LG: Hello, everyone. I’m Lisa Gissing from Westpac and today we're speaking with Terri-Anne Daniel, founder and co-owner of Cooee Cookies, a proudly Indigenous owned and operated cookie manufacturer based on the central coast of New South Wales. Welcome, Terri-Anne.
TD: Thank you for having me, Lisa.
LG: Before we begin, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the traditional owners of the various lands in which we all meet and pay my respects to elders both past and present.
LG: I also acknowledge and pay respects to those here today who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and recognise the diversity of Indigenous peoples, countries and culture in Australia. As Australia's first bank, we acknowledge our role in supporting an inclusive and diverse nation where all of our cultural backgrounds are recognised and respected.
LG: So, Terri-Anne, I'd love you to share with us your story behind Cooee Cookies.
TD: Oh, dear. It's a long story. It started about four years ago. I'm a proud Wiradjuri woman, raised on Wiradjuri land. My great grandmother is from Gilgandra, and I was raised mainly around the Mudgee area. Went to school and spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house there.
TD: I've always had a love for food and baking. I'm a mum of seven and a grandmother of five, so I've always got plenty to cater for. The reason I started, really with the cookies was because food should bring people together.
TD: Food should be a celebration. More and more food was driving people apart, whether it was through ethical food, choices of vegetarian or vegan food or allergies. My children's grandmother is Celiac. My daughter has lactose issues and lactose intolerant.
TD: None of my children like nuts. So, I found it was getting harder and harder to put a plate of food on the table that everyone could enjoy and eat safely. So that's when I set myself to creating Cooee Cookies, being your allergy friendly foodie.
TD: So, all our cookies are 100% plant based. They're made in a gluten and peanut free facility. There's no soy in three of the flavours. There's a small derivative of soy in one of the flavours because we couldn't find white chocolate that was palatable, that didn't have soy in it.
TD: And so that's sort of what set me to get to bake them, really, was to bring people together and for people to if something as humble as sharing a cuppa and a plate of cookies was to continue, then something had to change with the way we bake.
LG: What a wonderful story. What surprised you the most in opening a business?
TD: Just how hard it is. When I started the business, I was a single mum. I had a seven-year-old and five-year-old triplets, and I just knew that I could make a difference.
TD: I just knew that if I could get these recipes right, I wasn't the only mum or family that had these dietary issues in their family or requirements in their family. So that was sort of my driving force. My children are my greatest accomplishment. And to give back and to give back to other families so that food became more inclusiveness.
TD: But it was hard, I'm not going to lie. There were moments where I did sort of think about giving up, but then when I got the recipes right, it was just like, wow. And sort of very overwhelming. And ‘you did it’ kind of moment.
TD: It's also hard to get your brand out there when you're so new and such a small business, to sort of get your brand out there and for people to see where you are and what you're about, that takes a bit of time as well.
LG: Is there anything you would do differently?
TD: Look, I'd like to say yes, but really, it's the mistakes that you make along the way that create the end product. We've tried two different packaging types, we've tried different colours, different names, different things, and you know without trying them, we wouldn't have got to where we are today with Cooee Cookies.
TD: And so, I think everything happens for a reason. And you know they're not mistakes, they're learnings. Really.
LG: Yeah, absolutely. How important is cash flow in running a business?
TD: It's vital. And it's probably one of the things that, as you know as a single mum, starting out, trying to get this business off the ground, it was the one thing that I really, really struggled with.
So, you know between having enough money to do one bake and then sell it and then wait for that money to come in and all those things, and now that we've grown quite significantly since we launched our first packet on NAIDOC Week this year for Cooee Cookies, since then we've sold 15 pallets of stock.
TD: It's been insane, the response that we've had to Cooee Cookies. So, that cashflow has had to be managed quite carefully. So, we've had big expense with packaging, big expense with big bakes to be made, freight which has to be paid up front, and then you're waiting 30 days minimum for your customers to pay you. So it's vital.
LG: And is there any lessons in there or any tools or hints or tips that you could share with other business owners out there that might sort of think, well, I'm the only one with a cash flow problem?
TD: No, you're not. I think it's the main thing for small startup businesses. And it’s honestly, from the understanding I have, it's one of the main reasons that small startup businesses don't succeed. Because if they don't have the cash flow to grow incrementally, then that's where it becomes really difficult.
TD: So, if you believe in yourself, you believe in your product and you believe you can get something out there, then you know cash flow is important. And I suppose if you don't have the facilities to go and get backing from a financial institution such as Westpac, then try and find an investor and then go forward.
LG: What do you love most about being a business owner?
TD: What I love the most about being the founder of Cooee Cookies is I'm not just a business owner, I make a difference. I make a difference to families, to people that can't. If you're a vegetarian, Celiac, there's not many treats out there. So, I feel like I'm still very humbled when people try one of the cookies that I created and say, ‘wow, this tastes amazing. Wouldn't even think it was gluten free.’
TD: We have a thing at Cooee Cookies where kindness is our kind of thing, and we live by that in every aspect of what we do. So, I think that's the best thing about being a business owner is being able to make a difference and positive change with inclusivity.
LG: Love it. What would be your advice to other community members out there, perhaps looking to start their own business?
TD: I encourage everyone. If you don't try anything, you'll never know whether you're going to succeed at it or not. So, it's better to have tried something and not got it right than to never tried at all. I try and raise my children to do that, to step outside your comfort zone, to grow your comfort zone.
TD: If you believe that something's right for you, then you're not the only one that it’s going to be right for so. To believe in yourself and to back yourself and to get out there and make a difference. And there's lots of people out there, lots of organisations that are out there to help new startup business, particularly Indigenous businesses.
TD: Like you've got the New South Wales Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, Supply Nation. Lots of people out there just willing to give you a hand to be successful.
LG: Fabulous, wonderful advice. Now, most importantly, how do people find you and find Cooee Cookies?
TD: Well, I wish I could say you could just jump online and order a pack, but we've been so inundated with commercial orders from a wholesale perspective that we haven't managed to get that up and running as yet. But if anybody really wanted some Cooee Cookies, all they have to do is send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to get some out to them.
LG: Fantastic. Today we've been speaking with Terri-Anne Daniel, founder and co-owner of Cooee Cookies. Thank you very much, Terri-Anne, for your time today.
TD: Thanks, Lisa.
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