Sym - ply Fantastic Story!
How did you start writing cooking books?
I had been creating recipes for many years, so I just used them and created others that I thought people would like to have. I had to hire a computer to write the book as I didn't have one and couldn't afford to buy one. I went to a dietitian's home and used her computer to work out the nutritional information for each recipe. How I make up the recipes is sometimes even a mystery for me! I just get ideas and whammo! they turn into something fabulous. Recipes like Lasagne which is a traditional italian dish - I just do my version of it. The great thing is that once I got started I couldn't stop with now 4 cookbooks published and am now working on book 5 which I hope to release in October 2006.
Why did you start?
I felt there was a strong need for good tasting simple healthy low fat recipes and there weren't any around so I put together all my favourite recipes that I had created and before I knew it I had book 1. I wanted to help others to win the battle of the bulge and for people with diabetes etc that they would still be able to enjoy their favourites but cook them in my healthy way. Also, I knew what I loved in a cookbook and wanted to offer this to others such as; a picture of each recipe, easy methods and ingredients that were readily available in supermarkets. I wanted to offer the nutritional information that would help people know what they were eating, and how much fat, sugar, salt etc was in each serve.
What were the hardest things to overcome when you first started?
Probably not having any money to spend on the business. I borrowed the money for the first print run from my in-laws (I also bought a computer) which I paid back within 6 months. The second hardest thing was getting the right distributors. Luckily for me one of the largest and best were interested and I am still with them today 8 years on. I am now one of their top publishers. Finally the next challenge was managing my business on my own. I was the coffee girl, mail girl, receptions, author, publisher, pr and marketing manager all rolled up into one - me :-) I have always been driven to succeed and my business is my passion so working hard has never been an issue, thank goodness.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Borrowing the money from my in-laws was easy, I got my husband to ask them for me. Without their help I wouldn't have been able to get started as the banks wouldn't give me a loan as they looked at me as if I was crazy. Getting the distributors was through finding the right person to sell me to the head honcho, and having a fabulous product helped too. Time management was the answer to the final issue that I had to work out. Making sure that I kept on top of it all was the key to managing it all.
How many cooking books have you sold?
In excess of 1.5 million
And…what have been some of the good experiences?
Seeing my book in the newsagent, that was very exciting and then watching a lady go up, look at the book and then buy it. That was very memorable. Going national (at first the book was just released in Queensland) was another exciting time. Brisbane Extra was the first TV show I did and I sold 10,000 copies in 2 weeks. That put a big smile on my face that's for sure. Going on The Today Show and The Midday Show was huge, it helped launch me nationally. I also really love it when I am doing a store promotion and someone will come up to me and be so excited to see me and to tell me that they have lost 30 kgs or have gone of their medication etc. That fills my heart with so much joy, makes me know why I do this and why I work so hard. There are so many happy stories to tell but for me also winning the Telstra Australian Micro Business of the Year 2004 was HUGE!!! I get very excited about what happens when I launch a new cookbook or product. For example, when I launched book 4 I printed 120,000 copies thinking that would see me through for several months but, I am happy to say, that I was reprinting within 2 weeks, how good is that!!!!!!
What have you learnt along the journey?
To enjoy the journey and be grateful for every good thing, every success and every achievement. I also feel it is vital to give back, as I have received so much, keeping that balance is important. I also think it is imperative to continually look at ways to grow your business and to learn along the way.
Who do you find inspiring?
Every person that that has lost weight, it takes great willpower and commitment and I applaud that. I also am inspired by other small businesses that step up and do well. I also think that my husband is my rock and without him I wouldn't be able to do all that I do so he is my daily inspiration to succeed and to want to achieve. He makes me feel that I can do anything.
Any tips for people who would like to ‘start something’ in later life?
Do your research and make sure you know exactly what is needed to create a successful business. Too many times I see people going into business when they know little about the business or go into business for the wrong reasons. If you think that it will be easier to work for yourself then please think again, I am the worst boss I have ever had :-) Ask yourself what is your point of difference, what can you offer that will separate you from your competition? Work out your budget and marketing plan, every product needs a strong marketing plan. I also think that if you have always dreamt of starting your own business then if it is sound (talk to your accountant) take the fear away and give it a go, commit 110% to making it work. Believe that you can achieve anything you set your mind to as long as you have passion, commitment and vision. Good luck.