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Tell me about Nee’s High Apple Pies?
I started almost three years ago in my kitchen. I’ve always loved baking and I was very influenced by the European style, where you just put your hands into the bowl, mix all the raw ingredients together and create! I started making apple pies many years ago and when we moved to Kinglake, Victoria, I said I’d like to start my own business. I put a photo of one of my pies on the local community page up here and asked “who would buy one of these?” And everyone said yes and it just started from there. I sold some through school Mums then it progressed to markets then we bought a food trailer and it’s been a great ride.
Do you drive the food cart around yourself?
I do. I visit events, festivals or local markets with the food trailer. I designed the whole outside of it myself, so it’s a country sort of style with an old-fashioned window sill which looks great with pies cooling on it.
How did you fund that?
Because I’m baking from home the overheads were quite low. I was talking with my husband about getting a food trailer but we were looking at cost and getting a new one made, the prices were just astronomical. So we came across a second-hand one which was basically a shell, it had a sink but was basically just a cool room on wheels. My husband being a metal worker built the inside and fit it out the way I wanted to and I designed the inside. We funded it ourselves and it’s slowly paying for itself so obviously the more events that we do and the more invitations and catering opportunities that we might get, it will pay itself off hopefully soon enough.
What would you say some of your biggest challenges have been?
Probably my kitchen. I’d like to upgrade my kitchen not too far in the future because now it’s hard to keep up with the quantities. Then it’s obviously trying to make myself more mobile and trying to get to other people, not just the local people in Kinglake, but to people around Melbourne who have shown interest and come up to visit the markets here.
Do you have plans further down the track for another cart or more staff?
I’d love to do that. One day I’d love to be able to have another cart or another marquee where I can purchase some more pie warmers, where I can upgrade my kitchen and produce more stock so I can then hire some local staff to be at one marquee and then myself at the trailer representing my business. Then I’m not sure how far in the future, but eventually my goal is to have a boutique little cafe where I serve all my homemade apple pies and cheese cakes by the slice or you can take a family size home and have a great cup of coffee with it.
What would you say is your biggest advice to other small business owners?
If you’re passionate about something just keep that passion alive. If you plan and make your short term goals, it’s easier to map it out and stay focussed. That planning and passion will help you get to the next step and help get you through those next hurdles.
What keeps you going?
I think the look on people’s faces when they walk past my cart. Especially when I’ve got the pie warmer going and that fragrance of the freshly bakes pies, and it gets people talking. And then they bite into it – especially the gluten free lovers because there’s not that many opportunities for them out there – and watching their reactions. I’ve won a gold medal award for those gluten free apple pies so I love when my regulars come back. Just knowing that my customers enjoy it just as much as I enjoy making it for them is the best feeling.
How do you compete with the bigger players in your space?
I think it’s quite a compliment when bakeries and chefs reproduce my smaller, personal pies. I do my research and I taste test other people’s and I know my product is good. If you compare mine to the supermarket variety my apple pies don’t contain apple sauce, it’s straight from the orchard, and there are no preservatives and nothing artificial added. Because there’s not a production line I can afford to buy my apples from the local farmers and support them.
Every day, KBB’s Dannie Doughan chats with an entrepreneur and features their story on our website. If your business wants a ‘Date with Dannie’, email us a quick bit about your biz!