It's never too latte to experiment with a career change

Photo of coffee beans, ground coffee and a coffee with milk

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Meet UQ graduates Josh and Louise Daly, the scientists turned owners of Little Black Pug Café in Mount Gravatt who prove modern career paths rarely follow a set menu.

Five to seven career changes in a lifetime: that’s the new average for the younger generation of Australian ‘job-hoppers’.

While UQ graduates Josh and Louise Daly are yet to hit that magic number, they can relate to the chop-and-change career paths their generation is setting after leaving their research careers to open Little Black Pug Café together in 2018.

“Just because you start a degree in one field, doesn’t mean that’s the only place it can take you. You have to be open to opportunities,” Josh says.

His wife, Louise, likens it to the shifting, interwoven storylines of comic strips.

“You could say there are multiple timelines, like in Marvel [comics],” Louise says.

“You can jump from one timeline into a different one, knowing that you can jump back at any point.”

Tired after a hard day’s work, Josh and Louise chug down their waters in sync. In their all-black clothing, they certainly look like experienced café owners – which they are. But, unlike most café owners, the couple began their working careers in science labs, not kitchens.

“We actually met at UQ,” Louise says. "Josh was tutoring a course when I was in my last year of my degree.”

Photo of UQ graduates Josh and Louise Daly outside of their cafe in Mt Gravatt "Little Black Pug"

UQ graduates Josh and Louise Daly

UQ graduates Josh and Louise Daly

Josh was a career scientist looking at bioinformatics, and he later started his PhD in the field of metagenomics.

However, things changed when Louise lost her job working as a cytogenetic scientist.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to continue in science or go down another route,” she says.

Josh, who at the time was involved in genomics startup Microba, found himself making a tough decision.

“It was either go with Lou and her dream or stick it out with this company that I was helping to form.”

Two years on, he has no regrets.

“I do love the social aspect of what I’m doing right now. I didn’t get that level of social interaction working behind a computer screen.”

They may be in the hospitality industry now, but the couple haven’t stopped using their science skills.

“We’re both very systematic people: it’s part of being a scientist,” Louise says.

“We’re very thorough and have the steps planned out. We have so many spreadsheets; one for budgeting, one for planning each menu, one for expenditure – you name it.

“Knowing what's going on while something is cooking is so helpful.

“If foods aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, you might add some pressure, heat or friction and it can be fixed.”

Josh also calls on his background in science when he waits tables at the café, admitting he hopes to be the best waiter in Brisbane.  

“A lot of the time, you don’t know that you’re thinking scientifically,” he says.

“I had never done waitering before, but I approach it like an experiment: if one conversation starter doesn’t work, I’ll reflect and do something else. It’s a lot of trial and error.

“It’s such a silly thing, but I take pride in my waitering. I’ll go and watch other waiters and take notes.

“Louise and I are both very ambitious and driven people. The skills we have are transferrable for sure.”

While the café recently expanded its kitchen thanks to a Small Business COVID-19 Adaptation Grant from the Queensland Government, the pandemic hit the business hard.

The couple had to switch from its usual brunch to takeaway coffee and home-baked goods.

“We lost a part of who we were because it was a fight for survival,” Louise says.

“It became disheartening at one point.

“We weren’t making any money, but we wanted to make sure our team was still employed.

“It was either close the doors and risk not reopening ever again or keep going.”

The business survived a tough few months, and life began to return to normal as restrictions eased.

But the couple understands how turbulent these times can be.

“It could change at any moment. We’re going well here, but the pandemic isn’t over, so you can’t let your guard down,” Louise said.

As for what’s next, the couple have a long list.

“It’s like looking back on an old assignment, you’re never happy with it,” Josh said.

“We’re constantly listening to our customers and always tweaking."

“We want to be one of the best cafes in Brisbane. We want people to trust and know that we serve the best food and that they’ll have a great experience at our cafe.”

Head over to Little Black Pug and try their newly launched Spring menu.

Instagram @littleblackpugcafe. Facebook.

Photo of breakfast with edible flowers from Little Black Dog cafe.