In our latest ‘What’s Cooking’, we hear from pastry making specialist Claire Wood of Carême Pastry. A passion for the perfect pastry and surrounding herself with great people, has helped Claire build a successful pastry business where her customers keep coming back for more.
Claire reflects on the first five years, the advice that eventually rang true and what key but difficult decisions she had to make in those early years in order to survive and thrive. Claire’s passion for producing incredibly desirable pastry that both chefs and home cooks alike love has been the core driver of her successful pastry business.
Claire talks about how finding a supplier through the Females in Food VIP member network was quick and easy and why looking for support from others in your industry is key to making a business a success.
Your business name: Carême Pastry
How would you describe the business you are in?
We are makers of exceptional butter pastry. We are pastry specialists, dedicated to making pastry to the most exacting standards.
Our pastry provides chefs and home cooks the convenience of ready-made pastry dough without compromising on quality. We offer a range of pastry styles that chefs and home cooks are proud to serve. Our pastry is a reflection of our customers’ passion and commitment to serving the very best in order to create memorable dining experiences.
Be accountable to someone other than yourself.
Get a trusted business advisor or mentor you check in with regularly.
What do you love about your work?
The diversity, one day to the next is never the same. I love the people I get to meet and work with who continually inspire me. I love the joy we create and hearing from our customers how pleasurable it is to cook and eat our pastry. It makes it all worth while. I love the amazing dedicated team at Carême who make it all possible.
What part of your job would you gladly give away?
Interviewing and recruitment.
If you were starting out in business again today, what piece of advice would you give your younger you?
The same advice someone gave me when we started (but I have only come to fully appreciate what it means a few years later): surround yourself with the best, you cannot be an expert at everything. Being an introvert I have never been one to ‘network’; however, I now see and greatly appreciate the value in forming networks with other food producers and business owners. We all share similar problems. Some in your network will be bigger businesses or more advanced and they can provide valuable advice and insights. So seek out others in your industry, industry associations and business groups. Be accountable to someone other than yourself. Get a trusted business advisor or mentor you check in with regularly.
Women start business 41% of the time to solve a problem? Sometimes this means we have a great vision but don’t have enough resources to sustain our business for the long term. Tell us what resources you started your business with.
My business partner and husband have very different skill sets that have sustained the business. Financially speaking, our family came to our assistance to support our growth. We took baby steps to begin with and we were able to negotiate to rent our production facility on a casual basis (no lease to start), until we were in a position to commit to a 3 year lease.
The first 5 years was really hard financially because of our rate of growth. This put real pressure on cash flow (a learning curve). We operated a Farmers Market stall for the first 5 years baking goods with our pastry to sell plus we made and sold bread. This paid us a weekly income while we built the wholesale side of the business. It was hard juggling what were essentially two businesses.
In year 5 we decided the time had come to close the baking side of our business and the stall we had at the Barossa Farmers Market in order to focus on the pastry making and wholesale business. At this point we began paying ourselves a regular consistent wage from the core business.
As you know we are passionate about women #backingthemselves. So tell us about a time in the last twelve months that you’re really proud of.
Making some difficult and big decisions that didn’t always sit well. However I knew they were right for our business.
As we are always growing and learning, what is the one thing you would like to take time to learn more about?
That’s hard to narrow it down to one! To become better at nurturing new opportunities / new business development.
The world is changing so fast and technology enables us to do so much more. We’re interested in which app you could not live without and why?
It’s not so much an ‘app’ but new technology we have utilised in our business. ‘Unleashed’ inventory & production management software (which also has an app to track sales).
On a personal note ‘Insight Timer’ meditation app.
Why did you decide to become a member of Females in Food®
I am always looking for ways to connect with others in the food industry. This seemed like a great way to do that.
We love to celebrate the successes. Can you give us an example of how VIP Membership to Females in Food has positively impacted your business?
Utilising the network to ask questions and receiving a very rapid response from a number of members. This has resulted in us finding a potential new supplier.
Thank you Claire for sharing your journey with us. Your strength, illustrated by your early challenges and what it has taken to grow such an incredible business, is very inspiring. It highlights again, why perseverance, patience, leaning in to networks as much as you can and surrounding yourself with a like-minded community are such integral components for any business owner as they grow their business.
Interested in joining our community but missed out on becoming a Females in Food VIP Member in 2017? Make sure you are the first to find out when enrolment opens again. Join our waitlist here.
Want to read more about another successful Females in Food VIP Member? Check out our ‘What’s Cooking’ interview with founder of Bitton Consulting, Sohani Bitton.
We’d love to hear your comments about what’s inspired you in this ‘What’s Cooking’ interview or any one of our other blog posts. At Females in Food we believe in many voices and know the importance of building a community. Your comments are important for women who may be feeling alone, just so they know they aren’t alone and that in fact there is a big #empoweredcollective right behind them.
The Females in Food team