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How this business owner turned $2000 and a passion for cake into a success story

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Cupcake Central founder, Sheryl Thai

When Sheryl Thai launched online store, Cupcake Central, she was working from her home kitchen with just $2000 in capital.

Thai always had an “incredible passion for cupcakes” and was known for baking her creations for friends and family any chance she got. After losing her IT job during the economic downturn of 2009, she found herself presented with a chance to fulfill her dream.

“I realised that [making cupcakes] was what made me happy. Soon enough, that obsession became overwhelming to the point that I just had to start something,” she says.

Thus, she began cupcakecentral.com.au, a modest online business that quickly grew beyond the confines of her home kitchen to a bricks-and-mortar store in 2010, which Thai opened with business partner Thin Neu.

The business now has five stores across Victoria. Thai has since written a self-published cookbook, won Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2013 at the Australian StartUp Awards and was a finalist for the 2016 Telstra Business Women’s Award in the Entrepreneur category.

Teething problems

Early in her journey, Thai found it difficult to secure finance, and the team had to find ways to work smarter with the money they had.

“You need to possess the ability to paint a picture and dream of how your business will grow,” she says.

“This is why pitching is so important, the belief that you have in your business and yourself is one of the key selling points and you need to be able to get that across so people will buy into your dream and provide you financing.”

“When I started baking cupcakes from home, I realised that I should be seeking advice from those who had actual experience. If I had listened to the person that mentioned they heard it was extremely hard to get a home kitchen registered, and that it would cost tens of thousands, I wouldn’t be here today,” says Thai.

“I called up the local council and it cost me less than $500 in modifications to my kitchen to get it approved.”

ANZ’s Business Ready tool can help you achieve your business goals with easy-to-use tools that set your business up for success.

Hiring the first employee

“I remember a time when it was just myself, my business partner and our two brothers working in our first store,” says Thai.

“When it came to hiring our first employee, it was difficult because it meant all of our profit for that week was going into wages.

“We thought we could each pick up a bit more work to cover having to hire, but in reality, if we didn’t invest in this new employee we knew we would forever be stuck in the owner-operator mentality.”

Now Cupcake Central has more than 75 employees.  

Helping her peers

After being in business for almost seven years, Thai says there comes a point when you need to start living beyond your business. Although, she acknowledges, this can be hard when you’re feeling overworked in the first few years of business.

That’s why early on in her journey, Thai realised she wanted to support like-minded female entrepreneurs – in 2011, she co-founded the online platform and organisation, League of Extraordinary Women, which connects and supports female entrepreneurs to fulfil their ambitions.  

“Aside from stating the obvious traits such as passion, determination and perseverance, I’m going to say that a huge part of achieving what you want out of life is imagination and the ability to dream.”

Written by: Thea Christie

This material does not take into account your personal and financial needs and/or circumstances, and you should seek appropriate advice (which may include property, legal, financial and/or taxation advice) before making any decisions or acting on any of the information contained in this material. To the extent permitted by law, all members of the ANZ group of companies disclaim liability or responsibility to any person for any direct or indirect loss or damage that may result from relying on the information contained or this site, or any act, omission or error, by any person in relation to the material contained on this site.

How this retailer brought style back to the uniform industry

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From left: Paul Rodgers , Director of Operations, Felicity Rodgers , Creative Director, Narelle Craig, Client Services Director

It was recognising a niche in an already niche market that led Felicity Rodgers to start Cargo Crew, a company that creates contemporary uniforms for businesses and the 2015 Telstra Small Business of the year.

“Prior to launching Cargo Crew, I had a young designer fashion label with a girlfriend, which we started after completing our fashion design degree at RMIT.”

In that time, Rodgers says they were approached by businesses that were looking for a contemporary uniform look, an indication of a gap in the market, a gap that Rodgers was prepared to fill.

“I began Cargo Crew in 2002 with a $2000 tax return, focusing on producing bespoke uniforms for corporate businesses,” says Rodgers.

After years of producing custom-made uniforms for business clients Rodgers launched Cargo Crew’s online store in 2012 – alongside business partners husband Paul Rodgers and sister Narelle Craig – with just four denim aprons, aimed at those in the hospitality industry.

