It is easy to see the love that exists between Yoli’s Artisan Bakery owners, Nicky and Derryn (known to most as Coop). It is evident in their uncomplicated way with one another, apparent in their clearly aligned vision and noticeable in the way they lead with their hearts and values, rather than an overarching desire for success.
And perhaps that is exactly why the couple have accomplished all that they have since first opening what was just a tiny bread shop on a farm more than nine years ago.
One of the original traders since the inception of The Market at Ballito Lifestyle Centre over six years ago, Yoli’s Artisan Bakery has subsequently expanded their space within The Market to become one of the busiest and most popular cafés on the North Coast – and it’s all thanks to Nicky and Coop’s shared passion and unbreakable bond.
“We work well together because there is a lot of love here,” says Nicky, “We know how to ‘tag team’, so when one of us is down or stressed, the other person steps up. We also have remarkably similar personalities, but quite different strengths.”
Durban-born Nicky and Australian Coop’s love story is one of exotic travel, romantic marriage proposals and loads of delicious food. Having met while they were working on yachts in the Mediterranean – Nicky as a chef and Coop as an engineer – the couple started out as friends before falling in love, leaving their respective jobs and joining an explorer vessel together.
They travelled extensively and had been dating for three years when Coop proposed to Nicky, surrounded by rose petals under a bridge in Prague. The couple were married a year later and decided to put down their roots on the North Coast because the lifestyle here was most similar to what Coop was accustomed to in Brisbane.
When Nicky signed a lease to open a small bread shop at The Litchi Orchard, she was surprised to discover that she was pregnant later that same day! Nevertheless, the Yoli’s brand was born, named after Nicky’s grandmother who instilled her love for baking.
When the opportunity arose for them to move the bakery to The Market in 2016, they never intended for it to expand into a café – and certainly nothing on the scale of what it is today.
“We knew we needed to make a change, but we had no idea what we were in for,” says Coop. “But everything just aligned at the right time, and we are grateful to the Lifestyle Centre management team who had the vision and belief in us to make this happen. Yoli’s would not be what it is today without them.”
With Nicky the creative pastry chef and Coop in charge of the business side of things, Yoli’s has grown from strength-to-strength over the years. On any given day, the bakery and café is a bustling hive of activity and a treasure trove of delicious treats and fantastic coffee for both locals and visitors alike.
The couple now have two children, aged 8 and 5, and have likewise created a warm, family-like atmosphere for their staff. “Our management style is simply to be kind to our staff. Not everyone understands the way we do things, but it works for us. We find that you get the best out of people if you are just nice to them,” says Nicky.
With its large and diverse menu, one of the best things about eating at Yoli’s is the create-your-own concept, which is hugely popular with diners, who can choose from a variety of different toppings on Yoli’s wide range of artisanal breads, rolls and bagels. So popular, in fact, that when the couple opened a second business last year – a continental café and deli called La Sandwicheria (also situated at The Market) – they went with a similar idea.
“La Sandwicheria is new and still evolving, but it is an ode to our travels and the flavours we discovered in the Mediterranean and around the world. You can design your own sandwich, salad or sharing board from scratch,” says Nicky, who admits that she enjoys being ‘stubbornly different’ and doesn’t like doing things the same way as everyone else!
Apart from their two busy stores at The Market, Nicky and Coop also have market stalls at both The Shongweni Market and The Ballito Farmers Market, as well as a wholesale store in Umhlali.
When they are not overseeing their businesses, they enjoy spending time with their two kids and taking little ‘micro breaks’ to weird and wonderful places they have never been to that are not too far from home!
For more information about Yoli’s Artisan Bakery click here!