Jason Belcourt : Bay St (seven:am), Port Melbourne : Melbourne, Australia
“We are our biggest enemy; we stand in our own way so often. Sometimes I think you just need to put yourself in isolation and try and use your brain to come up with something good. You’ll be surprised with what you can come up with; we doubt ourselves”
The wheels are always turning with Jason Belcourt. He’s an inspired guy who successfully balances his entrepreneurial personality with the drive to see a finished product; never short of a great idea but facing the inevitable challenge of finding the time to focus on one before he’s distracted by another. And if you’ve been to his cafe in Bay St (Port Melbourne) you’ll see his personality in every aspect of the cool warehouse style eatery. The art on the walls, the food on the menu, the design of the space; everything shifts organically over time as Jason unleashes a new and exciting concept of how to improve the customer experience.
And this experience is shaped by drawing from his varied history; all aspects of which were seemingly circling the inevitable decision he would make to take the plunge into business ownership around six years ago with seven:am. It started while working in retail liquor, when a consistent client would headhunt him for a position in a function venue in South Yarra. A position that would continue to push his thinking, hone his skills and be a major step in what is now his seven:am reality.
“I took on a very multi-faceted role. I did venue management, I did marketing, I did function coordination, I worked the bar, I did maintenance…I did everything…I was quite involved. Because, when we started, it was pretty much just he and I and through a variety of channels we grew the business. It was quite an amazing experience and one I value greatly just for the vastness of knowledge that I gained; it was quite remarkable”
The hands-on creativity he fell into with this business would guide him when looking for other opportunities, and he eventually moved on from the role to study graphic design; a perfect vocation for the creatively minded looking to dive in to detailed briefs and focus endless ideas into concise results. However, as much as he enjoyed many aspects of design, it simply wasn’t the right fit so he took a left step into print production with a large business; but the job he had envisaged quickly morphed into a role he had never signed up for and simply wasn’t engaged by. It was a role of circumstance and exploration, not of passion and drive, and he would ultimately be let go from it, birthing somewhat of a personal dichotomy for him; the delightful release from a position he had no interest or passion being involved with staring down the difficult reality of being fired.
“I learned some things while working for that company. I learned that I’m not suited to corporate. I learned how different departments interact with each other, even if it is inefficient. Positive but negative experience. Mostly positive but some things to learn from it. So after that I was feeling more lost than ever, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life”
Despite the rut he now found himself in, his previously unrelated experiences would quietly slot together to form the completed jigsaw of the next stage of his life. While again heading to the comfortable stability and familiarity of retail liquor sales, he would share a glass of wine with his previous South Yarra employer and be confronted with the potentially life changing question; what do you actually want to do? This resulted in a lightbulb moment that his entrepreneurial side grabbed with both hands, and it would see him offered the capital for a business startup and the concept of a cafe that would quickly become seven:am. And more than that, it tapped into a veiled awareness of a strong need to leave time in his schedule for himself, his wife (of 7 years), his children (he now has two), and the freedom to construct his own professional framework within which to achieve these things. But the excitement of potential soon gave way to the challenges of small business ownership as they made themselves known early in the piece, but Jason met them head on. And remaining convinced that this was the right path, he held fast to capitalise on the early lessons that nearly every startup business owner faces.
“Turns out running a profitable business is heaps more fun than a non-profitable on…shock-horror! Losing money is a huge distraction and anybody that can work through it..well, I’m actually proud of myself that I was able to work through it, cause it’s tiring”
Through hard work, long hours, and dedicated staff, owning and running his own business has permitted the freedom to control his own schedule, make his own decisions, and free up more time to spend with his young family. And he’s acknowledged and invested in the understanding that to get the best out of himself, he needs to take stock; focus on his current position and check his course as often as possible.
“I think if you’re in tune with what you’re doing, which any savvy business operator should be, you should sort of know where you’re at. Because of some of my daily habits, I am relatively in tune with where I’m at through: meditation; through journaling; and just sort of staying connected with the people around me. I take the time to meet with a mentor once a month; to sit down and gain perspective on things”
In addition to now enjoying the many benefits of his buzzing Bay St business, he remains dedicated to ensuring seven:am continues to grow year on year and that he continues to be inspired and challenged by the industry he’s a part of. And ultimately he’s looking to push himself further and continue to grow creatively, with an altered perspective that he’s developed over time of what “creative” actually means.
“More than anything else, I’d like the breathing room to grow creatively. The word ‘creative’ tends to be reserved for designers, artists and photographers, but my readings of late suggest is reaches so much further than that. Problem solving might be the greatest creativity in the world. And I think that’s when people talk about me being a creative person, that’s it – that’s me. I’m a creative problem-solver. If that’s a visual solution sometimes, sure! But ultimately it’s problem solving”
And aside from it being a healthy interpretation, it also feeds right back into his passion for running a business and the ultimate need to control his day to day. To engage his various strengths by tweaking the space, the menu, and the brand. To continue to take a hands-on approach and ensure that it’s developing alongside of him while engaging new and existing customers. And to embrace the chaos of the entrepreneurial spirit; to harness it and enjoy the well-earned results of his own conscious design.
Be sure to visit seven:am at 155 Bay St, Port Melbourne (website here)
Jason also runs his own conceptual small business blog titled “The Inertia Of Life” here