With five of Brisbane’s hottest venues under their belts, and more on the way, Potentia Solutions Leisure have wasted no time making their mark on one of Australia’s fastest-growing city.
Partners Ross and Christine Ledingham – Potentia’s Managing Director and Director of PR and Marketing, respectively – have gone from strength to strength since launching their first venue in 2021.
In that time, Potentia has grown from three staff to over 600, working across five very different venues: Pool bar Lina Rooftop and artisanal deli Soul Green in South Brisbane; crabshack Claw BBQ in Bowen Hills; Peruvian-Japanese restaurant and rooftop bar Soko in Fortitude Valley; and chic Mexican restaurant and lounge bar Carmen Tequileria on James Street.
The venues are largely inspired by Ross and Christine’s experiences overseas. Ross spent close to two decades creating hospitality venues in London and the Middle East, and prior to relocating to Brisbane, the couple had been living and working in Dubai.
“We came to Brisbane and felt like there was an opportunity to bring different types of hospitality and lifestyle businesses here,” Ross says.
“Dubai is a market where there’s just constant growth and evolution,” Christine adds. “The city’s only been around [in its present form] for the last 15 years or so, and if you don’t come with unique, outside-the-box ideas, then you fall behind very quickly. We were inspired by that approach, which I think is one of the reasons we’ve been successful.
“We don’t actually create restaurants and bars, we create lifestyle experiences. And because each one of our venues is so different, we don’t create competition for ourselves.”
Lina Rooftop, for example, was inspired by Mediterranean beach clubs. The pool bar, which overlooks the Brisbane River, is unique in that it sits on top of a commercial building, not a hotel.
“Queensland didn’t have something like those beach clubs, despite having thousands of kilometres of beaches,” Ross says. “The closest thing we could do to recreate that feeling was to put a pool on a rooftop, so that’s what we did.”
A gamble that paid off
Ross and Christine began building their empire at the height of a global pandemic, at a time when going all-in on hospitality venues wasn’t exactly the safest bet. But Ross says the decision to zig while other businesses zagged has been key to their success so far.
“When we launched Lina, a lot of people in the hospitality industry were bunkering down, looking to secure what they had and finding ways to diversify into things like dark kitchens,” he remembers.
“We chose to go the other way. It was about taking the prime locations and spots within the city, and turning them into lifestyle destinations that felt like the sorts of places you’d normally have to travel to, or that you might never be able to go to.
“The aim was to drive as hard as possible in a market that was generally in a downturn, when interest rates were low. We knew that Brisbane just had such an opportunity to grow… so the aim was to build quickly and then sustain that for as long as we can.”
Ross and Christine now find themselves at the forefront of the hospitality scene in a city undergoing a historic transformation, with the Queen’s Wharf integrated resort development, a slew of new luxury retail and hotel offerings, and the 2032 Olympic Games on the way.
In fact, Potentia’s next venue will be part of the Queen’s Wharf development, although the details are being kept tightly under wraps for now.
“We looked at Queen’s Wharf as a great opportunity, not just for us to create a new brand, but to align ourselves with the hotels that are opening there, and with the excitement surrounding that development,” Ross says. “I think it’s going to be a phenomenal project for everyone that’s going in there. We’re proud to be a part of it, and we’ll be driving as hard as possible to make it a success.”
“It’s an exciting time to be in Brisbane,” Christine agrees. “There’s so much opportunity with Queen’s Wharf, with the Waterfront Brisbane development, and with the Olympics coming up. The interest in this market from interstate and overseas is phenomenal… we’ve come into this market at a time when it’s just propelling into the stratosphere.”
A close-knit community
Ross and Christine say the relationships they’ve been able to form in Brisbane have also been crucial to their success.
“We’re surrounded by a wide range of people who have a similar mentality and a similar growth plan for Brisbane,” Ross says. “The relationships that you build with your suppliers and your people and your friends and your partners are all vital to your success. It doesn’t work without them.
“For instance, we’ve been able to take out long-term lease purchase agreements for our larger pieces of equipment, giving us longer warranties and longer maintenance programs, on the back of the relationships we’ve built, which has allowed us to grow at a much faster rate.”
Christine has also utilised the resources available at the Brisbane Business Hub for support during Potentia’s rapid growth phase.
“At the very start of our journey, I found it very difficult and challenging,” she says. “I found it hard to build a support network and to find mentorship. So when I found out about the Brisbane Business Hub, it was a real game changer.
“I was connected with a mentor, Andrew Coronis from The Coronis Group, who has been so beneficial to my journey. He created such a safe space for me to go and work through some of the challenges I was facing.
“Starting a business can be a very lonely and isolating thing. Not everyone understands what it takes. And sometimes all you need is someone to tell you you’re not alone, and remind you that other people have felt this way and gone through similar experiences. So the support network that the Brisbane Business Hub has given us has been huge – not just for our growth as a business, but for my own personal growth as well.”
Now that Christine has established herself as a Brisbane business leader, she’s been able to give back to the community, and has become a mentor at the Brisbane Business Hub herself.
“I actually just met with my first mentee,” she says, “and I’m looking forward to seeing her succeed with the great ideas that she has. I’m so excited for her. Being able to give the support that Andrew Coronis gave to me back to somebody else has been very special, and I’m thankful to the Brisbane Business Hub for creating that space.”
Three tips for Brisbane businesses
Ross and Christine have three tips for Brisbane businesses who are looking to achieve the same kind of success that they have in this rapidly growing city.
Find your balance
Christine says that no matter how fast your business is growing, finding time for yourself is just as important. It’s a balancing act that she acknowledges she and Ross are still perfecting.
“You have to make sure you don’t lose yourself, your relationships, and other important things in your life,” she says. “Hustle culture is real, and this business journey can take every single part of you. Finding that balance between business and your life away from the business is something we’re still working on.”
Celebrate your wins
Whether it’s big or small, a win is a win. And celebrating your wins in business isn’t just about acknowledging your own achievements – it also contributes to a positive work culture.
“We often fall into the trap of getting to our goal, and then immediately thinking about the next thing,” Christine says. “I don’t think we celebrate our wins enough. Sometimes it’s good to just sit and appreciate where we are right now.”
At the same time, of course, you can’t rest on your laurels for long.
“The key for me is I’m never happy,” Ross laughs. “I always want to do more, and I always want to get to that next highlight for us and our whole team. We have over 600 staff and I want them all to share that mindset with us, because that’s how we maintain our success.”
Be willing to take risks
As a duo that pushed forward with their plans at a time of unprecedented uncertainty for the hospitality industry, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Ledinghams encourage a bold approach to business – or, as Ross puts it, “never don’t take a risk”.
“The fear of failure is massive with everything in our lives,” he says, “whether it’s personal, business, or whatever else it may be. But despite that fear, my biggest piece of advice is to never stop taking risks.”
After all, it’s paid off for Potentia Solutions Leisure – and the best is yet to come.