You couldn't miss it if you tried. Heading down Sholl St in Mandurah, the sight of two bombastic, hot pink doors signals 'Not Your Usual Cafe' to passersby. Open since mid 2017, Mataya Eatery has nailed the great food/coffee/atmosphere trifecta, and is fast becoming a community hub, with sprawling seating, an ever-changing menu, a carefully curated selection of gifts and seasonal markets in the courtyard. Heading up this multi-faceted business is Mandurah local Natalie Cameron. With a taste for good food, an eye for good design and a head of pink hair, Nat is uncompromising of her vision of a cafe that is so much more than a cafe...
What was your process for choosing the name Mataya, and what is its significance to you?
I didn’t want to open just 'another café’. The word Mataya means:
A beautiful girl who is not noticed immediately, but is life changing. She is reserved, very quiet, until you get to know her. She can make you feel like your on top of the world when she is standing by your side. A Mataya comes along once in a lifetime, you should not pass up a girl like her. She is unlike any girl that you will ever meet.
I didn’t want the name and branding to represent just a café, as we're much more than that. We plan to branch out to other ventures in the future that might not be purely coffee and food service related, so Mataya represents the business as a whole and not any one person.
Your background is in Agriculture - nek minnit you’re opening a cafe. What was the process for you leaving the Agriculture sector to start this new venture?
I spent tireless hours researching, budgeting & studying a new sector (hospitality) while upholding a high-pressure senior management role in a large company. I worked easily 60 hours a week on average, so evenings and wee hours of the morning were dedicated to working out if Mataya was a viable business idea.
My planning and budgeting phase highlighted where I needed expert help, as I was not a chef nor a barista – heck, I hadn’t ever served a coffee in my life! I partnered with these experts, and they are rock sold advisors in my business today (bookkeeper, menu designer, accountant). I needed to be respectful to the company I was employed by and the motivation I had towards my role. It was only honourable that as soon as I committed to Mataya, I resigned in good faith. I then very quickly went about building a team and creating a brand.
Pink hair, pink doors … have you always had a love affair with eye-popping pink?
Nope, never – I’m actually not a pink lover. I created the grand doors with our builder and always hoped they would be a key feature – I procrastinated over what colour to paint them for weeks (it was the only thing I procrastinated over from the whole build) until the lady at the paint shop got sick of all my sample pots and handed me a 20lt can of colour and said “paint it this.” Shock horror, it was hot pink!!!!
My hair I guess was a rebellious moment – for once in my life I felt I didn’t need to conform to a particular corporate ‘look.’ I was no longer dealing with farmers (who sometimes found it challenging dealing with a young female, let alone add coloured hair), and I wasn’t in a corporate office or anywhere near a boardroom – f*** yeah! My hairdresser had free run at being creative.
You’ve got a big, relaxed space that opens onto a courtyard, where you recently held your first market event. One gets the sense you’re creating a community hub – was that part of the plan?
Always, if you saw my business and marketing plan – the locals, small businesses and families were all front of mind when creating Mataya.
People said I was crazy for starting another café in Mandurah, that the economy was horrible and we’d never survive. People told me that unless we were on the foreshore, we’d never get the foot traffic needed to keep a business open. One local fruit and veg business (who I approached to supply the café) said – you only survive in Mandurah during the summer, you have to make all your money in the summer with tourists and just make ends meet in winter. I thought that was the crappest idea and mindset I’ve ever heard! I knew it was not how I was going to structure Mataya.
Onto the food. Most popular menu item?
There are a few that go head to head and we are excited to launch our new Autumn menu to see what else becomes popular.
Acai bowls are crowd pleasers. Our holistic brown rice breakfast bowl is super popular as it a well balanced meal to start the day featuring the most amazing free range pasture eggs. And then there are our bagels … fully pimped bagels full of crafted cream cheese and all the toppings.
Favourite way to pimp Honest Goods Co. Paleo bread?
Savoury – Paleo pumpkin bread, poached egg, avocado & maple butter
Sweet – Paleo banana bread, The Honest Pantry almond butter & fresh banana
You also have a gift shop in store. What are some of your favourite local products that you’re stocking at the moment?
Our ceramic cups made by Pottery for the Planet are beautiful. Some are made for us in Margaret River, some come direct from their QLD studio – they are out of this word amazing. We love when our regulars choose reusable cups for their brews and we can cut down on all disposable cups & packaging. The Little Gifter also has a sweet range of candles and body products, a super talented lady from Perth.
Everything from the decor to your instagram and your chirpy staff says ‘FUN!’ How important is this outlook to the way Mataya and the team runs day to day?
Critical – we are all about creating an experience, isn’t that why people choose to dine out, socialise away from home and choose Mataya over another ‘café’?
I have travelled a lot in my life, regional, interstate, overseas. I have always spent time finding where the best coffee is in a town, wouldn’t be afraid of hoping a cab and heading 30kms through town to suss out a spot I found on social media that inspired me. This is what I want for Mataya. I want people from Mandurah to love the whole experience of being in our space. I want to inspire people from Perth and our south coastal towns to make the trip to visit us and enjoy Mandurah while they’re there. We all live in a very socially interactive (both word of mouth and online) world and I know we need to create a vibe, some might call it a movement!
A Perth city slicker is heading down to Mandurah for the day. What are three must-do activities aside from eating brekky and lunch at Mataya?!
Visit on the weekend when we host our markets! Other than that ...
1. Grab a coffee and cruise along the foreshore on foot, nap under a shady tree, or sit and just take it all in.
3. If water is your thing, hire a small boat, grab a packed lunch (from Mataya of course!) and putter along through the canals. Spy all the grand houses, you are likely to see dolphins and soak up some sunshine.
Finish this sentence: The most important thing I have learned from running my own business is…
Make time for yourself away from your business. No family member or employee wants a tired grumpy wife, daughter, boss. Don’t forget why you started and that creativity is what keeps us viable – creativity only comes when you are a physically absent from the shop and you get to see and experience what else is out there.
Lastly, any new projects in the pipeline?
Yesss… but I can’t say! Might be an extended evening menu, then again it might not!