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Square One: Two Before Ten

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For Chris Dennis, his biggest ‘wow moment’ hasn’t happened just once  – it’s something he experiences daily as he looks back on everything he’s achieved over the years.

And as the Managing Director of Two Before Ten, it’s a lot. But it’s as he reflects on Two Before Ten’s Aranda flagship café and how it’s grown over the years, his passion for the business truly manifests.

“My biggest wow moment happens every now and again – it’s an ongoing thing. Particularly when Aranda is closed at the end of the night,” says Chris.

“Just looking at it, remembering what it started as, and knowing that we did all that. It’s not a bad result.”

Not a bad result, indeed.

What started in 2008 as an idea to roast coffee in a little café in the heart of the city has seen Chris and his business partners become some of the biggest proponents of sustainable cafés in Canberra.

“When we started in 2008 it was myself and Jarrod Deaton who owns Three Mills Bakery – we’d been mates for seven years at that point. We opened Enter Café in August and by February the next year I’d been posted to the United States because I used to work for what is now Border Force,” explains Chris.

“Enter [Cafe] went well but we wanted to do something more interesting, more important. So that’s when the change to roasting for ourselves started, which is when we became Two Before Ten.”

Named after the idea of the perfect morning – two coffees before 10 am – it was in 2014 when the team made the massive move to north Aranda that saw Two Before Ten transform from a simple coffee shop into a hub that’s beloved for its ethos of caring for its customers, the wider community, and the planet.

But it wasn’t an easy journey to get there.

Inspired by his time in the United States, Chris took the abandoned shopping village and, over the years, remodelled it into a community meeting place that not only houses his café but also their 10 Yards wine bar, Illeso Studio, Canberra Allied Health and boutique gifts and homewares store Meet Gather Collect.

“We were a bit naive when it came to the scale of the project, but it was the best thing we ever did,” he says.

“The way that the site is now was the original vision for the site…We’d already been growing some stuff for the original Two Before Ten café, and I’d always wanted to grow as much as we could.”

“The sustainability side comes from living in the US and seeing what rampant capitalism does…it’s not good for communities and it’s not good for the planet.”

Now, there’s a total of 12 Two Before Ten cafés open all over the ACT region – including one in Murrumbateman.

To maintain the Two Before Ten ethos, using Square as their main Point of Sale system has been part of their business since early 2020. It’s played an important part in the café’s booming expansion.

“We started to use Square to get away from the banks to work with someone who is a bit more dynamic and focused on their clients,” explains Chris.

“Square has made it really easy to expand because it is such a flexible system. For example, the ability to grow a particular venue and being able to go get the Readers if you’re opening a store very quickly means you don’t have to rely on banks to get merchant services sent out.”

“They’ve also been really good to deal with along the way.”

Chris uses Square across the 19 businesses that are operated under the one management company (which include the 13 cafes, two bakeries, one bar, one yoga studio, one roaster, one wholesale bakery and one management company).

From supporting them through bad internet coverage to helping with customer satisfaction, Square has been there for them through it all.

“We’ve just started using the Square Terminals, particularly because some of our sites have bad internet coverage, and they allow you to take offline payments.”

Looking back at how far Two Before Ten has come over the years, Chris is proud. However, when he looks forward to the future, he’s unsure what it will hold.

What he does know is that he wants to continue building up the community that’s supported Two Before Ten – and its mission – from when it all started over a decade ago.

“We do love the community – but particularly Aranda. This place, because we had no cash, it was a dive for the first five years,” says Chris.

“But they kept supporting us the whole way through, even though it wasn’t the fanciest place in Canberra.”

“I want to do something good with the money that we’ve made rather than buying myself a big house and a nice car. I don’t need those things; I want to spend the money in a better way.”

Square brings you the tools that connect every side of your business.

Find out more at squareup.com.

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