In the lead-up to the summer holidays, most mums are busy ensuring Christmas presents are prepped, sugar consumption is managed and post-New Year’s activities are planned. For Brisbane mother Jodie Neilson, this time of year is spent working out of a shipping container, where she has had to seek extra room to stock her popular confectionery gifts during the crazy summer holiday shopping period.
Five years ago Jodie started making sweet treats in her home kitchen. With former chef experience, Jodie was used to cooking large amounts. But after becoming a mother, she decided to turn her passion for recipes (and her sweet tooth) into a business she could manage from home.
Now, New Farm Confectionery has grown from a small home-based operation into a very successful multi-location business, selling in stores, online and through wholesale orders. We caught up with Jodie to ask about her business journey and the tools that made it all possible.
What first sparked your passion for confectionery?
New Farm Confectionery (NFC) started in November 2012, inspired by many trips to France — especially Paris — where I discovered, indulged and dreamt about confectionery. I’ve always had a massive sweet tooth (as does my whole family!) and loved working as a chef and creating desserts. But once I became a mother I didn’t want to work crazy chef hours anymore. That’s when I decided to delve into confectionery and try to make something that I could manage from home.
What has helped your business stand out?
France has a philosophy of grown-up confectionery. Confectionery that is not childish or garish, but is made with grown-up tastes, packaged with a grown-up eye and celebrated as a delicious treat. When I first started NFC I thought there was a real gap in the Australian market for this — all of our confectionery seemed to be targeted at kids. That was definitely the selling point in the beginning. I used premium ingredients and marketed my creations specifically for adults.
Now I believe our unique approach to customer service is what keeps people coming back. NFC strives to create an in-store experience that is as enjoyable as possible. We don’t believe in creating barriers between our staff and customers, and we don’t even have a traditional checkout counter!
We aim to service our customers wherever they are, so in our stores we equip staff with a Square Reader so they can walk around the store and help customers check out on the spot. We also sell online for those who prefer a bit of internet shopping or aren’t close to one of our stores.
What has been the biggest surprise over the past five years?
How quickly we’ve managed to scale and grow has definitely surprised me, but of course it’s a good surprise. I started the business five years ago in my kitchen, with just me making all the goodies, packaging them at night and then selling them at the local markets.
Now we have over 25 staff, two production locations, three pop-up stores that rotate around Brisbane and a permanent space in New Farm. We have also added an online store and have a rapidly expanding wholesale arm of the business.
What has been the biggest challenge?
In the same vein, I think managing the growth has been our biggest challenge. Managing our growing staff and the surge in demand for products — especially this time of year — has been challenging. I like to be in control of every part of the business but, unfortunately, with only seven days in a week and 24 hours in a day, it has become impossible.
What tools and strategies have you employed to help overcome these business challenges?
I have surrounded myself with some excellent staff and they are allowing me to now look at the big picture and the direction of where I want NFC to head. It’s also allowing me to get some sleep! I have also been careful in selecting the right business tools that can best help me manage our growing employee base, track sales and scale our sales channels.
We currently use Square to sell in stores and their e-commerce integration to sell through our website, which has been really useful. I’ve found (especially as we’ve grown) that using one payments system for multiple income streams means our business and customer data is all stored in one place and I get a more comprehensive overview on how our business is tracking. I also use their employee management system, which helps me keep track of staff across our multiple locations.
What’s next for New Farm Confectionery?
I definitely have plans to grow the wholesale arm of the business and to ship more products internationally. I would also like to go national with our stores and pop-ups so we can service more customers across the country.