to be able to have experienced before?

Nick Stone 7:06
That’s a great question that ultimately, for us, the Northstar is for our customer to regard themselves as a local that they feel like a local that they are part of our community. And I think that executing products, whether it is on the beverage side with coffee, which is award winning, we were the most awarded last year in the in the biggest US roasting competition. We won seven awards in the golden bean award, or whether it’s tough food, which has really been a big part of this whole avocado toast movement when we launched it 10 years ago, you know, avocado toast now as ubiquitous but 10 years ago, we were a bit of a trailblazer with this thing. And, you know, I think that but ultimately, what makes me feel intrinsically so rewarded is when someone says that, that blue stone just makes them feel good. It’s a feeling it’s a way in which they walk in. And we know that we acknowledge them, we recognize that we know their name, face in order. And that really comes from such as place of authenticity. Because in Melbourne, or in Australia, we were a tea base drinking culture heavily influenced by the British sort of colonial sort of way of life. And when we had mass migration pre and post World War Two, particularly from Italians and Greeks, they brought their espresso coffee machine. So we have never had this drip coffee culture, you’re sitting on a big cup of Joe, we’ve always been espresso. So we started drinking espresso coffee in the 40s and 50s. Were really espresso coffee only was commercialized in the US in the late 80s 90s. Through Starbucks, Starbucks was the catalyst of that. So for us, I love nothing more when our locals tell us that they just feel good that someone brings a smile to their day that they walk in, and they feel better walking out. And in Australia, where everyone has great espresso coffee, the only way to sustainably compete is to have those local base relationships not to be a homogenous transactional customer to be personalized to be recognized when you’re part of our community. And you know, we invest we’re hospitality lead, ultimately. And that’s what I really think we we need to be. And that’s where I think that sustainably where we’ll win, and where we can be a big part of solving such a huge issue that Western societies are facing around loneliness, and isolation and depression, which seems to be accelerating at levels that the world’s never known. And obviously a lot of that has to do with this obsession with having digital connectivity disintermediated human connections, so that’s a big thing for us.

Kara Goldin 9:57
And so what type of ways Do you beyond being open? And having avocado toast and all these things that are yummy and wonderful? How do you create that connection when people are coming in?

Nick Stone 10:13
Well, I think I think there’s a couple of key things in in hospitality. And this was my first hospitality experience. So my first rodeo, I never worked in the industry. So very much is shaped by a customer centricity. I look at look at it through the lens of a customer. And then I overlay it with my experience in being part of high performance teams, and also working in corporate finance for 10 years. That the true way hospitality businesses can pay and differentiate their intellectual property, ultimately, is their culture. It is not a recipe, you know, anyone can eventually learn how to make great coffee or make a great dish, you know, it’s linear, you follow the recipe, you get the right cooking equipment, you get the right ingredients, like, you’re going to figure it out. But the culture is the true point of intellectual property. And it’s how your team assimilate. It’s how they align behind the values. So ultimately, for bluestone, there’s a couple of things that we’ve really delivered around, really deliver around how we hire, how we train, how we interact, and the expectations on the steps of service, which are those key crucible moments where you make a local feel really good. The second point outside of that is really creating these environments that foster that connection. And our cafe, we have two concepts, we have coffee shops that’s really built more and convenience. For a captive audience, they were really focused on being in the bottom of Office lobbies. Now that business has been rather disrupted through the contractor, there are a couple of COVID. But the cafe side of the business is more focused on residential areas. 90% of the dining transactions in that side of the business are two or more people. So what we’re doing is we’re creating these moments for people to come together. And we actually refer to it as a fordable luxury experience, where they come in, and the music, the lighting, the smells, everything, the service is just on point. So for us, we focus heavily on those two elements. But nothing, nothing will disintermediate the way that one of our teammates make you feel, you will always remember great service, you might not always remember a great coffee. And in fact, you’ll forgive a bad coffee, when the service is really memorable. And for us, that again comes from that point of in Australia, coffee, and great quality espresso, coffee is a ticket to play. It doesn’t it’s not a winning strategy. Really. It’s about fostering those local relationships, which is led through the execution of the service piece that matters the most.

