Skip to main content Skip to main navigation
Skip to access and inclusion page Skip to search input

Mob Pod: Trish Frail – Thulii Ngemba cafe

Trish Frail, owner and operator of Thulii Ngemba café in Brewarina in North West NSW has converted her backyard into a café that specialises in cooking everything with a native ingredient. She shares her business lessons learnt and the joy she has in being a business owner.


LG: Hello everyone I’m Lisa Gissing from Westpac, and today we’re really lucky to be speaking with Trish Frail who owns and operates Thulii Ngemba Café in Brewarina in northwest NSW. Welcome Trish.

TF: Thank you Lisa.

LG: Now before we begin I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the various lands in which we all meet, and pay my respects to elders both past and present. I also acknowledge and pay respect to those here today who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and recognise the diversity of Indigenous peoples, countries, and culture in Australia.

As Australia’s first bank we acknowledge our role in supporting an inclusive and diverse nation where all of our cultural backgrounds are recognised and respected.


LG: Trish, let’s start today with you telling us a little bit more about yourself and Thulii Ngemba Café in Brewarina.

TF: I’m a Ngemba woman from Bre. I’d also like to acknowledge all the Countries where everybody is listening. I own my little café. I’m very lucky. I live in the main street of Bre. My house is right on the corner of where everybody has to turn to go to the next town. So, in my backyard I’ve got a shop and it has always been empty ever since I’ve had the house and I always knew that I was going to do something one day and I knew it was going to be in relation to my culture.


TF: And then I really thought about it and realised I want to do culture. I don’t want to just do art and craft. I actually wanted to do something a little bit more in depth and that’s why I decided why I decided to go into the hospitality industry which I know nothing at all about. I’ve never worked at all in the hospitality industry.


TF: And so, I just set up my shop and we specialise in cooking everything with a native ingredient. So, it doesn’t matter what you come in to buy in my shop it will have some aspect of a native ingredient. The only thing that doesn’t really is your coffee and we apparently have the best coffee in the region.


LG: And Thulii Ngemba as a name?

TF: That’s a really brilliant name. For me it is. Thulii, sand goanna. And the sand goanna is actually the totem for the Ngemba people and so I was able to put the two words together and call it Thulii Ngemba. Cause I sat down and I was trying to work out what am I going to call this shop and I was trying to work out words and then it just came to me Thulii Ngemba.


LG: What surprised you the most in starting a business?

TF: I think the enjoyment I get out of it. I get so much enjoyment out of my shop. It doesn’t worry me the fact I have to do a lot of work you know like I basically you don’t have time off and it doesn’t worry me because I just enjoy it so much.


LG: And is there anything that you would do differently. If you did it all over again?

TF: I think I would actually have the shop in the main street, instead of in my backyard For 2 reasons. You know for the tourists who are driving through the town. They could see it. It’s a lot more visual. And also, at the moment I’ve always been thinking oh it’s my little shop in my backyard and I need to get away from that thinking and look at it really as a proper business. And so, I’m just slowly getting into that field now.


LG: Now and I guess just on that and related to what you just said, how important is cash flow in running any business?

TF: Oh, look cash flow it’s just been so hard because of Covid. Like I opened up in the middle of Covid. And so, I’m always struggling. When I first opened up, I still had a lot of money behind me. So, I was able to put the staff on. Because we were a new business, everyone was coming in. Now it’s slowed down a bit. And then we had Covid and I just, I don’t have any money behind me anymore and so therefore I’ve had to let a lot of staff go.


TF: You know still being able to give them work when I can, however from being permanent workers, working, you know, 70 hours a fortnight to going down to 6 hours, they can’t survive off that. And also, I need to be able to survive too and I’m not surviving very well.


TF: You know really do look at your cash flow. Look at it and work with your accountant. Like I haven’t been successful in getting any funds, any grants or anything like that because of the timeframe of when I opened. And then the timeframe of when the Government grants were available weren’t suitable for my shop.


TF: You know you’ve always just got to be thinking about how are you bringing the money in and what else can you do differently. I’ve been able to come up with a few different ideas. Like I wasn’t working at night. I needed to open up at night. Just to do pizzas. The community loves it. And so that has been helping me come along.


TF: I also need to do other things which I’m just working out everything now. So, and that all comes back to the cash flow. You know like you’ve got to really look at how are you bringing that money in and how’s it going to help you run your business. You know you can’t just open the door and expect your customers to come in.


TF: You really have to get out there and do whatever you can to bring those customers in. And that’s what I’ve been trying so hard. I’ve been really working hard at it. And I know I will be successful. I’ve put a lot of money into my shop, sorry into my business. See this is what I mean I’ve got to get it into the business sense. I will get there.


LG: Absolutely love that mindset. You talked earlier about how much you love being in the business. What is it in particular that you love most about being a business owner?

TF: Just everything. You know really everything. I really enjoy the whole lot of it. And I like the fact that I am the boss. What I say goes. And being able to actually listen to my staff and get their advice at all times. I don’t make any major decisions unless I speak to my staff and I speak to my children because they’ve also been helping me all the way through this. Knowing the fact that you can work different hours when need be that’s always really good.


LG: Yeah, and it sounds like it’s a real team effort at the same time. Finally what would be your advice to other community members out there perhaps thinking about or looking to start their own business?

TF: Do your business plan but maybe have a couple of types of different business plans, which is what I’m just looking at now. I had my business plan. Now I’ve had to change a lot of my business. So I actually now have to go back and make another business plan. And which is really good. Don’t put yourself in that little box. You know look outside the box and keep looking back inside the box to see what it is that your business has been able to do.


TF: And think to yourself do you want your business to grow? Visualise where it’s going to be in the next 5 years. I see my business in another 5 years and it’s going to be a lot bigger than what I’ve got it now. Just really have the business plans. And more importantly have your accountant. You know really have an accountant there working with you. Personally, I’m not very at maths and I definitely am not good at budgeting. However, with your accountant you can work all that through.


LG: Today we’ve been really lucky to be speaking with Trish Frail, owner and operator of Thulii Ngemba Café in Brewarina in northwest NSW. If you’re ever up in the area feel free call on in say hello to Trish and the team.

TF: Thanks so much Lisa. It’s just really, really great to be able to talk to you.


TF: And I just hope people are able to listen to what I’ve said. You know take the bull by the horns and you know go out there and do it. Don’t just sit back and think one day I’m going to start my own business. You know get out there and start your own business. Turn the dream into a reality. The information contained in this presentation is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness of the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


Acknowledgement to Country

Westpac acknowledges the First Peoples of Australia and recognises their ongoing role as Traditional Owners of the land and waters of this country. We acknowledge Westpac’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, partners, and stakeholders, and pay our respects to their Elders, both past and present. 

Things you should know

The choices and decisions made by Trish Frail are her own and this podcast is about her journey and not intended to be advice. This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. 

© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714.