Mon, May 05, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Entrepreneurs make good on dream

In a city crowded with pubs, seven foreigners -- including one Briton, a Canadian, an American and an Aussie and a man from New Zealand -- have pooled their collective talents to form one of Taipei's newest bars. Max Murphy, the man behind the idea, sat down recently with `Taipei Times' contributing reporter Joanna Dunne to talk about marketing strategy, the competition and turning an early profit


Max Murphy talks about how his Chinese skills helped him navigate through bureaucracy and other obstacles when he was setting up The Brass Monkey, a pub that features sports broadcasts.


Taipei Times: As a former electronics industry executive, what made you decide to give up your day job and set up The Brass Monkey?

Max Murphy: It got to the point where the challenge was gone. Both [partner] Peter Chworowsky and I had already talked about the idea and thought that the opportunity existed to try and set up a bar. Then we went to Bali with the Taipei Baboons rugby club, and five of our guys were killed in the terrorist bombing. That made me reflect a bit on my life, and I came to the conclusion that I should try and create something and have a bit of fun at the same time.

TT: How did you manage to persuade your six partners to part with their hard-earned cash?

Murphy: One of the other partners, Kelvin Bezuidenhout, is also from the rugby club and he jumped at the chance to try and get some of his beer money back. The others took a bit more convincing, and it wasn't really me who swayed them. They're all friends with Peter and I think his confidence in the project helped to get them on board.

TT: With a total of seven partners in this venture, are you not worried that "too many cooks might spoil the broth?"

Murphy: Everyone respects that you can't please everyone, especially in a restaurant. One person sits here and thinks it's too hot, but another one complains it's too cold. Although the four shareholders have input and we value their opinions and comments, at the end of the day, it's the Board of Directors who is in charge of the decisions that direct the company.

TT: Sports bars are nothing new to Taipei. How are you going to compete with all the others?

Murphy: I prefer to call us a bar that plays sports. Although we're very sports orientated, we're not actually a sports bar. A sports bar, especially in the US, has 20 TV screens and it's all real sports and testosterone, even the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) is on.

But that's the last thing we want to see here. The main other bars in Taipei that show sports are Saints & Sinners and The Tavern and although they are obviously the competition, they are a long way away from us. I hope that we're going to be able to get a lot of foreigners who live around this area into the bar. We also put on some North American sports, which nobody else does. But we're friendly with the other bars in town, and it's not our intention to put anybody out of business.

This town's big enough for a few players.

TT: Who is The Brass Monkey's target clientele?

Murphy: At the moment we're getting about 85 percent foreign clientele. So we need to try and get the Taiwanese in. But I think we're in a perfect location to attract Taiwanese as we're right in the middle of a business area. At the moment we're not open for lunch, but we're planning to, eventually, when we've got the resources to do so, as it will mean hiring a lot more people, which will of course increase costs. So when we start opening for lunch we can really start to build on the Taiwanese crowd.

TT: Just over two months into this venture and rumor has it that you'll turn a profit this month. What's the secret behind your success?

Murphy: It's been going better than expected. When we took over this place it was originally an Italian restaurant. This meant that we got all their stuff like kitchen equipment, so the actual set-up cost wasn't that great. We were very lucky in that respect. Having someone like Peter who has so much experience in the industry also means that he can guide you and tell you when you are doing things wrong. The other director also has a bit of experience in setting up places like this, so he was really helpful for the layout. Our staff have also been key to our success. You've got to choose the right people to build on a good physical environment. The guys and girls that we've got here have survived since the beginning and they've got the heart, enjoy what they do, like the customers and the customers like them. Our friendly service has been one of the comments people have made about us. Lisa, our manager, has also been a huge help as she has so much experience.

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