Today we are introducing you to Cath, the small business owner of Wombat Beauty and Wombat Cottage Café.
Cath started selling homemade beauty products at local markets and during the 2021 NSW lockdown, bought a café that had been vacant for years and set up Wombat Cottage Café. During the day, she cooks in the café and, in the evening, they make beauty products. She sells her Wombat Beauty products at the café as well as other products from local small businesses. At the moment, her family and friends help her run the café, but she has recognised that she needs to look to hiring some staff to help her out as the café is getting busier and busier! This is just the beginning of Cath’s small business journey.
“Tracey has helped me a lot with bookkeeping, that was my biggest downfall. She also helped me in setting up a business bank account because when I first started, I was running my business out of a tin box! The biggest thing is whenever I am unsure about something, I can ring her up. I ask her 101 questions.”
Read more about Cath’s business journey so far.
I have done hospitality, bar work, and kitchen work. In the days before that, I was a remedial massage therapist and had done a bit of beauty therapy as well. I was really looking for a change, I get bored really easily, and I so do all sorts of TAFE courses to learn new skills.
I got sick of working for other people. It sounds silly now that I have a café that has taken off, but I didn’t want something which was too full on because I have some medical issues. I needed something to work around my medical issues and be my own boss.
My business is a two-fold business. It is called Wombat Cottage Café and Wombat Beauty; they are under that same ABN but with two identities. Wombat Beauty was the first part of my business, and I make natural beauty and personal care products such as mineral makeup, shampoo bars, face creams and insect repellents. I used to sell that at the markets and online through my website. I would also sell homemade cakes, rocky roads, and sweet treats at the markets as well. When we first started, I did mobile beauty therapy as well.
Wombat Cottage Cafe
That was going on for about two years, and then everything changed with COVID-19 and lockdown. So, I thought I should open a shop because I was a bit sick of the markets. I had had my eye on an empty café for a few years, and just before we went into lockdown, I made enquiries and I now run a café where I sell all my natural beauty products as well as Indigenous inspired-food. After hours in the kitchen, we make beauty products and during the day we make food! We also take a lot of local small business products, and we sell them on a consignment basis. People walk in thinking that they are just going to get a coffee and a cake, but you can get anything from Indigenous artwork to jams, handmade pearl necklaces, to baby clothes! We even have a $4,500 handmade saddle in the middle of the shop now! Pretty much if anyone comes into the café with a small business that makes a great product, I try and put it on sale for them, so it is a café and retail store!
The cafe was opened in November 2021. We spent the lockdown getting everything ready, and then we opened the door the first weekend that regional NSW came out of lockdown. Everything has really fallen into place for us so well.
We don’t have any employees at the moment. I have friends and family who will work for coffee and cake. I am so blessed. I even have some people in the community who will come in for a coffee, and if it is busy, they will just clear some tables and leave again. It is a very tiny village. There is only a school, a pub, a second-hand store and my café. About 160 people live here. It is a very small and close-knit community. We have a lot of travellers, so that is where a lot of the sales come from. My daughter will often travel three hours to come and work on the weekend if we give her lasagne.
Working with Many Rivers
I heard about Many Rivers on Facebook. I was in process of starting a business and the ad kept popping up and popping every night for a week and I thought, I am obviously meant to contact them!
Tracey has helped me a lot with bookkeeping; that was my biggest downfall. She also helped me in setting up a business bank account because when I first started, I was running my business out of a tin box! She even met me at the bank and introduced me to the manager. The biggest thing is whenever I am unsure about something, I can ring her up. I ask her 101 questions. She helped guide me with insurance to make sure that I had the correct ones.
I think the most useful part for me was the regular phone calls and encouragement that kept me on track. I would look at the calendar and realise I was going to see Tracey in five days and that I’m not up to date with my bookkeeping! At the end of the day, the only person I was really letting down was myself, but I felt like I would let her down too, so I made sure to keep myself sorted.
Now that the business is growing, the biggest challenge is thinking about what we do next and where we go from here. My partner is running this business for me. He has given up his full-time job to help. We have poured a lot of money into the business, and we are not making huge profits yet because of what we put into it. The biggest thing is thinking; ‘where is this going, we can’t rely on our friends helping for cake and coffee forever, are we going to get an employee?’ It is not a little hobby business anymore; it is turning into a good small business, and so we need to look at it as a proper business. We have had our doors open for six months, and I expected it to slow down by now, but it really hasn’t! Many people must travel through this community from the local town to another town to do their groceries. We also have two disabled bathrooms with wheelchair access, so we have elderly people on minibuses travel a couple of hours for morning tea because it is so accessible. It is quite small and friendly, and non-judgemental.
I think the biggest success with Wombat Cottage Café is that we make everything ourselves. We make cakes, pies, lasagne, sausage rolls, quiche. Everything on our menu is homemade. All the cheesecakes have native bushtucker ingredients in them. For example, today’s cheesecake is Kakadu and we also have a wattle seed chocolate cake out. I use indigenous business tucker ingredients in the savoury food too. Our chicken pie is cooked in lemon myrtle and pepper berry. There is no Indigenous food that I can’t find within a three-hour radius. You need to do something different to be successful. Often cafes order from the same wholesaler, so you go to a new café, and it’s got the same cake range as the one you went to last week. Plus, no one even makes fresh scones anymore, so we really stand out!
Probably the hours that you must put in. You can’t call in sick if there is no one else to go in to open the café. We have people booked in for lunch, and you must keep going. If you work for someone else, you would just ring up to say that you are sick.
Cath’s Future Goals for Her Small Business
Eventually, I would hope that we would be able to run it efficiently enough so that we could hire someone to do all the hard work. My partner is a bit older than me, and he would like to retire soon. We would like to just supervise. At the moment, I do all the food and all the coffee and friends that come in run the counter and do the dishes.
We have a huge yard so over winter we are going to work on putting in an outdoor eating area. We already grow a lot of our own vegetables and herbs that we use in the kitchen. We would like to grow more of the Indigenous supplies.
Thanks, Cath for sharing your business journey. Your story will inspire people who are looking to take their next step toward creating their own business. If you would like to stay updated follow Wombat Beauty on Facebook and Instagram and Wombat Cottage Cafe on Facebook and Instagram.
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