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Employer Feature - Dalhousie

Employer Feature - Dalhousie inploi Team | 28.07.2017

Baking with his mother and grandmother in Canada, the founder of Dalhousie could hardly have imagined where his love of baking would lead him. With fourteen years’ experience in finance, Derek moved on to work in corporate event management, working with multinational clients including Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceuticals. Hardly your conventional back story for the founder of a cafe based in London’s Crystal Palace. However, after marrying his partner, Derek decided to take the plunge, leaving his corporate role to make a permanent move to the UK; and instead of applying to more large scale international firms, he chose to set up his own cafe.

So, what’s it like to run a café having had no experience of working in one yourself? It seems Derek’s experience of working part-time jobs in retail alongside his full-time roles over the years has helped to prepare him for the task. Like every business founder, Derek works “48 hours a day” seven days a week to keep Dalhousie running. It’s hard work, but Derek openly shares how rewarding he finds the challenges of establishing his own coffee shop, and now even more so, training up his team.

“One of my part-timers, when she first applied for a job, at the interview I said, “Tell me three of your best qualities”, and she said, “Well, I think I have great customer service, and I think I have a great smile”. And I stopped her and said, “Are you telling me, or are you convincing yourself?” A year later, she makes some of the best coffee in the shop. I can leave her on a Saturday to run the shop. And to me that’s rewarding.”

The team is still small, with seven staff working front of house and in the kitchen with Derek to produce their amazing selection of cakes, bakes and savoury treats (many of which are third generation recipes - perhaps with a twist). Derek really wants to “encourage, motivate, enhance and educate” the people who join his team, teaching them new skills and helping them progress. Having worked in a retail when he was at high school, Derek aims to pass on the fun, encouraging work environment that his manager created for him.

“When I was 16 and I was working in retail - retail is not always fun. But my manager made it fun. That’s my mission. I want people to have fun. The reason why someone should want to work here is because we have fun, we have a great team - they support and enhance each other. You can tell they care.”

Derek’s passion for customer service is effusive, strongly believing that a visit to Dalhousie should be seen as a treat for his customers. Customers choose to come to Dalhousie because of the quality of their produce freshly baked on site every day, and their personal customer service; creating a local cafe environment where everyone is welcome. Having moved across the world, Derek’s tenacity and desire to share his love of baking and providing a homely, intimate setting for his customers is really what makes Dalhousie special, and it’s quickly becoming the unique heart-centre of the community.

“The customers are great. I’ve done wedding receptions upstairs, and high teas, and people stop me on the street and say, ‘this is great’. Or people who jog up the street say, ‘we love your cake, but we hate you because we have to jog!’. We’re seeing faces we have never seen, we have people coming from Australia - and it blows my mind. It’s very rewarding. I have a great team, and I have great support. I’m very lucky.”

It’s just the beginning of the journey for Derek and the team at Dalhousie, and there’s sure to be bigger plans in the pipeline. Derek is already eyeing up new sites and opportunities to expand the business in south London, but is eager to stay true to his original vision. The name Dalhousie itself came from the last road that Derek lived on in Canada, and it serves as a constant reminder of where he’s come from. With his family and friends so far away, Derek is looking forward to the day when they can come and visit, see the Dalhousie name and continue sharing their family recipes. Derek mentions casually that people are now asking him to write a cookbook and start doing cookery classes. “One day”, he says modestly. 

Check out the latest available job openings on the Dalhousie company page here.

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