Kara Goldin 12:59
How much has your business changed? And in terms of your overall offering, you obviously hadn’t been in this industry before? So as you said, it’s your first I think you said your first rodeo. So in this business, in hospitality, how has it changed? And like? I always, I’ll put part two of this question. I always hear from entrepreneurs that at what point can they walk away from their business and not manage it anymore? And it sounds just as you were speaking a few minutes ago, it sounds like you think about this stuff a lot. You think about community, you think about how people are engaging in your stores, you think about the music, all the little details, it’s it’s all really important. And and so I’m so curious how it’s changed since the beginning versus to now?

Nick Stone 13:57
Well, it’s essential if you want to scale. If you want to scale a proposition, you have to have all of those intangible elements in a playbook. Because how do you scale scale culture unless you have your values? So clearly define who we are, what we want to be who our customer is, what are they proposition as. So we also need to continually focus on improvement because the way that we position our business as a premium brand, we’re trying to achieve this concept of boutique at scale. So we need to spend an enormous amount of time assessing and self reflecting on how we’re doing how we’re executing are we delivering into that premium proposition into that value prop. So there how much has changed from from when we started 10 years ago, just enormously, I think at the start. It’s really about proof of concept and getting those early adopters in there. And we’re very much focused just on one geography V and one city and in fact, one borough within the city Manhattan set for us, you know, we started off with two coffee shops, one in midtown Manhattan around the corner from wherever it was in 270. Park Avenue, we put this location a couple of blocks up on third. The second store was on at 30 broad streets and next to the stock exchange right down in the financial district 75 year old building that had never had a retail amenity before and its lobby, then about a year, on the 12, the 12 month anniversary of the first location, we opened our first cafe that brought a proposition in West Village on the corner of Greenwich Avenue in Perry Street, which was one block south of where my wife and I were living. And that was the huge of brand driver for us. That was I think that broader proposition introduced blue stone onto the stage, certainly in New York City and, and the adoption was immediate, and it was in the right spot, you had a great balance between those West Village residents that often had artistic bent, or were young and hungry and driven and chasing a dream and really ambitious. And then you had this tourist overlay that was strolling up through Bleecker Street through the tree lined streets of West Village. Like it’s a pretty iconic place. And really special to Alexander and I and, and you know, I think that as you continue to evolve, you just kind of keep learning, but then you know, you have arguably probably the hardest period in hospitality history, or one of the hardest in the last 100 years COVID Which effectively shut that business down. We faced an existential crisis where we had to make decisions at such a timely manner, we didn’t have a month to sort this out, we didn’t have three weeks, you had about a week to work out what we’re going to do, to protect our team to comply with law to be safe. But for the business to survive and and those lessons and then coming out of COVID, considering we really sort of only like 15 months out of COVID finish because Omicron only finished March last year. It’s crazy when you think about that, you know, we we now have to pivot with this transformational change and how people work and how they live. And you couldn’t have told me three years ago that the majority, the vast majority of businesses would now allow you to work at least two days a week at home, I just would have said there’s no way it’s too extreme. It’ll take us two decades to get there. And now we were dealing with that. And then obviously, when you sign long term, long term leases, you have a ton of flexibility, we spend a lot of money and building our stores, it’s just not easy to jump from being at the bottom of that office building to suddenly I want to be in that suburb because that’s where people are spending their time. It takes you know, it’s an evolution, and you need to be patient, and you need to be still conscious of the capital investments. And, you know, so all of these things have been extraordinary in trying to choose to navigate and learn. But they’ve been wonderful. And I think that one of the big advantages we’ve have is the fact that I didn’t come from the industry. So I would look at things with a completely objective lens. I didn’t have this premeditated assumption that it has to be this way that you have to, you have to do this, you have to follow this playbook. It was like now with that customer centricity lens with the financial discipline, and ultimately, this obsession with building a lifestyle brand. That’s, you know, I think that we’ve used that to our advantage and haven’t been constrained by some of the rules in that maybe others follow.

