Known for creating and running some of Melbourne’s most successful cafes – in possibly the world’s most competitive café scene – Diamond Rozakeas is an inspiring and multifaceted woman who operates from a seemingly perfect mix of intuition, creativity and hard work.
WORDS: Sarah O’Bryan
Diamond is part of a team who have created some of Melbourne’s finest and most popular cafes.
The popular Apte in Alphington (National Café of The Year, Delicious Magazine 2008) is where it all began; where she met and formed a partnership with Nathan Toleman. Nathan and Diamond went on to create Liar Liar in Hawthorn (Caffeine Hit of The Year 2009, The Age Cheap Eats) then after selling Liar Liar, added Ben Clarke to their partnership for Three Bags Full in Abbotsford (Top 3 Cafes in Melbourne, The Age Good Cafe Guide 2011).
In 2012, Two Birds One Stone opened in South Yarra winning Best New Cafe Age Good Food Guide 2012. And last year Top Paddock in Richmond opened, with the addition of new partner Sam Slattery (who started off as a waiter at Three Bags Full) and it can boast Best Café Design in the 2013 Eat Drink Design Awards and Best New Cafe’ in The Age Good Cafe Guide Awards 2013.
Awards and accolades aside, it seems these guys are having a lot of fun doing something they are clearly meant to be doing. “We don’t consider this work,” she says when asked about long hours. We act like kids in here and we largely do and create what we want to.
We are very organic and intuitive-based. We’ve never done a business plan … We go by heart, by feel.
“We are very organic and intuitive-based. We’ve never done a business plan. We’ve never done any marketing or publicity. We go by heart, by feel,” Diamond says.
These cafes are places of exceptional food, coffee, high-design and service. They strike a chord with Melbourne’s high café standards largely because of the above elements but these are all held together by a certain energy. It’s hard to put your finger on it but these places and spaces are buzzing, welcoming and happening on all fronts.
When asked more about their winning formula she talks about getting the basics right, with a good dose of creativity and being in the moment to allow ‘the magic to happen’.
“Apart from the fundamentals – probably the most difficult thing to create in a business is the pulse, the heartbeat,” she says. “This comes from us – we have always worked in our cafes. We don’t appoint managers and just come in once a month. That’s really important for our staff. We need to lead by example,” she says.
This is a remarkable woman with strong self-belief who lets her intuition guide her in business more than anything.
“It involves your left and right brain – creativity and intuition plus all the hard work. We get the systems in place, then we go with what we feel. We make up things in the moment and we have a lot of fun,” she says.
Diamond fell into the café industry eight years ago when she took a waitressing job for recovery reasons. Diamond had just defeated cancer and was looking for a simple nine to five job where she could “just switch off”.
It involves your left and right brain – creativity and intuition plus all the hard work.
Her recovery job was a waitress at Apte in Alphington owned by Nathan and his wife and head chef; Sarah Foletta. But it seems that instead of switching off something inside her was switching on because it was the start of a very successful partnership and a brand new and exciting chapter for Diamond.
“It all happened very quickly. One minute I was a waitress, next minute I was a business owner,” she recalls.
This was one of Diamond’s biggest leaps of faith. She remembers being scared and unsure but intuition helped her make the move, which is just as well for those who frequent her cafes.
“We always look at creating differences in design, in food, in coffee.” She talks about fast moving trends in the café scene but says: “It’s about starting trends rather than following.”
Diamond talks about focusing on what you’re doing in your own patch and being present or you can “… dilute your own energy. You need to attract staff that are like minded, progressive and enthusiastic. We are constantly looking for people that we can incorporate in our partnership – for new exciting people. That is really key to this industry,” she says.
Diamond talks about her definition of success for her as “being a good person to yourself and to others”.
It’s refreshing that a formula based on trusting your instincts, being creative and throwing in some hard work can lead to such success. Diamond talks about her definition of success for her as “being a good person to yourself and to others”. “I think of success in terms of the way that you feel about yourself – and then I think that translates to success in other ways,” she says. “I need to constantly create. If I didn’t I wouldn’t realise my fullest expression and potential.
“In the context of a café – treat others how you want to be treated. Seems small and insignificant but that’s where it all starts from. I don’t think I’d have the success that I have if I didn’t look after people if they were the only person in that moment.”
Is she there yet?
“There’s no destination. We are constantly arriving. Every place has its own experiences and challenges.”
What about work life balance?
While she says she’d like a bit more time for herself, it’s clear that work isn’t just a means to an end it’s an expression of who she is, therefore it’s more a work / life fusion that Diamond has achieved.
“This isn’t work – this is play!” she says with a big smile. “But sometimes this industry can overtake your life so it’s important to have a balance. For me it’s about pursuing my creative side and nourishing my soul with writing and singing Greek!”
There’s actually a lot more to Diamond than these super successful cafes; professional singing and writer of children’s books among other things. She is currently writing a series of children’s stories based on the classic quotes and life lessons of ancient Greek philosophers.
“The books will have messages of self-discovery, journey, empowerment and life skills – important messages for kids. They might be a bit abstract but I think kids understand a lot even if they don’t say it. What a wonderful way to get important messages conveyed through something that’s a little ancient. To bring it back into life with messages that are classic and timeless. And somehow Diamond finds time for singing as well! She was a professional singer for many years prior to the cafes and she still sings from time to time with her trio.
But wait, there’s more for this multifaceted woman.
There’s also a plan brewing for a not for profit project which would involve hospitality training for youth and would most likely link into the cafes. Diamond is quite excited about this and in her words it’s “… to really give back without any expectation or reward.”
All people, experiences, passages in books, quotes etc. have helped shape me and my wisdom.
With themes of universe energy and strong inner wisdom popping up in all aspects of her life, I ask has she always been in touch with this or was there a significant experience along the way? And in the coolest of ways she says, “I think I’ve entered this life knowing this already,” and later adds, “All people, experiences, passages in books, quotes etc. have helped shape me and my wisdom.
“You may forget who you are along the way, forget your purpose. But the key is to tap into that source again and have faith.”
She talks about taking leaps of faith with a favourite quote: “Jump and the net will appear.”
Jump and the net will appear.
Next for Diamond and her partners is new a cafe to open in about June. The Kettle Black in South Melbourne is in a new a development that has engulfed an old terrace house so sounds architecturally very interesting. Diamond says the difference will be in the kitchen – induction cooking instead of flames and oil. Stay tuned for more on that one.
They’re also looking into a new site for roasting their own coffee as well as a new venture into the restaurant side of things. So lots more in store for Melbourne’s food scene.
Diamond’s Top Five Business Tips;
- Be present – focus on what you’re doing
- Attract like-minded, spirited people
- Make service your ethos – paramount in a service industry … and cover the fundamentals!
- Operate from an open heart space and trust in yourself and the process
- Bring joy to your workplace – make fun a priority business goal.