Head of Will & Co Josh Passaro looks back on the roaster’s 10-year history and how it has helped grow small businesses across Australia.
As Will & Co celebrates its 10th anniversary with giveaways, parties, and promotions, the team can’t help but look back on its growth journey with immense pride.
The roaster’s origins trace back to Sydney’s Bondi suburb in 2013, when three school friends came together with a simple suggestion.
“The idea was to combine two of the best things Australia has to offer: its thriving café culture and the coastal lifestyle,” says Head of Will & Co Josh Passaro.
“Coffee and coastal communities go hand-in-hand regardless of where you are in the world. There’s something special about having a coffee by the beach, especially in Bondi.”
From the start, the founders were confident the local community would embrace a new venture that combined these two lifestyles pillars.
After focusing on roasting for a year, Will & Co saw the opportunity to open its own café.
“When we first started, we were sharing an office space above a surf store which had a great outdoor area that was underutilised,” Josh says.
“We thought it would be a great place for a café because it felt like a little oasis in the middle of a busy area of the city.”
That little oasis in Bondi quickly became the kind of communal hub the founders had dreamed of.
“It was a great way for us to showcase our coffee and who we are,” Josh says.
“It also attracted a lot of local community members, artists and creatives, and became a bit of a hangout spot for locals and visitors alike.”
Soon after the café opened, Will & Co was contacted by a number of other businesses and cafés that were looking to collaborate.
“We had a lot of cafés approach us from interstate in the early days, and we had no idea how they had even heard of us,” Josh says.
“It did seem like a natural evolution to expand, and we’re stoked that many of those early partners are still with us today.”
The initial Bondi location, which has since moved to a larger venue down the street, allowed for Will & Co to explore new ideas when it comes to its coffee.
“Experimentation is a big thing for us, whether it’s working with suppliers and producers or collaborating with local brands and businesses,” Josh says.
Despite the change of location, the newer Bondi HQ & Tasting Bar remains the heart of the company’s operations.
“We craft all of our own specialty coffee drink recipes in-house and share them with our café partners,” Josh says.
One of the company’s more recent concoctions is its specialty coffee concentrate, made from Will & Co’s signature Eight-O- Eight house blend.
“The concentrate is something that has been in the works for a while, mostly because we wanted to get the recipe just right,” Josh says.
The creation process for the concentrate ensured the flavour of the coffee wasn’t too weak or too strong, making it more versatile.
“You can mix it with milk for a simple iced latte, use it in desserts like cake and tiramisu or mix up your favourite cocktails at home, like an espresso martini or coffee negroni,” Josh says.
“It’s the perfect travel companion, which is why I always take it with me when going camping or on holidays.”
Will & Co encourages people to have fun experimenting with the concentrate and craft their own unique beverage creations.
“A lot of our café partners have been getting behind [the concentrate] and sharing their recipes, which we’re adding to our menu as well,” Josh says.
Collaboration with other cafés has proven to be a major driver for Will & Co throughout its first decade. The company has worked with cafés all across Australia in that time, helping them grow their businesses, and providing additional resources where it can.
“When we first start working with a café partner, we sit down with the owner to figure out what their objectives are,” Josh says.
“It’s about being bespoke on approach but big on capability.”
That assistance can come in a variety of ways, with many options stretching beyond coffee. According to Josh, Will & Co has always looked at art as a way to separate a café from the crowd.
“We’re working with one café now that wants to have a huge mural on the side of their building, so we’ll find a great local Aussie artist to bring our ideas to life,” he says.
Josh says it’s this type of personal service that sets Will & Co apart.
“Just about everything we do for cafés is bespoke, and that’s the way we like it, whether that’s handmade signage, content creation, equipment customisation, growth plans or marketing support,” Josh says. “It’s about so much more than simply providing beans and machines.”
Josh is proud of what the team has been able to accomplish with its partners.
“The longevity of our café partnerships has been one of our biggest highlights,” he says.
“Many of them are no longer just café partners, they’re good mates.”
Will & Co has plenty of events on the agenda to celebrate its first decade in business. It has launched limited edition takeaway cups designed by local Aussie artist Chris Nixon, is giving away a La Marzocco Linea Micra, hosted an epic barista smackdown, and has a few other surprises in the works. Each of these celebrations is a way to say “thank you” to those who have supported Will & Co throughout the years.
Additionally, its Bondi HQ is hosting an art exhibition titled ‘Coffee & Community’, with 10 artists displaying 10 original pieces of work that will be auctioned off at the end of the year. The profits from the art sales will go towards charities Beyond Blue and OneWave, which tackle mental health issues.
Josh says a recent move to becoming a national partner with OneWave has been long in the making.
The non-profit organisation, established by Grant Trebilco in 2013, uses surfing as a way to raise mental health awareness through saltwater therapy.
“We’ve always talked about collaborating with Grant,” Josh says. “He has been a big part of the Bondi community for years now, so this is a great opportunity to work with him and give back.”
Giving back to the community is an important part of the company’s ethos. Will & Co also supports charity partners Cafesmart, RUOK and Transition Bondi, to name a few.
“It’s why we do what we do,” Josh says.
For more information, visit www.willandco.com.au
This article appears in the December 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.