Kara Goldin 18:52
Yeah, I think that’s right. I think so often, especially when it’s your first entrepreneurial venture you I bet you wanted to talk to people who had worked at Starbucks or you know, and get they could wave their magic wand and solve all of your problems for you. And the reality is, is that there aren’t very many people who can actually do that for you I would you agree yeah, yeah. That you just about it.

Nick Stone 19:23
Yeah, Reid Hoffman says this amazing thing that I remember reading it in a listing in a podcast or reading a magazine he said no one owns a good idea executions everything. Yeah. And I feel that with bluestone, like a lot of people have this idea of premium coffee and great food and to live in a in a really sort of sincere service led way, you know, like makes practical sense and linear and you put the building blocks together and you can open the executions, everything like really and like so many ideas, actually, frankly, not like particularly innovative. They’re just a riff off some of that else, it’s just this constant evolution. You know, there’s there’s very few technologies that are really like game changing. It’s just like everyone iterating off someone else and but the execution is the difference. You know, that’s how it gets done. And execution is so hard. Yeah. And that’s where the tenacity, and the discipline, and the resilience comes through. Early on, there’s a bit of euphoria, there’s also a very limited downside to a degree, it’s sort of like you don’t have high expectations, just sort of just pushing and learning. And there’s a lot of people that have just given you a pat on the back and saying, that’s great. But I think when you start employing a lot of people, and you have real customers, you’ve got to deliver into that. That’s where the execution really matters. And that’s where you see who can who’s who is actually a leader, like who actually has the business acumen to get through this, who can have the humility to say, I don’t know, this, or I’m learning about this, and I need someone to help me here. And to also have that gut instinct to know that when they pull people in, that they can provide service, but maybe they’re not going to be here for longer than a year or two years. And that you just need to understand that the company lifecycle is constantly changing, and there’s going to be some hard decisions. And those things, often a time are uncomfortable, and, yeah, they’re not great, but you need to make it then and this is part of your fiduciary duty to keep the keep the company going and keep it delivering and how give it the best chance to reach its potential for the betterment of the whole. Yeah, you know, nothing beats execution. And that’s my biggest thing I always said, look out always get, you know, you’re probably still a car, like I get asked a lot to either invest alongside, you know, entrepreneurs, or to be on an advisory board or just to take catch up with me and have a coffee. And, you know, I think the biggest thing I’m looking for is like people who have shown over time that they can, whether it’s starting a business, or whether it’s just like doing something that takes a lot of effort, like learning Israel running a marathon or, you know, that they really wanted to save this amount of money when they’re a kid because they wanted to travel around the world like those those are the signals matter a lot to me. And I think there’s some really common traits there from from what I’ve seen over in my professional career thus far.

Kara Goldin 22:31
Yeah, it’s it’s funny that you say that I frequently not always, but frequently look at athletes. I wasn’t a professional athlete, but but was a gymnast through high school. And, you know, I still joke to this day that my mom would be waiting out in the car to pick me up. And I, I never left the gym on after a perceived failure by me, right. Like I would sit there and do roundoff back handsprings, or whatever I was doing and get it right. Like I sometimes she would sit there for hours. And I would I was so determined, right that I could not leave and I think there’s this there’s this resilience, this mental state where you’re, you just you have to get it. Right. Right. And I think that that is the key thing that I see in entrepreneurs that I look for, to your point when I’m meeting them as is just absolutely key. And sometimes you get to learn that when you’re growing up an athlete, and sometimes you don’t. But there’s something else about it that Matt Higgins I think is a is another great example, somebody who’s been who’s one of your investors, who is, you know, somebody who’s just really shown the scrappiness, but showing their ability to get back up again is is super key.

