Alejandra Jimenez & Miguel Mungarrieta
Co-Founders, Apples On Ainsworth
Alejandra Jimenez and Migel Mungarrieta of Apples On Ainsworth believe that a successful local business is the result of crafting a sense of community and delivering work with passion. Apples On Ainsworth, a small but bustling local cafe in Brisbane's south, has been praised as one of the city's very best. They agree that it starts with being a part of the local community.
How did you two first meet? | A: Miguel and I met eight years ago at a Christmas party that I was almost forced to attend as my flatmate needed a 'wing woman' - you know, just in case she needed an excuse to flee. Miguel was there with some friends and, because the world is really small, it happens that some of my friends knew his friends and they introduced us.
How did you discover a passion for cooking? | A: To be honest I've always loved cooking. I had my beginnings in the kitchen at a very early age as my granny taught me how to cook when I was about eight years old. My parents have always been great cooks in their own right, so I could venture to say that I inherited their love for food and their passion for mixing things together to see the outcome. Running a cafe was originally meant to be Miguel's venture as he was the one who wanted to open his own business and in all fairness we both had great jobs. However, we used to think of being in our ‘comfort zones’ for fear of stepping into the unknown. Ultimately, escaping from our comfort zones was really what we both wanted, which has eventually helped us grow.
Why did you decide to hold on to the name 'Apples On Ainsworth', and how have you kept the original feel of the shop and its history intact? | M: To be truthful, we like to think that 'Apples On Ainsworth' has history and that it sort of belongs to the suburb. The shop was a fruit shop for many years before being transformed into a cafe and many customers still relate to it. So, we said to ourselves, 'Why change something that is not broken?' The previous owners did a great job and we believe that we have kept its original identity simply because we fell in love with it in the first place. Every item in this shop holds its own little story to tell.
Community tells you when something is working - and more importantly, when something is not.
Starting and running a busy cafe as a husband and wife team must come with its challenges and rewards. What has been the greatest learning curve for you both in working together and still retaining your intimacy as a couple? | A: I would say that the biggest learning curve has been learning how not to bring work home with us, and learning how to appreciate and respect each other's strengths. I am not going to lie to you - it has been challenging, but even though it is a work-in-progress, I like to believe that we are getting better at it. You see, we have been together for a quite some time and, as a couple, we know what the other likes or dislikes but, work-wise, we are very different individuals, with different professional backgrounds and skills that have never worked together before, with the exception of a few small home projects (which don't count, by the way).
This new venture presented us with far more challenges than the average business owner with a regular business partner would have because, at the end of the day, they just go their separate ways and they resume the next morning and, with a new day, comes new energy, but when you have to drive home with your spouse, and you go out for dinner or sit at home, sometimes it is very difficult not to talk about work, so it takes a huge conscious effort on our behalf to not do it. We also believe in giving each other space to do separate leisure activities and try to respect each other's personal free time.
You have crafted a real sense of community at Apples On Ainsworth, both in the cafe and online. Why is creating a community important to you and what advice would you give to other brick and mortar business owners who are looking to do the same? | M: It is very simple - we are part of a community that has embraced and accepted us as one of their own. We are grateful for this, so we take our time to get to know our customers. If you allow people to interact with each other and share experiences, you will develop valued relationships. Salisbury is an amazing, growing suburb, filled with lovely people. Every time those doors open, we strive to give them our very best and sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t - we are only human. But, the important thing is that we keep doing it and we do it with love. In order for this place or any other neighbourhood to succeed, community must exist. There must be people willing to support the local business and you must be willing to get involved, give back and be supportive too. Why is this important for a business owner? Community tells you when something is working - and more importantly, when something is not.
Many people praise Apples On Ainsworth for its honest food, delicious coffee and great service. What's the most important value behind Apples On Ainsworth, and why? | A: Honesty (and love, of course). We do cook honest food - simple, yet tasty and natural - we strive to source good quality and, where possible, organic or free range produce to provide our customers with quality food. Most of our products are produced by local artisans and that is where our secret lies. We are part of a circle of small artisan businesses that support each other - another small community within our community. We are just trying to perpetuate the cycle of good quality food; in some way going back to basics, where the more natural the food, the better.
We like being humble, fresh and simple.
Both of you work full-time in the cafe and manage its day-to-day running. Why is it important for both of you to have a presence each day and what do you each bring to Apples on Ainsworth? | M: We enjoy working at the shop and believe that interacting not only with our customers, but also with our staff is important simply because we work as a team and our customers are our business.
A: Miguel and I are very different individuals and with different professional backgrounds, so I guess we just play to our strengths. Divide and conquer, so to speak. Miguel has a marketing background and is very creative. He has a very talented eye for photography and, as a result, he takes care of all the marketing and handling of our PR via social media. He also deals with our suppliers on a daily basis as a result of his barista experience. I, on the other hand, am an industrial engineer by profession. I minored in human resources and majored in business administration and contract administration so, as you could guess, I take care of the nitty gritty of the business, including staff and book-keeping.
What do you think is the one defining factor that truly sets Apples on Ainsworth apart? | M: I think is a little bit of everything that we have mentioned here. We like being humble, fresh and simple. We really and truly believe in what we do and that work should be meaningful and enjoyable.
A: We enjoy what we do and we thrive by being a part of this community. We dedicate time to our customers and this is important to us - supporting small, local artisan businesses is key to what we do. In general, we just love being a part of the food revolution that is finally making its way to the south of Brisbane.