Sports lovers in Singleton are bound to know Ben Hedley, the owner of the local Sportspower.
But coffee addicts are just as likely to be familiar with him thanks to his latest venture, KICKS cafe. We caught up with Ben over one of his famous lattes to discuss life as a young entrepreneur in the country.
Ben, you’ve been a Singleton local your entire life. Tell us what you love about the town?
The sense of community. We’re a small town where everyone knows one another, but we still have that big town vibe. There’s lots of people from different backgrounds. It’s very much a melting pot of the valley. In the past, Singleton has done a lot better economically compared to other towns in the area which has really put it in good stead, and there’s just a great community here.
How did your career as a business owner get its start?
I got my first job in retail when I was in year 10. Big W took me on as a trainee where I learned about retail operations whilst working stocking shelves and doing customer service. After completing my degree in Sports Tourism Management I was looking for a summer job and was offered one at Sportspower with the previous owner, Bruce Whatham.
In 2011 Bruce decided to retire and approached me and my previous business partner with the opportunity to buy the store from him. We were lucky enough to be able to purchase it in 2012, and I’ve had the business since then. It’s been my life for the past eight years, I love it.
You must be pretty heavily involved in the local sports scene, then?
I’ve played sports my whole life. Rugby Union, AFL, golf – I’ve played everything really. But I think it’s a misconception that because you own a sports store you should be sporty. I like to focus much more on customer service and servicing the community, which is far more important. I’ll always play sports, but providing a service for my local community so they don’t have to go out of town is far more important to me.
We’re lucky enough to have many sporting codes represented strongly in Singleton. Both rugby codes, soccer, AFL, cricket, netball. With the shift from agriculture to mining we’ve had a lot of mining families move to town, and a lot of the kids make friends in the community through sport. Having a sports store in town has definitely been massive, and it’s really helped the local economy.
What does an average day look like for you?
The good and bad thing about Sportspower is no day is exactly the same. I might spend the morning importing stock and deliver treadmills in the afternoon. That’s what I love about it, no two days are the same. Footy season is our Christmas period, April through June gets very busy. We received a lot of our football stock for next season today and have already begun updating our catalogue for the winter.
Tell us about your foray into the world of coffee with KICKS.
A lot of my work in Sportspower has taken me to Melbourne and Sydney, where the coffee scene is absolutely massive. When we moved into the new location there was a space we didn’t think we’d fully be able to utilise, so we thought it would be perfect for a kiosk-style cafe.
The aim of the game is to serve good quality coffee to someone on the way to work, on their lunch break, or provide somewhere to sit down and have a relaxing drink to some of the customers who come to the store. It’s a great way to generate some more money and not have any dead space in the store. It’s a great initiative with the modern-day “latte athlete” movement going on at the moment for those looking to grab some activewear and a latte.
How do you go behind the pumps? Make a mean latte?
No, I tend to leave it to the professionals. One thing I’ve learned in this industry is that people love coffee, and when they have a bad one they love to tell you about it. That skill is not in my wheelhouse so I leave it to the pros.
What are you most proud of?
Myself and Erin, my wife, have undergone a massive journey in stepping up to this new store. From sourcing the space to conceptualising the idea, for us to deliver this new store in Singleton, we feel it’s definitely added to the community.
What are you looking forward to most in 2020?
A bit of normality. 2019 was full of ups and downs as we worked on this new store. Hopefully, in 2020 we can continue selling high-quality sporting goods, produce good coffee and keep people happy.
Visit Sportspower at 114 John Street, Singleton.