Where have your best ideas occurred? In the shower? On a long commute to work? Was there a problem that required a unique fix? Or were you compelled to make a difference? Mim Cook chats with a collection of intriguing businesses to hear when the ‘light bulb’ blinked on for them and their new enterprise took root.
Four Rivers Cheese, Metung
I love the feel of cheese curd when I’m cutting and stirring it, and when I’m scooping it out into the hoops to form the resulting cheese. I love the texture of it when I take it out of its mould to brine it. I love the alchemy that turns milk into a multitude of different delicious dairy delights; from the basic ones like yoghurt and Ricotta, to the more complex ones like Brie, Feta and Halloumi all the way up to hard cheeses like Cheddar and Pecorino. It’s a magic trick; a combination of good milk, the skill and love of the cheesemaker; plus temperature, moulds and cultures, some rennet and time. The results are glorious; subtle or strong, soft and gooey or hard and salty, stinky or mild. It’s why I want to share my knowledge and love through my workshops. It struck me the very first time I made my own cheese - I was hooked.
Prom Coast Ice Cream, Toora
Hilary and I had just taken over the kiosk at Walkerville’s tiny camping ground and were having a brainstorming walk along the glorious beach. Hilary’s a Kiwi and the inspiration came in the following order; ‘Walkerville reminds me of Coromandel (North Island, New Zealand)’ Then the memory of scoop ice cream on Coromandel beaches came flooding back to Hilary. “Kiwi’s seriously make good ice cream.
We have to have scoop ice cream at the kiosk," she declares. “Why don't we make our own!” I respond. The waves crash in agreement. This was the beginning of Prom Coast Ice Cream.
Earth & Sea Camper Van Hire, Paynesville
The rain was pelting. Our millionth game of Uno had just ended. Our family remained huddled in a campervan that we’d hired from a dude in Melbourne. Oh, cabin fever had set in! A single phrase, uttered over a long glass of Captain Morgan, started it all, ‘Do you want to buy a campervan, hire it out and start a business together?’
Every previous business idea we’d ever had would’ve disrupted the laidback, sea-change lifestyle we built over the last decade. We love camping, boating and four-wheel driving. A campervan hire business was a natural fit, hence our new venture was born.
MossifaceMatts Carpentry Madness, Mossiface
After years of commercial and domestic building with manufactured materials that created excessive waste and carcinogens, I discovered recycling and reusing. The core of my business philosophy is the drive to work with recycled materials. I’m inspired by blackwood, with its richly diverse colouring, with yellow stringybark durability. I’m inspired to use natural Australian hardwood and reclaimed items to produce my projects and art.
Meeniyan Garlic Festival, Meeniyan
As a garlic grower in Gippsland, I looked at ways to promote ‘clean and green’ produce and fine foods of our region. In northern California, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is the largest food event in the USA (and probably the world!), attracting around 120,000 people over a three-day event. And so it should, garlic is a ‘hero’ product.
The seed was sown for the Meeniyan Garlic Festival. We did our research, then my husband and I worked with the community in Meeniyan to translate this ‘big idea’ to a scale that would sit well with the town, and place a spotlight on our great area.
Meristem Edible Botanicals, Orbost
Edible flowers are a product and a dining experience that I love and wanted to know more about. The best thing about edible flowers is growing them; the ladybirds and bees, and the look of surprise you see on people’s faces when you show them the flowers. I love the romance of flowers and the ‘newness’ of such an old-fashioned product. It’s the perfect time to grow a product that’s on-trend, beautiful and delicious.
It was one of those moments that just picks you up and takes you to a new place. My partner's mother lives in Paynesville, we were down visiting and saw a ‘For Sale’ sign in a window. When we walked in, we just knew it was the perfect location. From then on, things really started to roll fast. A way to make good things in life happen is to seize the moment and jump right in. The philosophy at the centre of our cooking and vibe is; Fresh is Best. I speak to my suppliers frequently to get the freshest produce each day and create the menu around that. It drives my partner, Victoria, mental at how many times I change the menu! The customers don’t want to eat the same thing every time they come in.
Marlo and the Sailor, Marlo
Marlo and the Sailor was born in the same country as Sikha, my daughter. For Sikha’s 13th birthday, we returned to the incredible orphanage in India that gave her such a great start in life for a month-long trip. It was then that we decided to find a way to raise money for the orphanage. Sikha and I collaborate in the design and creation of our jewellery, which is bright, seriously sparkly and fun. We use laser-cut acrylic and bamboo. Our accessories bring joy to the wearer, just as it gives joy to Sikha’s orphanage.
September Baby, Toora North
Made redundant while I was on maternity leave, and being a career-oriented woman, I wanted to return
to work. Instead of seeking traditional employment I created a business that revolved around what I love most; my ‘September baby’, Emilia.
I began by stocking a few products that I loved as a mum, but now it has turned into something much more; a custom gift box service that focuses on baby shower gifts, as well as a growing community of mums and mums-to-be all around Australia.
Coota Cycles, Mallacoota
"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race," – H.G. Wells.
It’s this quote from the English writer that pedals the philosophy of the bicycle business that sits behind the tiny shopfront on the main street. Bikes represent so much of what’s important in life: fitness, community, sustainability, an escape and adventure.
The Dutch Oven, Bairnsdale
Growing up together in East Gippsland, my mate, Aaron Kyriazis, and I moved away at a young age and returned to find a region with natural beauty and boundless opportunities. On a cold winter’s night in the Victorian High Country, we decided to open American-style BBQ business, with a food truck, naming it ‘The Dutch Oven’ (the idea behind the name is another story altogether...). The idea behind the business stems from the limitless availability of fresh, local and freaking awesome produce. We deeply believe that businesses creating quality food will improve the region, keeping the locals satisfied and tourists visiting.