Coffee the Kere Kere way
Bringing the Fijian concept of Kere Kere – giving without expectation – to a Melbourne Café.
Kere Kere has grown a lot since it was conceived by founder James Murphy for a University assignment. Starting out as a small coffee kiosk in a quiet corner of the Melbourne University Parkville campus in 2007, Kere Kere now comprises of two cafes, one on Engineering Lane- Melbourne University and Kere Kere South, at the Boyd Community Hub, Southbank. The Melbourne University café alone serves over 1000 customers daily.
Growing up in Fiji, James experienced the custom of the café’s namesake Kere Kere- the concept of giving willingly without expectation of repayment. Combining this with great coffee and a successful business model Kere Kere now makes a monthly donation of $1000 to environmental, social and cultural causes at the nomination of customers.
In addition, every year Kere Kere employs two young people from St Kilda Youth Services who are facing various barriers to finding work and trains them in hospitality and the art of coffee making.
We like the coffee and we like the cause, so we caught up with James Murphy to edify ourselves in Kere Kere 101.
Tell us about how Kere Kere started- where did the idea come from?
After 5 years studying Arts and Social Work at Melbourne University I didn’t want to ever write another journal article. I was passionate about finding something that was really practically orientated but to be honest there wasn’t a light bulb moment. Kere Kere, without being a real wanker about it, is everything that’s important to me. In life sometimes you ask yourself what your values are and what is important to you. For me the answer is right there in the saying ‘Kere Kere’ which combines the culture of sharing and caring. I also did a whole lot of study around what it means to be an individual in society, how we relate to each other, and there’s the social work aspect as well…it all came together.
You had Kere Kere day recently – tell us about that, we hear things got pretty crazy!
We gave away over 1500 free coffees- which is marketing the Kere Kere way! I think most people saw it as publicity; we certainly attracted some customers but the whole idea just to give without expectation.
How do you combine the commercial side of the business with the social aspects?
You need to be patient. We aren’t interested in being a good cause gone commercial. There is no point training young people unless you are realistic and patient about it.
For us it has never been about the marketing or the publicity, that’s all a bit new for us… we have always been nice and quiet and…quite humble and I think people like that. I think people reward that and they like that, it’s really genuine.
The staff and the customers are acknowledging that we are doing something bigger than ourselves- but it’s still just coffee.
How did you stay inspired?
You don’t know what the next step will be or where it will take you and I think that’s what’s fun, that you are truly innovating over time. I think people love that and I think that’s what so great about our next step, because we have grown up a lot.
Out of every situation there’s always something that’s growing or changing, it’s exciting.