Emma Slade | Beanz Cafe South of France

Life after
rugby
lifestyle
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If I can be that personal cheerleader in your life that whispers: “you really can do this” while the rest of the world is provoking doubt… then I’ll consider my job done.

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NAME Emma Slade

AKA Colin Slade’s Other Half

TIMES AROUND THE SUN 30

LITTLE ONES 1 and a half  

FROM Christchurch, New Zealand

LIVE Pau, South of France

ALL ABOUT BEING Friendly, passionate, creative, determined, perfectionist

GIVE US THE LOW DOWN Before France I was a Primary School teacher in New Zealand. I had hoped to continue working as one in France, as there is an International School in Pau but it is very difficult to obtain a working visa here. It turns out that starting a business is a bit of a loop hole!

I also did an online interior design course when I first moved to France because I decided I would use the spare time to up-skill myself in something that interested me.

BUSINESS MOTIVATION Colin and I love the coffee culture in New Zealand, and I feel we’re especially spoiled for choice in Christchurch. We would go out for brunch all the time and really missed that when we moved to France. We talked about how there was a big gap in the market for an Antipodean style café with Anglo-Saxon food and baking here in Pau.

We also desperately missed the coffee. They use Arabica coffee beans in New Zealand and Australia, and Robusta coffee beans in France so it tastes quite different. 

I really wanted to do something with my time and get involved in the community somehow, so I saw a café as a great way to meet the locals, practice my French and give something of our culture back too.

I always thought that starting a café was too much for one person to do, especially considering my lack of French. Then one day at a home game over a few glasses of wine, I got talking to Lauren Mowen, another wife of a Section player in Pau, and she had had the same idea. 

We decided to team up and do it together because as it turned out, our skill sets were in different areas and we complemented each other nicely. And from there Beanz Café was born!

SPEAKING FRENCH I had some lessons when we first arrived in France but found it hard to practice because there’s a great community of foreigners in Pau, so I’m lucky to have a lot of English speaking friends. 

So really I just went with it, apologised for my lack of French A LOT and learnt on the job. I just put myself out of my comfort zone and gave it a go which I think the locals appreciated. I also learnt to laugh at myself when I stuffed up which was often!

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE I had worked in a restaurant and bar as a waitress when I was at University so knew a little about hospitality and how things were run, but we went for some barista training while we were completing the set up of the café.

We were incredibly lucky to receive a lot of help from our amazing supplier of coffee beans, All Press, who are a Kiwi company. They did our training, came to service our machinery and gave us a lot of advice in the initial setting up stages. 

We also used an English born business manager to help us set everything up here in France. She took care of everything, including establishing our business in the courts, completing the paperwork and creating our accounts etc. She was invaluable.

ONE YEAR ON There were plenty of ups and downs but overall I am really proud of all we have accomplished. We created a successful business, engrained ourselves in the community and learnt a huge amount in the process.

BUSINESS IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY – GIVE US THE LOW DOWN I was actually 7 months pregnant when we opened the café, so I went on maternity leave after 6 weeks or so. Most of the difficulties for me have been around juggling a new business and a new baby. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so I really struggled with not being able to give either my absolute all.

PROUD BUSINESS MOMENTS I think the moment that we realised that the French locals made up 70-80% of our clients in the café. We had always expected it to be mainly the English speaking community (there is also a large oil company, Total, who employ a lot of foreigners in Pau), with a few locals who wanted to try something different. I think I was just so happy and proud that we had been embraced so much by the city of Pau.

RESERVATIONS Yes! When we started planning everything I wasn’t pregnant, and then I fell pregnant much faster than I had anticipated, so they both aligned. I considered pulling the pin but I’ve always been great at biting off more than I can chew haha. It was unfortunate timing but I have no regrets. I have learned an awful lot from opening and working in the café. I have a real sense of accomplishment, and learned to be a multitasking mum really quick! 

It’s also allowed Colin to spend a lot of extra one on one time with Eleah, our daughter, and he’s an amazing dad. I think that’s been really special for him too.

DOTING WIFE OR INDEPENDENT WOMAN I think it’s always nice to have something of your own. It’s human nature to crave a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment in your life. Honestly I felt a little lost when I first moved to France because I had a lot of spare time and felt I had to be “doing something”. The café gave me that and now motherhood has too.

When I chose teaching as a career path it was something I loved but it was also with rugby in mind. 

Colin and I have been together since high school so I had the luxury of some foresight and I knew it was a career that I could do anywhere. 

I did choose to stay behind in Christchurch for a year when he moved to Dunedin to play for the Highlanders in 2011, because I was halfway through my teaching registration. It was the hardest year of my life because it also happened to be the year of the Christchurch earthquakes, the NZ Rugby World Cup and we got married in January 2012, so it was a really difficult time to be apart. 

It was something I had to do for myself but I decided after that I didn’t ever want to do it again!

RUGBY LIFE LOW DOWN We are so incredibly blessed and grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that rugby has created for us. We are currently living in a beautiful part of the world and surrounded by an amazing community of friends. Our daughter attends Crèche here and will be bilingual, and I have the freedom to test out crazy business ventures! We are really, really lucky.

RUGBY LIFE HIGHS There have been so many proud moments for me when Colin has made teams, achieved goals, had a great game or featured in tournaments. I was lucky enough to go to some games during the past two World Cups which Colin was a part of, and that was pretty amazing.

We have met some lovely people and made many lifelong friends through rugby.

I think definitely the opportunity to live in Europe and embrace and be a part of a completely different culture takes the cake though. We have loved every minute of the travel and lifestyle over here!

RUGBY LIFE LOWS With the ups there are always downs. Rugby is such an all consuming career and I know it can be really hard for Colin to switch off mentally and have some down time. Of course it’s also tough when there are injuries and when the boys miss out on selection or there’s negativity in the media. In New Zealand, Colin was away a lot which was challenging at times too.

RUGBY LIFE NEED TO KNOW Dealing with the highs and lows that come with professional sports is really trying at times. It can be really hard living contract to contract and not knowing where you will be each year or two. 

And it’s definitely not all glam, we are just normal girls who love a coffee (or a wine), a good yarn and a day in my activewear!

WHERE TO FROM HERE I have actually just sold my half of the café to one of our lovely employees, so for now, I am pleased to be focusing on my family and just being a mum. I am expecting another baby in October so I will have my hands full for a while!

5 YEARS FROM NOW I think in five years it’s possible we will be settling/settled back in Christchurch and starting fresh with rugby behind us, so the possibilities are endless! I definitely see us starting another business, although next time something a little more conducive to family life!

WISE WORDS OF WISDOM In the words of the many Disney movies that my daughter adores:

“Hakuna Matata”- The Lion King

“Let it go”- Frozen

“Just keep swimming”- Finding Nemo

“Whistle while you work”- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

“The seaweed is always greener in someone else’s lake”- The Little Mermaid

HOW CAN OUR HYPE CREW FIND YOU  

Instagram: @em_slade  @beanzcafepau

Comments +

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.

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