There are literally dozens of Australian businesses who have opened shop in New York. Some we know well, and others not so well.
We want our readers to learn about these businesses, where they are located, as well as share the personal stories of their owners.
We spoke with Jo Black, the Founder of Boundless Plains– a new Aussie café located on Rector Street in the Financial District of New York City.
Jo, where were you born and raised in Australia?
I was born in London but my family relocated to Melbourne when I was two years old. I grew up in Melbourne and absolutely love it as a city. I don’t think you realise until you move away what a fantastic lifestyle Australia offers.
What did you do in Australia before arriving in the US?
I did my undergraduate and masters degrees in Law at the University of Melbourne, I started my career at Herbert Smith Freehills as a corporate lawyer before moving across to their tax advisory firm Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills.
Throughout university I had always worked in hospitality and retail, As a lawyer, although I enjoyed the academic and intellectual aspect of the work, I really missed the connection that you build with customers that you see every day.
What brought you to the US?
My husband who is also a lawyer, was offered an opportunity to work in the New York office of his firm, and we decided that we couldn’t say no. We have a young daughter (2 years old) and a son (just turned 1 year old) and although we miss all our family in Melbourne, it’s a great time in our lives to live overseas and experience something different.
What inspired you to open Boundless Plains in New York?
My husband sat and passed the New York bar exam last year, and to be honest, the thought of me doing that with two young kids and then starting at a New York law firm wasn’t what we wanted for our family. We’re very involved in our children’s lives and I didn’t want to miss out on the special moments working 14 hour days in a New York law firm working on someone else’s business.
I had always wanted to do something to use my business skills first hand, and we certainly recognised the lack of decent, community based and “local” coffee shops in New York, and that there was a definite market for what we wanted to create. So, we took the plunge and started to search for spaces.
I also noticed that even though there are numerous examples of Australian coffee shops in New York, very few are run by Australian women. Coffee and hospitality more generally tends to be a male dominated business, and although that is changing I really wanted to make a mark as a female entrepreneur.
I believe it’s important to set an example for your children about working hard and creating something. Our daughter is certainly proud of her mum’s work and loves to visit the shop and drink endless babycinos!!
Joey is always happy to lend a hand at the espresso machine!
What is unique about Boundless Plains?
Our main focus at Boundless Plains is to offer a more personalized experience in an area of the city that is overcrowded with coffee chains, which tend to provide customers with a really formulaic experience and mass produced food and coffee.
We identified that the area south of the World Trade Center was a really under-serviced part of the City, still undergoing a lot of regeneration since 9/11, and a place where we could really make a difference in terms of building a neighborhood spot. We love our regular customers and becoming part of their daily routine.
Our focus is on providing superior quality espresso, delicious and nutritious Australian café style food, all delivered with a smile. We also like to be socially responsible in the way we run our business, from using environmentally friendly packaging to donating our left over food and pastries to charity and sourcing food and beans locally and where possible, sustainably.
The interior of the café is light, bright and minimalistic and so different from many of the coffee shops in the financial district. We really want to provide a respite from the hustle and bustle – for us it’s all about the experience. I also think the interior has as slightly feminine touch, which I love.
What advice do you have for anyone opening a business in the US?
Do your research, keep organized and follow up, follow up, follow up!!
I think my legal background really helped here as I really knew how to do my research, was used to driving a process from start to finish, and was also like a dog with a bone with every supplier and contact I dealt with.
Also, be patient. It took over a year from me seeing the space at Rector Street (which ironically was formerly an attorney’s office) to opening the store, but it was worth it and I’m so happy we persevered with the space as the reception from locals has been fantastic.
Lastly, be hands on and treat your team well. In a small business it’s important that you have the knowledge to do everything in the business, just in case! I love my days in the kitchen and working hard to create food for our customers. It’s also so important to find a team of people who believe in the project, and treating them well will keep everyone happy, motivated and loyal and allow you to attend to all the little surprises along the way!
You can visit Boundless Plains on the web or stop by the location at 19 Rector Street NYC.