When I determine the foundations of a successful small business I think about the venn diagram of three intersecting circles.

Those circles represent:

  1. Doing something that you love
  2. Doing something that you’re great at and
  3. Doing something where there’s a market for what you’re selling

But there’s a critical circle missing, and that’s doing something that other people truly care for.

Because when you do something, when you’re fighting for something that no one else cares about or even thinks about or takes time to consider how it came about, then you’re constantly battling up hill.

So you must find a way to connect with your customers’ hearts and minds.

Getting a business off the ground and taking care of it is like birthing and rearing a child. Particularly in the first three years (I would know, we just turned two) – you must care, nurture and protect it until it’s old enough to stand on its own two feet. No matter how much you love it, it’s hard work, there’s no rule book, you don’t get enough sleep, you have a fear of being judged and there’s never enough time.

This is what it feels like building a small business.

To give you some context:

  • Small business drives the economy
  • Women owned businesses have increased by 46 per cent over the past two decades and
  • Women make 85% of all household purchasing decisions

With stats like this you can see that the opportunity lies in supporting women, in all aspects of our lives, to absolutely thrive.

And this is why I started Females in Food and why every day I jump out of bed to continue to ‘Rise Above It All’, to make this movement, this network of small business owners, the go-to, accessible, inspirational, helpful place to make your lives better and prosperous.

Females in Food has grown so much in the last two years but there’s still so much more I want to achieve. Our members are who I work so hard for.

To give you an idea of the type of businesses I’m talking about, I want you to think about the women who produce, make and market the products we stock in our pantries, pack in our children’s lunchboxes, those who make the celebration cakes we have for our office parties and those who make the snacks we eat mid-flight. The ones who give us choice in today’s predominantly store-brand stocked supermarkets.

These women don’t fit in with the mainstream food trade and they’re not organised in a way to attend broad business chambers. They are visionaries, they are niche and, despite being a significant part of Australia’s economy, with 37 cents in every $1 spent on food being spent in foodservice, they are overlooked. But not by me.

I’ve always been passionate about food and drink artisans, foodpreneurs, entrepreneurs and business leaders – I have been coaching them for years. Their innovativeness and creativity always inspired me. But…

  • I’ve been disheartened by the fact that many women feel the imposter syndrome so strongly that they don’t back themselves, leaving themselves more likely to flounder than flourish.
  • I see women not #leanin because they’re afraid of getting it wrong and not knowing the answer.
  • I hear and witness the overwhelm of trying to ‘do it all’, to be impressive at every moment only to do nothing.
  • I find it shocking that the industry as a whole, and despite my career success, perhaps why I never felt my values aligned because there are so few public profile opportunities given to women makers and small producers, with the lion’s share of media and corporate ambassadorships going to male chefs (think Woolworths & Coles supermarkets, QANTAS, Virgin Airlines, Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules).
  • And lastly, above all else, I see the struggle these small business owners have with managing cash flow.

While I’ve been fortunate to have had a successful coaching and mentoring business, I wanted to create a community and a network that was more accessible and affordable to a broader number of women who want to build wildly successful businesses – because these issues are not isolated to the people who can afford a 1:1 coach.

And in the past two years we’ve seen the difference Females in Food can make:

  1. Our member’s businesses  have grown so much that they’ve gone from their home kitchens to commercial premises;
  2. We’ve opened the door to more women artisans being in the press;
  3. We’ve helped women find the right contacts they need from packaging experts, labelling specialists and food & drink marketers to launch their start-up;
  4. Our masterclass experts have shown our members the ropes in distribution, food safety and knowing their numbers;
  5. We were integral in a record number of women in food & drink being recognised by the Inside Small Business Awards and
  6. I’ve personally answered 100’s of their questions about how to build, grow and scale their business.  

So I have a mission for all of you supporters of the industry. And it’s not just to eat your way through all of their products.

I’m asking you to join me in supporting women led small businesses, cheer them on and help them with the traction they need whilst they hold on tightly and go to the next stage of growth.

Be motivated to truly help. Be inspired by what we can all do together. Get excited that you are enabling women to follow their heart and prosper. Help all of us bridge the gap between dreaming and doing. Existence favours the doers.

Throw your support to another and to each other.

I would like to say to any women, any aspiring maker, creator, business woman out there, if you want to reach for the stars and follow your heart, yes, it can be tough, yes, the road can be hard, but we have your back and I am determined that when you follow your passion and engage the right support, you will prosper.

Let’s show them how we ‘Rise Above It All’.

This is an edited extract from Chelsea Ford’s speech at Tipple 2018.