It’s fair to say Australians have become obsessed with cooking over the past five or six years. Thanks to shows like Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules, we love watching good cooks dish up delicious food – and we often love giving it a go ourselves.
It’s also true we’re a nation of business owners. With more than two million small businesses in Australia, we love giving our best shot to make something great.
In fact, just like in the kitchen, there’s something of a recipe to creating a successful business.
What do you need?
A huge dose of dissatisfaction
For many business owners, starting an enterprise is something they do because they’re dissatisfied with the status quo.
That’s definitely the case for Amanda Schenk, who started her Coffs Harbour dessert boutique Sugar Plum Cakes and Desserts after being unimpressed with the current offering.
“I started the business because I hated going to every café in Coffs Harbour and getting the same cakes that you get from the store-bought, you know, citrus tarts and custard tarts,” she says. “I decided to start wholesaling cakes.”
“And from then I decided I wanted to branch out and just do markets and festivals and provide beautiful wedding desserts for dinner.”
One handful of connection
It isn’t enough to just start a business – you need a way to draw people in. For Schenk, that meant adopting a retro style – even to the point where she bought an old 60s style trailer, (affectionately called Myrtle), and a 1961 EK Holden.
It isn’t just a gimmick – it fits the brand of the business as one that provides old-fashioned treats. Schenk herself is a fan of anything rockabilly and retro, and it’s an aesthetic she carries over into the business as well. Her passion for this type of specific look is infectious – it creates conversation among the customers and invites them to dwell on a tiny bit of nostalgia.
“We’ve had lots of people coming up and saying, “I used to live in one of these as a kid” or “My dad built one exactly like this.” she says.
“And some people don’t even eat dessert but they come to buy it from the van so they can get a picture and relive their childhood, so to speak.”
One spoonful of opportunity
Opportunity isn’t something that just happens. For business owners, they make their own opportunities – and the same goes for Amanda. It all started when she bought Myrtle.
“The opportunities opened tenfold from just being a stationary business to now being able to travel, so people from up to four to five hours away were hiring us to do their baby showers or hen’s parties or weddings,” she says.
“It definitely opened doors to more for us.”
Opportunity doesn’t come on its own – business owners look for opportunities and seize on them.
Just a tiny pinch of stress
Entrepreneurs will tell you that a little bit of stress isn’t a terrible thing. In fact, it’s a motivator.
“The early days of Sugar Plum were the most stressful,” says Amanda. “Lots of sleepless nights, lots of hard work, lots of disasters in the kitchen; creating new recipes always takes a lot of time and effort getting that right balance and not ending up with a mess at the end.”
But as Amanda testifies – that stress has paid off. Business is continuing to grow. “This will be my fourth year of business,” she says.
“It’s definitely gotten easier.”
One cup of freedom
Above all else, entrepreneurs want freedom – the freedom to do what they want, when they want. For Amanda, that means she’s “never looked back.”
“I can never imagine going to work for somebody else now that I’ve had my own little baby to work with. And I think she’s grown so big; Sugar Plum has got a name around my town now that people know what the van is,” she says.
Now that the business is taking off, Amanda says, she won’t be slowing down: “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”