1. Tell us about yourself/ your business.
My name is Valerie Walsh and I am co owner of Doktor Luke’s - a respectable coffee house with my husband James Walsh. James is the person you see all the time. He runs the show, I fill in the little bits and pieces mostly behind the scenes. I work as a full time optician and James manages the cafe.
2. What was your path to your business?
Doktor Luke’s was started by two women from Moncton in 2014. They opened up in an adorable little place on Kings Road that they quickly grew out of. About a year and half later they moved to our current location on Prince Street.
James has been working for them for a few years when Missy and Julie (past owners) decided they were moving to Ontario. So we were given the opportunity to buy the business. We’ve owned it for two years now and we couldn’t have been happier about our terrifying purchase.
We knew James could run the daily barista lifestyle, but we had never owned a business before. It was always kind of something James thought about but starting a business was terrifying. Buying a pre existing business that we both loved and beloved in was a much easier plunge.
3. What inspired you to operate a business in Cape Breton/ Unama’ki?
Like many Cape Bretoners, James and I left the island right after high school, attending St FX and then lived and worked in Halifax for a short time. James took a year and travelled to Dublin with his brother and friend. But we always came back to Cape Breton/ Unama’ki. We’ve never been without work, doing whatever we could to make it work here.
We are both pretty close to our family and have a real great group of supportive “Cape Breton first” friends. We’ve surrounded ourselves with like minded people who appreciate what we have here and work hard to make it the best place to live and work. Operating a business here means we can help in revitalizing our downtown core. We can stop complaining about what we don’t have and appreciate what we do have.
4. What was your “ah-ha” moment when you knew you had the right idea?
Well, it wasn’t our idea. But when we made it through our first year as the owners and realized that our bills were paid, people enjoy coming to the cafe, they love our product, plus we were employing four people, that was a pretty big “ah-ha” moment. It was also a pretty big “we didn’t mess this up yet!” moment.
5. What did you study in school? How has it helped you in your journey?
Neither of us excelled at school or studying. We both graduates high school and continued on to take bachelor level courses at St FX and then CBU but neither of us completed our degrees. I have since gone back and have an optical science diploma for my other job. But we have learned about running a business from our hard working friends and family, from trial and error, and from never giving up.
6. If there was one thing you could have done differently early in your career, what would it be?
I don’t generally like to think about what I could have or should have done. I prefer to look forward and plan for how we can grow Doktor Luke’s.
7. What is your advice to a ‘shiny new’ business owner or entrepreneur?
Cape Breton is too small a place for competition. Support other small businesses and they will support you. Make friends with your neighbours in business like you would your neighbours at home. Find some really great employees that you can trust and will show pride in their work, not only because they want to do a good job, but because they believe in your business and love where they work.
54 Prince Street on the corner of Prince and Bentinck Street inside the Prince Street Market.
(What we have been calling Sydney’s New Action Corner)
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Facebook: Doktor Luke’s