In our latest ‘What’s Cooking’, we hear from Jane DelRosso, Founder of My Other Kitchen. At a time when kitchen incubator businesses were an unknown resource, Jane launched her business by drawing on her corporate project management skills and experience and her attitude of ‘just doing it’.
Jane’s commitment to 100% personal responsibility is supporting start-up food businesses launch, scale and grow.
Jane shares with ‘What’s Cooking’ what she needed to do both financially and strategically to get her business going and how moving the whole enterprise to Monash University was a decision too good to pass up.
With her eyes on the future, Jane also shares the balancing act between serving her “small” business clients vs taking on larger opportunities which ultimately will serve the growth of her own business.
Your business name: My Other Kitchen, soon to be incorporated under The Business of Food.
How would you describe the business you are in? Kitchen incubation, business support and coaching for new food business owners. We make it possible for people to pursue their dream of a food business with less stress, less cost and less risk.
I am a big believer in taking responsibility for the decisions we make and know that it’s up to us to make the most of the situations we find ourselves in every day.
What do you love about your work?
I get to live vicariously through my clients; celebrate their successes from the sidelines and pick them up and dust them off like a true coach when things don’t go their way. Seeing a client’s product on a retail shelf unexpectedly is the greatest buzz!
What part of your job would you gladly give away?
ADMIN and BOOKKEEPING – I know they are necessary, but at this stage of my life and career I’d rather be building the business. Having said that, I love knowing the numbers of my business e.g. how many enquiries we get, how many clients we have, how our own business is growing, what our financial goals are (so that we can help more people).
If you were starting out in business again today, what piece of advice would you give your younger you?
Interesting question – my first thought was “just do it”, but then I would not have had the wisdom I had when I started the business. Knowledge can always be taught, but wisdom is gathered from experience. Maybe, “listen to others, but make up your own mind”. Everyone has an opinion about YOUR business. Take everything with a grain of salt (pun intended).
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.
With the enormous investment required in setting up a business and a fully compliant commercial kitchen for product development and (very) small scale manufacturing, the planning phase of My Other Kitchen was long and mostly fruitless. No-one knew what a kitchen incubator was in 2005/2006. Even in the U.S. there were only a handful. I had no history or competitors to evaluate the idea against, so there came a time to ‘just do it’.
I went back to project management work in the lead-up to launch, topped up my personal savings to make sure I had enough to fit out the premises and found a suitable location after almost twelve months of searching.
Having rent of $35K/annum doesn’t sound like much until it goes up 4% every year. One of the greatest unknowns was in the utility bills – they go up with every client using the kitchen. A painful baptism into COGS! I have no business partner (but open to change that this year). The business operations broke even quite early on, but it was a few years before I actually started paying myself. Even now it’s on a semi-regular basis. With Government grants in our sector often requiring some interesting compliance criteria to be eligible to apply, my salary is often depleted at an unforeseen expense or used as investment in our growth.
We’ll be looking for more support to expand our location base this year.
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.
We’ve recently moved into the Monash University as a partner in their new Food Incubator. The risks of moving my whole business under someone else’s patronage (if I can continue the puns: putting all my eggs in one basket) was huge and still makes me nervous. However, the opportunities were greater. The chance to be part of opening the communication channels between the players in the food industry from primary producer to food monolith was too good to pass up. The potential benefits to the start-ups and the large food corporations alike are industry-changing.
I am a big believer in taking responsibility for the decisions we make and know that it’s up to us to make the most of the situations we find ourselves in every day … dare I say kind of like eating an elephant? 🙂
As we are always growing and learning, what is the one thing you would like to take time to learn more about?
The next thing I’d like to learn about is business practices beyond ‘small’. As we grow our own business, I’m very aware that there will be a lot to learn about leading a larger company. There’s also the chance of a disconnect between our own business practices and those of our client start-ups. I love some things about being small; how you are responsible for everything, can make decisions quickly, you have a reason to collaborate, can choose your direction. I also understand that if we don’t grow ourselves, then we will stagnate and risk irrelevance as the pace of the business world increases.
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?
As a ‘for profit – for purpose’ kind of business, I must admit that we are in the no-man’s land between using free software to cobble together solutions that make the business tasks shareable and getting the right software for our needs that form a cohesive solution for our growth phase. Having said that our bookkeeping and accounting is done with QuickBooks and I could not live without this.
Technology is still a work in progress for us.
Why did you decide to become a member of Females in Food®
As a solo business owner for so many years, networking and collaborations were always a conscious intention. I joined Females in Food because I think it has a business focus that other food networking groups don’t and members that understand the challenges of the food industry. As much as I enjoy talking, planning, eating food with a wide range of groups, my passion is to see my clients succeed in business and make great food. I initiate a lot of those relationships with other service providers for the good of my clients – introducing them to knowledgeable people that are experienced and willing to support a fellow female in food get their own business off the ground. That’s what I saw in FIF.
Thank you Jane.
Want to read more about another successful Females in Food member? Check out our ‘What’s Cooking’ interview with founder of Doodles Creek, Sarah Ross.