Customer Stories

Squirrel Cafe – Simple, done well

Our conversation with Milly Brunel on keeping things simple

Milly Brunel runs Squirrel, the popular cafe in Wellington on Blair Street. You’d think Wellington already has more than enough cafes, but Squirrel has been packed and buzzing ever since they opened. 

We wanted to find out how things ran before and after they started using Upstock.

As Milly put it...

"In every possible way, Upstock has made my life simpler. Instead of sending out 20 emails a day, I use the app to place just one order and I know everything will show up exactly how we ordered it."

Here's more of our conversation with Milly.

How would you describe your business and your brand?

Squirrel is a family business started in 2019. Amanda, my mother, has long been on the Wellington scene with her store, Small Acorns. Mike, my father, does the washing. Eva, my sister, is part of the front of house team. I oversee the day-to-day running of the business, working as part of the team. 

Squirrel’s tagline is Simple, done well. That was inspired by a short stint in New York City, where I fell in love with the simplicity of the hospitality industry. I really wanted to emulate that back home.

What do you love most about your job?

Each day I have a hunger and a drive to improve! I’m so fortunate to be able to meet new, exciting people each and every day, hear their stories and remind myself of how insane and inspiring and wacky and fun life can be!

What do you love least?

The black magic that is coffee. Anything and everything will affect what comes out of the machine. 

Before Upstock how did you place wholesale orders with your suppliers?

Haha. Every way possible, you name it and we probably did it at some stage. Phone, email, text, notes. 

It’s going to sound pretty shocking, but we didn’t really keep track of what we ordered… we just trusted that our suppliers had gotten our orders, and that they would show up eventually. 

What were some of the problems you had with wholesale orders?

We didn’t know what we’d ordered sometimes, or the orders wouldn’t show up.

So we’d end up over-ordering, or order more than once. Or occasionally when an order wouldn’t show up we’d have to run over to the supermarket and pay retail for things that we thought the supplier was going to fulfil on. 

I remember once, an order cost us around $40 delivered. However due to our shocking systems, we ended up spending around $80 at the supermarket to cover the order that didn’t show up. Lol. May have been my bad. 

How’s it been since using Upstock?

In every possible way, Upstock has made my life simpler. Instead of sending out 20 emails a day, I use the app to place just one order and I know everything will show up exactly how we ordered it.

In general, what are you most happy about, that’s really running well?

The support we’ve been shown throughout COVID-19. Either Wellington is in denial, or everyone is really keen to show their love. We are so fortunate and grateful to have a customer base that backs us, because in turn, we can back our staff and our talented suppliers. 

What are some things you’d like to improve?

You can always get better. We would love to put a few more things on the menu, and turn them into signature dishes. I’d love to get into more specialty and experimental coffee… in Japan they've got some sick lattes that you just don’t see in NZ. Merch. Building a brand still, it’s so exciting. 

What do you find inspiring that’s happening in hospo at the moment?

Stoked to see that regardless of this crazy global climate that we’re in, that the newbies are sticking it out. A lot of inspiring young people doing some crazy stuff. Mason, Swimsuit, Rita, Oikos, Parrot Dog - some of the most refined acts in town and are all relatively new on the scene. Just really cool to see people trying new things, and not being afraid.

Any advice for your younger self?

Haha! I’m barely 21. I don’t know if I’d listen to myself! Just to take life slow, don’t be in a rush to grow up. That I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone, and that mistakes are awesome. Oh, and to be proud of shit you put out there! Maybe I should listen to all of this advice.

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