The company prides itself on the quality and design of its products, while delivering functionality.

“We are all about amplifying our client’s visual identity through providing staff uniforms that complement their visual language,” says Rodgers.

While the company still maintains a bricks and mortar presence – with a retail showroom in Melbourne – half of their business comes through their website an area that, Rodgers says, “Many other traditional uniform suppliers, and B2B companies in general, have been slow to move into”.

CargoCrewThe challenge comes in creating a system that works seamlessly between the online store, the custom and offline orders, and flows through to the warehouse and accounts department, explains Rodgers.

“We have invested heavily in systems to ensure that they all speak to each other to take the manual work out of the process. We are constantly reviewing and updating this aspect of our business to ensure that the customer’s needs are met and that we manage our paperwork in the most cost-effective and time-effective manner,” she says.

“When I started the business in 2002, there weren’t nearly as many online services as there are today,” says Rodgers.

One of Rodgers’ first tasks was finding a good accountant to provide guidance and advice. After gathering advice on the best accounting software, Rodgers trained in managing the day-to-day accounts until she found a part-time bookkeeper.

“To me it’s the areas of finance, tax and business compliance that can be overwhelming, particularly in the early days of starting a business, so sourcing the right advice in these areas is key.”

The ANZ Business Ready tool is one source of assistance, designed to guide businesses through every step of the setup process from setting up a domain name to getting an ABN.

“This resource is like having a mentor mapping out the crucial first steps of starting a business, and would be extremely valuable for anyone starting up,” says Rodgers.

“It’s certainly a much more cost-effective way to get specialised advice and guidance on the key areas of starting a business. Minimising these costs on the outset is crucial.”

Written by: Thea Christie

ANZ’s Business Ready tool can help you achieve your business goals with easy-to-use tools that set your business up for success.

This material does not take into account your personal and financial needs and/or circumstances, and you should seek appropriate advice (which may include property, legal, financial and/or taxation advice) before making any decisions or acting on any of the information contained in this material. To the extent permitted by law, all members of the ANZ group of companies disclaim liability or responsibility to any person for any direct or indirect loss or damage that may result from relying on the information contained or this site, or any act, omission or error, by any person in relation to the material contained on this site.

"We just had complete ignorance really. We didn’t know what to do.": Dessert lab founder 'Mr Frugii'

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“About 16 years ago, I bought a two litre ice-cream machine. I’d always been interested in desserts but gradually I started making more ice-cream and experimenting with recipes,” says John Marshall, co-owner of Frugii Dessert Laboratory.

After undertaking a disappointing gelato course, Marshall quickly realised that he and his wife, Ed, had a specific vision in mind to offer ice-cream with natural ingredients, without processed and artificial flavours.

“I wanted to understand what the commercial paste consisted of, but using the commercial product that anyone could get was very limiting. I looked at what the top selling ice-creams were in the world (chocolate and vanilla), and researched how to make all my own extract to get a better flavour,” says Marshall.

‘Mr Frugii’, as he is affectionately termed, is known not just for his desserts and ice-cream, but for his passion to create the best product he can – “I still buy great commercial chocolate but now I’m importing beans from south America to make my own.

The taste is significantly better when I try to make everything from scratch.”

The challenges of starting up

Even though the couple were equipped with a background in IT and accounting, Marshall recalls the setup phase as challenging.

“We just had complete ignorance really. We didn’t know what to do. We went to our accountant, searched on the internet, but it’s hard to find information appropriate to you,” he says.

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“When we were supplying to commercial customers, my wife had to chase a lot of invoices, draining her time. This was for miniscule amounts of money, for months at a time,” says Marshall.

Tools like ANZ’s Business Ready Tool, powered by Honcho, can remove these challenges and the sense of uncertainty of starting a business by guiding people through the setup process, from registering an ABN all the way through to sending out that first invoice.

On preparing your business for financial hurdles

Four years ago an ANZ Small Business manager approved the Marshalls for a business loan – “I hadn’t slept for two nights but then we were pre-approved!