Nick Stone 24:01
Yeah, I think sport is such a great equalizer. That it you know, it brings and it brings such amazing camaraderie through time together. You have to train a lot you have to you just have to commit and dedicate a lot and you don’t, it’s not about, you know, do I, to a radiate, radiate or resonate with professionals like the highest level athletes the most? Not really, I think it’s like, what’s great about sport or fitness or what have you, is just the dedication and commitment and whether you become a professional or varsity player or college athlete doesn’t really matter. It’s just the commitment, the discipline and the learnings that you get and also, you know, to get better in sport or to be fitter. It does require a level of pain tolerance. And you know, these things like starting a small business Starting a business that is that has ambitions, you gotta be out to suffer a fair degree of setback and just uncertainty and just challenge like, every day, it’s just not that wake up and you’ve got a unicorn. And it’s just like you think in the matter, you read in the magazines or listen to podcasts, and it’s like, you know, I’m gonna do it, and then suddenly, it’s gonna be worth 100 million or 10 million or a billion. It’s just not what happens, you know, and for the vast majority people, I’m sure there’s, there’s always a couple of lucky ones out there. But, you know, I think that that’s what’s great, like I was, I was a good Australian rules, footballer, and I was good athlete on a couple of other sports. But, you know, was it the best and was I Olympic level? No. But being a professional or just trying to achieve a certain level taught me enormous amount I, myself, and the discipline and the time management and the sacrifices you had to make, you know, when people finish high school in Australia, you know, people are going to school, the switch is the end of the year break. And because you can pretty much do anything you want, once you turn 18. Everyone finishes schools and goes partying, and that’s a great time, you know, I was I was drafted before I even finished my final year exams, you know, so for me, I’m not I’m not doing that. Now, that was a minor sort of sacrifice. But that’s just how it evolved. And it’s that it happened at 17. And I think when you have to pay the price, and when it’s really tough, you can pull you can draw back for and you realize that, you know, it’s never, never as good or it’s never as bad as you, you may think it is at the time. And you know, you might regard is not a sacrifice, but those things do add up. And hopefully, if you’re making the right choices, and you’re investing your time, thoughtfully with the right team, you can achieve a lot. And bluestone is a function of that, again, as a pure outside of this industry. And in a foreign country, with a different sort of type of coffee culture, we’ve been able to pave our own way and to handle things like COVID, which, which were just extraordinarily complicated and challenging. If you were in retail or hospitality, just extraordinary.

Kara Goldin 27:23
Looking back at that time, if you had to name one piece that that, obviously, cafes, were closing your whole ethos of your company was built, bringing in people and community and that shifted, but how did you pivot quickly, to be able to really stay alive and and also have a sustainable business.

