Tell us about Charlie’s Fine Food Co.
Charlie’s produces delicious snacks – both sweet and savoury – made using premium ingredients. We believe you shouldn’t compromise when it comes to taste – pleasure should always be taken seriously. Charlie’s Fine Food Co. is like our third child, we’ve nurtured it from a tiny company making choc-chip cookies to a $10 million a year business, with big-name clients like Qantas, Crown Casino and Woolworths. We’re constantly growing and evolving our range, including making vegan and gluten-free snacks, so that everyone can enjoy them.
What inspired you to start Charlie’s Fine Food Co?
Ken bought the bankrupt bakery in 2004, he put the business and financial foundations in order, but it really needed a sales and marketing jump start and that’s where I came in, joining the company in 2007.
In 2010 we had a massive breakthrough, securing a partnership with Qantas. That was followed by a string of high-end hotels, cafe chains, sports and entertainment venues and airline lounges to name a few, taking on Charlie’s products.
When Covid hit last year, we had to rethink the business completely, and after a lot of hard work, relationship building, marketing and tweaking our range we saw the first of our products go on the shelves in Woolworths supermarkets nationally.
Tell us about your career and background.
Before I started at Charlie’s I was a lawyer, working as a senior associate in a commercial law firm. I’d also worked for Australian Women Lawyers, an organisation dedicated to advancing the careers of women in the profession, and Conflict Management Australia, which teaches the work of the Harvard Business School’s Negotiation Project in a range of corporate settings.
It’s no doubt that everything I learned in those roles has helped me with the marketing, strategic planning and deal brokering needed to make Charlie’s the success it is today.
Describe a typical work day for you.
It’s a juggle between being a wife, mother, entrepreneur and mentor to community organisations – all of these roles factor into my day and keep me busy.
Charlie’s is a family-owned business, so even though Ken and I bring our corporate lenses to decision making and strategic planning, we are hands-on. A day in the office can involve various tasks: speaking to customers, pitching new products, choosing colours for new packaging, taste testing planning, our social media calendar, even problem solving a machine breakdown.
As a mother of a 17 year old girl, Sasha, and 15 year old boy, Jesse, both still at school, my non-working life involves lots of pick-ups and drop-offs, reading essays (I stay away from mathematics) and supporting their extra-curricular activities. For Sasha that’s competitive horse riding and for Jesse, it’s his NPL soccer team and piano.
Parenting is the hardest and yet most rewarding job we do I think. When I’m not at work I try to spend time with Ken, cooking, eating and travelling. If I get a chance, I try to get to a Pilates class, go for a run with the family dog, Lulu, or do some community work.
What advice do you have for those wanting to start a business?
Be clear on your ‘why’. Test your ideas and your purpose with as many experts as you can – the clearer you can make your business idea the more likely it will succeed.
Know that you can’t do everything, and aim to surround yourself with an ambitious group of people who share your passion, who add value to the organisation and who help you.
As business owners, we always want to see results and see them fast, but you need to be patient. Set realistic goals and devise tools to measure success. Back yourself, but realise it sometimes takes time for the market to accept your product or service.
You have to be flexible too. At times you’ll have to review your vision or your goals and adjust them accordingly. Each time make sure you test your ideas like you did in the beginning.
What’s next for you and Charlie’s Fine Food Co?
We’re now focused on building a retail brand and broad distribution in Australia, so our delicious products are available to everyone. We’ll keep innovating and launching amazing products that consumers are looking for, including ones that are better for you but still taste great. I’d like for Charlie’s to become known by everyone for its deliciously irresistible snacks.