Switch Espresso – Taking risks and trusting your people

We talk to Hamish Evans - founder, owner and manager of Switch Espresso - about taking risks and the importance of trusting your people to achieve your own brand of success.


Hamish Evans is the founder, owner and manager of Switch Industrie Espresso, a boutique, character roastery and espresso bar located in Christchurch.

Its sister cafes include the award-winning Black Betty in Madras Street, the original Switch New Brighton, and most recently Bunsen in the restored Christchurch Arts Centre.

What was your inspiration as a start up?

I worked in hospitality while I was getting my degree in adventure education – a degree that taught me a lot of the business acumen you need to create a start-up, but also how to get comfortable with risk. I came out of that wanting to (literally) build something solid for myself and my family, but ended up putting down the hammer and going back to hospo instead. I’ve never looked back.

Does success depend on growth?

It depends on how you define success.

I always had a plan to own four cafes and a roastery.  Those goalposts were in place early on, and I never deviated from that. The end game was always financial support for, and quality time with my family.

I wanted to build a business where I still got to see my kids, and I’ve done that (we’ve been up the mountain A LOT this season) so I guess I’ve grown enough to achieve my own brand of success.

Spotlight on.... People

Trust plays a big role when it comes to people in my business. I really trust people to do their jobs well (until they don’t, and then I deal with it!).

It’s difficult to find a point of difference in the world of coffee, and really, your people are everything. And it’s not easy. Two-thirds of my staff would have been with us for under 18 months – it’s a pretty transient industry. A third have been with us under six months.

So it’s about finding a good cultural fit and then empowering and nurturing people to get on with doing - and being - their best for however long they want to stay.

"Calculated and educated risk-taking better supports my goals"

Spotlight on.... Risk

How do you approach risk in your line of work?

Coffee is a dynamic product and we are lucky because we have a wholesale and a retail business, with visibility of multiple sites right across the South Island.

We get pretty good at identifying strong locations and making some educated and strategic decisions on how to expand the business. We’ve got our heads up and our eyes constantly peeled for opportunities.

Does greater success come from taking bigger risks?

If your definition of greater success means more money in the bank then I guess the answer is yes, but success for me is not about taking huge risks: I find that better, more calculated and educated risk-taking better supports my goals.

Spotlight on.... Work-life balance

How important do you think work-life balance is?

A great lifestyle, happy, thriving family and work-life balance are at the core of my business plan – that’s always been my focus.

What advice would you give to others?

This sounds cheesy but you need to love your product, and be passionate about your industry. I think you need to have a plan from the start and put in place some goalposts that you (and your team) can aim for, and defer back to, whatever life throws at you.  


Suncorp New Zealand would like to thank Hamish for sharing his story.

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Risk to Reward

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