Cristiana Waismann, founder Cristiana & Co, makes Pão de Queijo, also known as Brazilian Cheese Bread. Cristiana, a qualified Food Engineer, is passionate about creating a tasty, easy to make product without the nasties. Cristiana was fed up with the big manufacturers who made their life easy by adding lots of preservatives and additives but did not seem to care about consumers and their health.

Cristiana left her home country of Brazil and travelled the world, eventually landing in Australia to fulfil her dream to be an entrepreneur and help time poor parents and carers feed their children with her gluten free cheese bread found in the freezer section of key retailers.

Recently Cristiana won her first grocery chain account, Harris Farm Markets, and is working hard to generate awareness about her product so she stays ‘on the shelf’ – that’s not easy when you’re in the freezer section.

Read how Cristiana is building her brand, recouping long lost margin and ‘enjoying’ how Chelsea keeps her accountable to her growth strategy 😉

How would you describe the business you are in?

Cristiana & Co is a food manufacturer with the simple mission to provide premium, wholesome  and convenient gluten free snacks to Australians in a sustainable way. Currently we do that by producing Brazilian Cheese Bread.

I have a BSc in Food Engineering and have travelled across the world to work in diverse sectors of the food industry for the past 20 years, from big manufacturers in Brazil, researching Bacalao in Norway and unpasteurised cheeses in England. I left Brazil because I wanted to explore the world, but also because I was unfulfilled by industry standards and industry use of additives, preservatives or modified ingredients to enhance product performance and reduce costs rather than quality to consumers. I understand you must have a viable business, however, the more I studied, the less I believe that was a good outcome to customers health.

When I went overseas I discovered the world of artisan products and realised everything that I had learned could be applied to scaled up processes whilst maintaining quality and product “integrity”.

I created Cristiana & Co to fulfil my old dream of being an entrepreneur but with the mission of providing convenient food with the same quality of food made at home. I want to create a positive impact not only to our customers but to the community and the environment. I want to leave a legacy by being an example to others.

What do you love about your work?

I love providing high quality, wholesome and delicious snacks (Brazilian Cheese Bread) and I love the challenge to do this whilst creating a positive impact in our community and the environment.

As a Food Engineer, I know it would be easier to use additives or highly processed ingredients to increase performance of my Brazilian Cheese Bread dough and operate in a cheaper non-sustainable way. The continuous improvement required to scale up artisanal methods, whilst maintaining the quality of ingredients and continuously working towards improving sustainability attributes and food quality, is very interesting, to say the least!

What part of your job would you gladly give away?

Marketing! I like looking at the overall strategy and the direction the business needs to take but I find the learning and execution very time consuming. I am lucky, I have family members (and my partner Neal, who is my biggest supporter) who understand marketing well so I get a lot of guidance and they give me a hand when I get stuck.

If you were starting out in business again today, what piece of advice would you give your younger you?

Get the right product price at the start and stand up for yourself and your values. I got my first customer by matching the “competitor’s” price. That was unrealistic because they use highly processed ingredients and additives –  their COGS is much inferior to mine! I thought I was doing the right thing to get the opportunity, but the reality was,  I was operating on a loss until the day I decided to stand up for myself, the product and the quality I have to offer!

It takes a long time to catch up with the right price and I am still not there with them.

Women start businesses 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 eg. money saved, business premises, business partner, and how long before you started paying yourself?

I used my personal savings to buy my machines and equipment outright to start my processes.

I was going through a divorce at the time so I wanted try and reduce the pressure (and the risks) of having too much debt, and it was important to have the flexibility to do things on my own time so I could continue to make my children my priority.

I set a monetary value that I was comfortable to lose and just went for it. It took me about 2.5 years to pay myself a modest salary every now and again but overall I don’t take a salary because I want to reinvest in the business, however, I don’t see this as a negative. I have grown so much without pressure and it has allowed me to maintain the focus on my family, who is, and will always be, my biggest treasure.

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.

I think I am more grateful than proud. I am grateful every day for the amazing support I receive from so many people around me, for all the advice, mentoring and guidance to take the business to where it is now. The business has come a long way in the past 12 months with the launch of retail line (in the middle of CoVID) and stock reaching the shelves of Harris Farm Markets.

In terms of  #backingthemselves, the power of women together is incredible: I am so grateful for the support received by wonderful women in business like Janene Davis and Lynne Tietzel, who understood my struggles, believe in my potential and gave me such important knowledge at the start. Sarah Mandelson, from Serendipity Ice Cream, has been a rock to me and someone I look up to every day. She was the one who said “the world needs more manufacturers who do the right thing” – and I agree! That really gives me the drive to keep going and the motivation to build a business that will inspire others just like how these women inspired me.

As we are always growing and learning, what is the one thing you would like to take time to learn more about?

I am loving learning more about business in general; to be honest I can’t get enough of it, but time is key! I wish I had more time to read and spend more time on my spreadsheets!

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?

Canva is saving me a lot of time to edit my pictures and create all my merchandise without having to pay a designer to do it. I see a lot of value in it.

Why did you decide to become a member of the Foodpreneurs Formula®?

Because I got to the stage that I needed to educate myself deeply in business. I am seeing so much value in the acceleration the program has given my business – I am getting a lot of knowledge and structure.

Chelsea is not there to please you, but to challenge you and make yourself accountable so you get results.

I am seeing so much value and I am loving it.

We love to celebrate successes. Can you give us an example of how joining the Foodpreneurs Formula® has positively impacted your business? 

It has given me knowledge, structure and encouraged me to be more accountable to myself,  and that has been very important to take the business to where it is now! Thank you!

Even more specifically, I think what I’ve learnt about business systemisation and the definition and measurement of goals has helped me to organise the business to move forward in a more effective way and assess my goals in more realistic ways.

I have also changed my thinking, or trying to change…. for example, I have often been worried about the fact that artisan products, especially at the beginning, tend to have a higher price than the more commoditised and additive heavy alternatives. However, by looking at this through a value lens, has allowed me to focus not just on price but the value of the product we are creating, which includes not only the quality of ingredients but how we are attempting to build a sustainable business model that has positive environmental impacts.

So if I had to pick a transformative metric in time it would be the impact we are having being a sustainable manufacturer of quality products, that not only help our customers eat better but help the environment and in time I would like to extend this to the community e.g. helping and retraining disadvantaged women to support them to return to work.

Thank you Cristiana.

Want to read more about another successful member? Check out our ‘What’s Cooking’ interview with  Reihaneh Pourhamedani, founder Ta’la Ice Cream.