The Founders

Vanessa Brettell and Tom Navakas met in Primary School, they quickly became best friends and began sharing everything from family holidays and after school activities to a love of adventure and cooking. While travelling overseas together in 2014, a discussion about their respective futures soon turned into the seed idea for Cafe Stepping Stone. Combining both of their aspirations and passions they decided to create a social enterprise cafe that will help reduce social inequality. Inspired by similar models around the world they are excited to bring their hospitality and business skills and experience, Australian cafe culture, and desire to make positive change through their creative social enterprise cafe in Colombia. Hannah Costello joined the team in 2017 and then Belen Rodriguez in 2019. 

With the closure of the site in Cartagena, the team still work together on projects that are still running in there and Hannah and Vanessa are now heading up the team in Canberra



Vanessa developed a strong love of Latin culture from a young age after living in Mexico as a child. After studying Spanish at high school, she then to completed a Bachelor of Latin America Studies at the Australian National University in her home town, Canberra. During Vanessa’s studies, she completed an exchange semester at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia and was confronted by the socio-economic inequalities she saw. After graduating, Vanessa worked several varied hospitality jobs in London, Canberra and Sydney to gain experience in the different aspects of the industry. She also travelled vastly, gaining life skills and volunteering in many locations worldwide including, India, Japan, Cambodia, the UK and Colombia, which has solidified her desire to help.



Growing up in Canberra, Tom always dreamed of being a chef and starting a business enterprise. Attending classes for cooking and utilising school hospitality classes he has developed his love for cooking and baking sweet treats into a desire to own a restaurant. He studied at the University of Canberra, completing a double bachelor of Business Administration and Management at the end of 2016. Upon graduating he is now equipped with knowledge to start his business dreams. Armed with this knowledge,drive and passion he is ready to enter the business world.




The third member to the team, Hannah Costello, brings with her years of experience in hospitality management, waitressing, drink preparation, not to mention her creative insight in the kitchen. She splits her time between the kitchen and front of house, helping with the day to day operations, training of staff and general management of the cafe. She has expanded her knowledge and with a love of food and cooking has managed to grow her skills to be able to create new menus and cater for events.



Our fourth team member is Belen. She arrived in Colombia from Spain and after feeling unfufilled in her job, looked for an opportunity to be part of the change towards fighting the inequality of the city. Always having dreamt of opening up her own social enterprise cafe, Cafe Stepping Stone was a perfect match for her personality, passiones and expertise.