Setbacks from the bank, words of "economic downturn" looming in the media along with an increase in empty shopfronts in Wollongong were not enough to deter Adam Bolton from his dream of opening the Fat Cat Kitchen.
The Farmborough Heights chef and his fiance Emma Bailey have transformed a run-down space in the mall into a "sophisticated" experience they believe could rival any trendy Melbourne cafe.
"I spent 10 hours with a chisel and hammer, chiseling away grease off my exhaust hood," Bolton said.
"We've created a big hole in my dividing wall in the kitchen ... as customers want to see what's going on behind the scenes.
"Our vision is to be transparent and let everyone see what we're doing and show skill level of mine."
The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster ride for for the pair, especially when their bank cut their loan amount by half.
"The Royal Commission [into banking and financial services] made it almost next to impossible to get funding for stuff like this, but we finally got there," Mr Bolton said.
"We only got half our loan that we asked for and by that stage we'd already devoted ... all these costs we knew we'd have to pay.
"Without friends and family there is no way in hell we would have been able to do what we've done.
"In hindsight - it's sort of like a good thing our loan was cut in half, as therefore we're only in half the amount of debt."
Mr Bolton said after around 20 years putting his "blood, heart and soul" into other people's businesses he thought it was time he opened his own.
He said his passion for food and hospitality was so strong he didn't see his venture turning sour.
"All these places that I eventually [leave] ... are still succeeding and still going really well," the chef said.
"It shows me what I can do in a kitchen and what I have done previously works - so that gives me the confidence this will work regardless of other places shutting down."
The Fat Cat Kitchen, formerly the Hideaway Cafe near Sneakers Direct, will have upmarket food like homemade crumpets with fresh berry jam and mascarpone, pickled ham hocks and smashed eggs.
The new eatery will have a soft opening by the end of the week.