Where to Start?

12 October 2017

Opening your own business can be daunting, exhilarating, scary, exciting, stressful, overwhelming, successful, not so successful and completely wonderful. It’s not for the feint hearted and working for someone else can be the safer option... BUT it was not for me. I think I must have been a slave or incarcerated in a previous life (if you are into that sort of thing), I felt trapped being in a traditional workplace and needed to have flexibility in my life. The fact that my brain never turns off about my business is irrelevant… I am in charge now!

I have come quite late into the world of business. I was a fairly straight child and teenager (even though I thought I was cool, sadly I don’t think I was). I can remember the only time I wagged, I went home and told my mum… what a rebel! I actually loved school, loved getting good marks and did well in my HSC. I just missed out on the marks for medicine so decided to become a physiotherapist... nothing particularly entrepreneurial thus far.

I worked as a physio, married Brett whom I had been to school with and he was in the process of starting his own engineering consultancy business at the time. I had three great kids, did the mum/part-time worker and sometimes diligent wife thing and so my life progressed… But things weren’t all playdough, cookies and an immaculate house. Whilst I loved being a physio and it was so perfect for me at the time, there were numerous things that weren’t Kosha.

I hated having to be somewhere at a certain time, wasn’t completely confident in myself and for whatever reason wasn’t willing to study further in this field to develop my skills. I was also going home to a husband whose work life looked so exciting, I would love chatting to Brett about his business which although a lot of hard work, sounded completely awesome. I had some serious job envy and it was time for a change!

Then one fine day, Brett was chatting to one of the workers (Jules) at his local and she said that all she wanted to do was own her own restaurant. Brett, after a few beers, came up with the bright idea that he would fill his vacant building, give his frustrated wife something to do and help Jules out (who by the way I hadn’t really met at this stage!). And so Sticks and Stones Woodfired Pizza was born.

Going into business with someone you don’t really know, into a field you don’t know could appear a little crazy to some and it was the hardest I had worked in a long time - but it was also the most excited I had been in a long long time. I was satisfying a need in me that my current life had not been able to.

It’s all a little blurry as to actually how it evolved but I know we had some amazing people helping us including an extremely important pizza consultant from Sydney, and Brett as our landlord.

The first night we opened resembled Faulty Towers on a good day - people everywhere, orders everywhere and one particular take away order was even lost three times… general mayhem prevailed, but oh my god it was fun! Things improved and Sticks and Stones evolved into a popular and successful business. Having a partner was perfect for me as I was charting unknown territory and it was great to bounce ideas off each other or boost each other as needed. My knowledge of customer service, bookkeeping and general business management grew immensely, as did my confidence in my business self.

On the homefront, however, things weren’t ideal. I had two school age children, one in daycare and a husband who, whilst he supported me in spirit, had his own business to run and wasn’t used to me being so demanding of his time. The old “can you please be home in time for me to open the restaurant” was very interesting at times! I was also still in charge of all things homely… shopping, homework, meals, cleaning etc. I had the working mother guilts and eventually it was time to move on before I became too resentful and cranky. However, Jules wasn’t ready to leave so she bought me out and made it into a hugely successful enterprise that she sold only a few years ago.

But, what to do now?

Hmmm.. be the wonderful wife and mother that I thought I should have been? Haha, not for me.

I enjoyed some time off but eventually was bored out of my brain and not a happy chappy. I did go back to work as a physio, only to quit one morning without consulting anyone. I worked as a teacher’s aide out as juvenile justice and was even the president of the local Neighbourhood Centre Committee for a couple of years. None of this was enough and it wasn’t fair on those around me. Whilst all this was evolving I had done more than my share of self help books and lectures, visualisations, tarot readings and games of Rich Dad/Poor Dad. I had a vision of a business that provided me a flexible working base, was easily reproduced and was a niche for Dubbo.

I wasn’t particularly attached to any field and had a like minded friend in Karen and we were keen to start up a business together. Brett once again was the catalyst for my next and current business, the Fast Lane. He was in Geelong on business and went through a coffee drive thru and brought home a menu which he had left on the kitchen bench. Karen was over for a visit, saw the menu, and we both said why not? We jumped in the car, looking for sites and had a couple in mind that may have worked. On the way home I had a light bulb moment.. oh my god I have the perfect site and Brett owned this too! And so the Fast Lane in Bultje Street was born.

Once again, things just fell into place... neither of us drank coffee at this stage, but through a lot of hard work and amazing people helping us, we worked it out. I think as women/mothers we have the ability to organise and systemise things, and encourage those around us to create a great foundation for any business. And as excellent consumers women also tend to know how they like to be treated, so we that know customer service plays a huge role in making a business successful.

I’ve now been at the Fast Lane since 2009 and the sole director since 2011. (Karen returned to the field of real estate where she excels) and am so lucky to have found a business that gives me everything I have previously wanted. But that does not mean it has been easy, nothing ever is.

It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times. We’ve had blackouts, water outs, machine outs, staff dramas, staff not show up, wonderful staff leave and wonderful staff come. We’ve had a flood, that caused us to pick up our Bultje Street box, put it on the back of a truck and relocate for a few days.

I’ve learnt to love the taste and all things coffee. We’ve won local business awards and coffee roasting awards. I’ve learnt the art of delegating - which my husband thinks I was born to do and must of been a queen in a previous life.

My children are older and nearly (or should be!) all out of home. All of them have worked in and been sacked from the business more than once. But hopefully if they ever want to own their own business, they will be confident enough to do so. I’ve learnt that I don’t know everything, but there are so many amazing people out there that can fill in my blanks.

I’ve learnt that when I am stuck in the office having a bad day… if I go down to the box, talk to the staff, make a coffee and joke with the customers, life is good again. We have our lovers and we have our haters and my skin is thickening up.

I’ve learnt that my business is successful and is important to my suppliers and it is okay to negotiate. I’ve learnt that I work well under pressure and am a great problem solver - something I love. I am not sure if this is a male vs female thing or a personality trait, but a lot of the women I know have these abilities, so kudos to us!
Until next time...