Nick Stone 27:49
So I think that there’s a couple of key lessons I reflected upon one of the one of the critical ones was we already started to plan, we had a plan of what we’re going to do if this eventuate it to be as bad as people stating, and what we’d read in China and Italy and Italy, sort of predated what happened, well eventually ended up happening to sort of ground zero in the US, which is New York City. So we’ve mapped out these four phases. And I remember about a week before it sort of all fell apart, we started implement phase two, within 48 hours, we’re on this new phase five. And I think what’s what’s status is, we’re really, really decisive. And we made big decisions that had big consequences. out of the gate, we weren’t going to iterate. And I think I had an enormous amount of like guidance and support from a couple of members of the board that will make just, you should go really hard here, you should get in front of this, because this doesn’t look good. And like no one really knows what’s going to happen. And so for us, it was really about trying to manage the fixed cost base, and it was about managing the team. And there was enormous repercussions from it, effectively terminating 85% of your team on to zoom calls. You know, it’s awful, absolutely awful. But what we did is it I had a duty to save the company, because that gives me the best chance to rehire them again. And for us, that’s what I made, like big decisions that had big impact that could help the company dramatically. And my I said sort of key priorities was to save the company, and try and support our team as much as possible. So by making this decision, now, I was able to pay severance, and then I was able to move everyone on to this enhance unemployment benefit, which we didn’t know was happening when we made this decision. But it meant that like the vast majority of our team sort of breached into something so economically that was sort of Pretty much indifferent. So that worked out really well. But it gave us the chance to save the company keep a few stores open, that gave our community a sense of hope that they could leave their apartment and get a coffee through a window, that we could feel healthcare heroes, and first responders, which were honestly working harder than they probably ever worked in their entire life. And, you know, we could preserve some jobs, you know, 15% of the 10 20% of the team. So that was, that was what we made. And it was the it was really the right call, like, that’s probably the best period, I’ve never been a CEO. I think that that that those sort of two years sort of navigating and then surviving, we didn’t take in on any capital. So we didn’t have an emergency, a capital raise that was really dilutive. And at that point in time, it would have been extremely hard to raise capital, because no one knew where the flaws so it, you know, it just, it just worked. But I think taking the taking a more passive response meant you couldn’t get stuck in the middle, you know, and for us, we just had to save the company had to sort of save the cash flow to at least bridges for 1218 months. And I just thought if it’s as bad as this, there’s just no way that we’re going to be left out to dry for 18 months, that there’s going to be a level of government assistance or support, or, you know, there’s got to be something like it’s just too eerie, too devastating for the world economy. So that’s what we did. And, and that’s what worked out. And, you know, you making decisions on things that you would just never thought would be possible. Like it just they are, you know, firing one person off, letting go five people, it’s hard, like a hard day, but then like letting go hundreds of people all at once. It’s just, it’s torture. You know, it’s nothing to brag about whatsoever. It’s not a good thing. But you suddenly when you’re faced with the, you know, there’s a binary outcome, you either do it or you don’t. And like if you do this, this is the potential benefit. This is the current if you don’t, this is the potential benefit. This is the current and you make that assessment as best you can. And then, you know, you, you just have to act on it. And that’s what we did. Yeah.

Kara Goldin 32:21
If you look back now, was there a piece of your business that changed significantly, I’ll give you an example. For hint we actually had, we were going into some major retailers, Sam’s Club and Walmart, right before COVID hit. And in order to make sure that we were going to be able to keep up with the demand, because we had target and few other big retailers that we were also trying to fulfill, I mean, our volumes, were going to be going up substantially with these new retailers. We automated our plants. And then when we got into COVID, we had this automation that was working amazingly well. And we were an essential product, water, all the shelves were bare, and stores. Costco called us, right as COVID was hitting. And they said a lot of our manufacturers actually get some of their components in Asia, the plants are shut down, or Europe glass bottles. And so we understand that you do everything in the US, is there any way that you could take this on, anyone in the right mind would say, you are crazy to take on Walmart, Sam’s Club Costco within a six month period, and you will fail. And we did it. We like it killed us. But we did it. And we did it primarily because of the decision that we had made not really during COVID. But it changed our business significantly where our plants were, a lot of our plants and components of our plants were automated. And so I think in some ways, we just didn’t know how much of a piece of that would be essential for our overall business. And I’m curious if there’s one piece that really started during COVID that you thought obviously you were you guys were in the bottoms of many office buildings, but and maybe it’s maybe you did say the cafe’s I mean that business? Yes. A lot more of your business as well. But is there anything else that really came out of COVID that really changed your business?