“Working with ANZ allowed us to focus on [actually operating the business], and we were lucky because we had good credit. I’ve seen so many small businesses who aren’t building any credit. My wife and I banked every dollar. We kept separate accounts (from my IT job) so when we came to ask for a loan they could see a full history, and we were pre-approved for triple the amount we had asked for.”

“We’ve never paid for advertising and we still don’t!”

While the Marshalls have a marketing strategy using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the support of local TV, radio and news sites has provided additional coverage and exposure, without the need for a paid advertising push.

“We’ve upset a few people because we’re doing well!”

But that’s not to say you don’t put the hard yards in, says Marshall.

“When you’re running a business you don’t have a lot of time to yourself. We do about 15-hour days seven days a week, on average, but they’re not necessarily hard days.”

Written by: Thea Christie

ANZ’s Business Ready tool, powered by Honcho, can help you achieve your business goals with easy-to-use tools that set your business up for success.

This material does not take into account your personal and financial needs and/or circumstances, and you should seek appropriate advice (which may include property, legal, financial and/or taxation advice) before making any decisions or acting on any of the information contained in this material. To the extent permitted by law, all members of the ANZ group of companies disclaim liability or responsibility to any person for any direct or indirect loss or damage that may result from relying on the information contained or this site, or any act, omission or error, by any person in relation to the material contained on this site.

How this high-end bridal retailer funded her dream and turned it into a reality

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Founder and director of bridal retailer Glamour Bride, Pat Giuliano, always had a dream to own her own bridal shop. Like so many aspiring small business owners, at first, she didn’t have the capital to make it happen.

Giuliano started her dressmaking business from home, working around her family of three young children, and began her online bridal accessory business in 2008.

“At the very beginning, you find yourself saying, ‘Where do I start?’”, says Giuliano.

At the beginning of the setup journey, you’re going to hit a number of stumbling blocks, whether it’s securing investments or managing admin tasks.

The setup stage can seem daunting, says Giuliano, [with so many tasks ahead of you] one of the first things you can do to is decide on a business name and then check its availability.

“Then you need to secure the domain name, register for an ABN and set up a website.”

All of these areas are absolutely vital in today’s landscape if you want customers to find you, she says.

The processes involved with setting up a business when you just want to start getting your idea off the ground can seem arduous. ANZ’s Business Ready tool takes away that pain, helping you get ready for business in less than a day.

Money-smart tips for your startup

When Giuliano decided to move into a retail outlet, an ANZ Small Business Specialist was on hand to help, after having been her banking partner since the launch of her online business.

“After several phone calls and submitting my application, I was approved for finance under the ANZ Small Business Pledge, allowing me to open my long-awaited bridal shop,” says Giuliano.

“The most important thing is to keep very detailed financial records of everything. This is very useful for monitoring growth, as well as knowing the financial health of the business,” she says.

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“For tracking my finances I do all my banking online or on the ANZ Go-Money app on my phone.”

However, Giuliano warns small business owners not to try and do it all on your own – contact accountants, web developers and specialists in their field who can make a big impact on your business’s success.

Is there such thing as a ‘work-life’ balance?

“From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed at night, I am constantly either working or planning the next day’s work. I am dedicated and I put in tremendously long hours because I want my business to succeed,” says Giuliano.

If you’re ready to become your own boss, the first three to five years will involve sacrifice and long hours of hard work – “Now that the business is in the growth stage, I am taking on staff and looking forward to being able to delegate work to them, so that I can start to ease back on my workload.

“I will enjoy a work-life balance once I get to the point of being able to choose the hours that I can work. I am certainly looking forward to that!”

Written by: Thea Christie

ANZ’s Business Ready tool can help you achieve your business goals with easy-to-use tools that set your business up for success.

This material does not take into account your personal and financial needs and/or circumstances, and you should seek appropriate advice (which may include property, legal, financial and/or taxation advice) before making any decisions or acting on any of the information contained in this material. To the extent permitted by law, all members of the ANZ group of companies disclaim liability or responsibility to any person for any direct or indirect loss or damage that may result from relying on the information contained or this site, or any act, omission or error, by any person in relation to the material contained on this site.

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