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Dynamic Duo: The yo-pro sisters behind Hoppers and Elmo’s

Coming to the end of Female Founder month, we are continuing to profile exceptional Kiwi women who have managed to take their business ideas and turn them into a reality.

This week we chat with Kiwi sisters Bronwyn and Jessica Payne, the duo behind popular Ponsonby drinking and dining destinations Hoppers and Elmo’s.

With knowledge and experience on their shoulders, the pair chat to us about building a business, working with family, and the advice they’d give to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Answers by Bronwyn Payne

Why did you decide to start your own business?

My sister and I have always had entrepreneurial tendencies stemming from our parents’ business accruements along with the trust of being sisters we felt we had the skills and confidence to create our own businesses. 

Where did the idea for Hoppers and Elmo’s come from?

Hoppers came about from our love for New Zealand craft beer, after taking a trip overseas we were blown away by the standard of New Zealand craft beer and how advanced the industry was compared to the rest of the world. Hoppers showcases 18 local craft breweries daily, these taps rotate weekly allowing us to work closely with our local suppliers. 

Growing up as a family we would have a homemade pizza night every Friday, and even today we continue this tradition. Elmo’s was a nostalgic passion project for us and something we absolutely loved creating. We use fresh local ingredients, local handmade New Zealand cheeses, local limoncello suppliers, and we are proud to say we are on our way to being completely wastage free.

Our venues were designed to be big and sensory, we want you to walk in and feel transported. Yet, when you take a seat it feels homely and cosy, encouraging you to spend hours there.

What challenges came with starting these businesses? 

There are always many challenges from the outset, many unforeseen costs and stipulations. On top of standard challenges, Covid-19 brought the most challenging and stressful experiences we have encountered in business: having to close the venues, not knowing when we will reopen, and trying to remain strong and optimistic for our team when really we were extremely anxious. 

What have been some of your best highlights of owning a business? 

Truly we would have to say having the pleasure of meeting such creative people on a social and business level. 

What is a common misconception about being a business owner?

The idea of being fully in control of your own business along with having a lifestyle balance. For us it has been a 24/7 lifestyle, you must live and breathe it from the moment you open your eyes to when you close them. And as cliché as it sounds, consistency is harder when no one is clapping for you, you must pat yourself on the back during those times and be your biggest fan. 

What has it been like working with family?

Our experience has been truly great, to have your family’s unconditional support, trust and honesty make family business rewarding.

In terms of money and investing, what tips and tricks would you give? 

In terms of money and investing, it is something you are always learning as you go. However, lost money can be found and gained; lost time is lost forever. Think big and don’t limit your ambitions.  

Is there any other advice you’d give to someone wanting to start their own business? 

Our advice would be to stay true to your values, and be as authentic to yourself as you can possibly be, don’t get me wrong, this is never easy, and means that sometimes you have to go against the grain of what is considered ‘normal’.

Whenever we create something new, we try and ensure all that energy and spirit goes back to our key values from when we first started: sourcing as much as we can from local producers, affordable prices, friendly service with a smile, and all in a quirky setting with a vibrant atmosphere. 

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