Nick Stone 34:41
Absolutely, I think three big things. First of all, it accelerated our digital digital experience and the amount of investment into digital infrastructure massively. We had a small loyalty database where sales from our loyalty database were under 5% or digital sales are under 5%. And a lot he was built around digital, you know, we went to 100%. We’re at 92% for two years after that. So the database went from about 30,000 people to right now 1.1 million amazed. You know, we went from, I don’t know, five to 5000 downloads of our app to now I think we’ve had 346,000 downloads or so that was massive, and then just the business to understand the power of loyalty and data science and our data warehouse and just more effective way to market and reward and to get those insights that was truly transformational for us. Secondly, we didn’t do any delivery, delivery was nothing in our business, you know, we, we always thought coffee delivery and avocado toast Yeah. And then we started doing delivery. And now delivery got to like 60% of the business. And now it is sustainably between 20 and 30%. Like that is that is it. And that’s the way people are. And we because of our food mix, it’s great delivery works well, for us. It’s creative. So that was huge. And then thirdly, the real estate, I think you pointed out upon like we were, we’re pretty much sort of balanced, I would say 5050 revenue contribution between coffee shops and cafes, but the average unit volume of coffee shops is materially lower. So we had a lot more a number of units versus cafes in the coffee shops. So what it did is it accelerated a push to suddenly, the suburbs, we only had one suburban location. So 51 stores, one in the suburbs, when COVID here. So that just reorientate our focus dramatically to focus on these sort of community towns and suburbs, and to lead with the cafe product. And that is where That’s where we’re seeing tremendous benefit now. So I think that we saw early that people are going to spend more time at home, that these cafes, which are focused on residential areas, which had been really fueled by family branches and branch catch ups on the weekend, we’re now going to be busy on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. So and they are larger, so they can serve as delivery because they’ve got, you know, bigger kitchens and things like that they have more capacity for throughput. So those three unlocks were massive, and we as a business have benefited tremendously. And we, you know, that that the analogy of like, don’t waste a crisis, you know, optimized for a great outcome. Like, that’s what COVID There’s been a lot of negatives, but there’s been some big positives. And for us, like, the key was to try and stay in the game and have enough liquidity and capital to keep dancing and keep moving and having that agility. And we’re really fortunate that because we reduced the cost base, because I had to get the business profitable, we have to be really thoughtful about it. And we had a lot of support, particularly from our landlords. And they support us because they believed in our concept. They believed in our brand, they saw we were granted amenity they liked the way we operated, then our willing to support us, that enabled us to sort of keep pivoting. And then to redeploy capital in these new ways, the future for blue stone. And, you know, we’ve basically had now just on 12 months of clean, clean air to get the business and last year we grew urine yet nearly 50% top line. That’s so it, you know, it’s funny how at the time, it looks like it was just, you know, traumatic decision and awful. But there’s so many silver linings and even in the depths of COVID. I remember speaking to my closest inner circle, my parents and my in laws and obviously my brother who runs all marketing and branding and bluestone, then my wife is the de facto shadow co founder. And they were all they sort of were all very optimistic that there’s, there’s something that’s going to come from this and even at the time, it might be awful, there will be silver linings, you will learn if you keep looking for them, you’ll find one keep, keep innovating. And that is the entrepreneurial entrepreneurs drain that is actually that’s read as the path that’s what happens. You just think it’s all going great, you’re gonna get you’re gonna walk into something really bad that you have a blind spot and things are just gonna go wrong. So you just got to keep moving forward positivity assume good intent. And you trust those who, who you really feel like if I was on my deathbed, or if I had to make this like really significant decision, like who would I go to? You gotta you gotta have that support network and I feel so fortunate and blessed that I’ve got these people around me and, and I’ve had a number of business mentors that have just been extraordinary to will speak to you, frankly, with humility, and they’ll tell you between the eyes exactly what’s going on. And sometimes it’s sad to hear but That also is a big part of the Australian culture, to keep it real to humility is probably the most respected value there. And, you know, just to be brutally honest, even if it hurts sometimes you know, that if you assume good intent, they’re telling you because there’s probably something to learn from it.

Kara Goldin 40:18
That’s incredible wisdom. Well, thank you so much, Nick, for coming on. Nick stone founder and CEO of Blue Stone lane. So thank you again. Thanks. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review. And feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening