Meet Jane from My Other Kitchen
Hi, I’m Jane. My business name is My Other Kitchen – it’s a safe, compliant space that gives new food business owners’ permission to trial their ideas and build their businesses without investing hundreds of thousands of dollars and committing to a commercial or retail lease before they know their product works.
Tell us about your business’s history and your career to date?
I had a twenty-year corporate career, working my way up from admin roles to working on Project management teams in high profile companies on large projects. That’s where I was exposed to the power of teams. When it came to my own business I wanted to do my “own thing”, but it became clear early on that everyone in small business has a team behind them – often source through outsourcing components of our business. None of us can fulfill our potential working alone.
We opened the doors in June 2009 and since then we’ve had over 1200 people fill in the interest survey on the website and over five hundred people trial their products and build their businesses with our help and in our space.
What is a low point in business and how did you turn things around?
When we first started the business, the term “incubator” was not well-known and co-working was not the recognised term it is now. We had published a survey on the website before committing to a property, but I was lucky that a friend of mine was running cooking classes from home and wanted to expand her class size from the limitations of her home and the impact to her family. The next two years were a hard slog – constantly educating our market remains a challenge.
About eighteen months into the business plan we lost sight of our “ideal customers” and took on a client that meant the bills were being paid but when they left, the business almost collapsed and it was like starting all over again. That was when I learned how resilient and determined I can be.
Discuss a high point and the impact and meaning of the success
I wanted people to feel a sense of ownership over the space and the evidence of that success is felt in the day-to-day conversations in the kitchen. They are the ones working so hard to build their food business and when they feel they have the knowledge to share, I realise that we’ve formed a community of people with food and business as their passion.
Knowing that some businesses are still going five years after engaging My Other Kitchen’s space and services, is very encouraging. Even better are the referrals we receive from ex-clients!
We are about to turn eight years old – that will be a great cause for celebration…
Words of the wise
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” is attributed to Helen Keller and something that I’ve taken to heart. Of course, on a bad day the quote that comes to mind is usually the Chinese blessing “May you live in interesting times”! J
Are there any books you would recommend?
I’m a big believer in the Lean Manufacturing Model that has been taken to the small business circles by people like Ash Maurya. His Lean Canvas model is a great start for a fledgling business and taking the place of a traditional business plan in lots of ways (except for traditional organisations like banks, etc) and the book I’m reading now is “Scaling Lean” because of the growth plans we have for the next 12 months.
One of the books I read early in the journey is “Stuffed and Starved” – an eye opener for anyone interested in how our personal choices fit into the International food economy.
For some light entertainment, when I get time, I like to read motivational stories about people that have overcome adversity personally and in business (or cook books!).
What is one piece of business advice you would give & why?
Always put yourself in your clients’ shoes. As small business owners we are proud of what we offer and how we can help, but turning it around and talking about benefits rather than features is actually a hard thing to do. Know what problem you are solving for your client and be able to communicate it.
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