Small businesses are the backbone of the Redlands economy, working hard for long hours to provide customers with goods and services while dealing with red tape.
In response to subscriber feedback, Redlands2030 is exploring our local small business sector.
Trish and Warwick are owners of The Flour Monkey Bakery operating at Capalaba Central Shopping Centre and Carina. Here’s their story, told to one of the Redlands2030 citizen journalists.
Interview with the owners of The Flour Monkey Bakery
Q When you purchased your Carina bakery in 2005, what was a typical day?
Warwick “I would arrive at 11pm, bake through the night for 5am opening. I would then go onto making pies and cakes etc. Trish and sales assistants helped serve customers. I would clean and prepare for the next day, leave the shop at 5pm, arriving home just in time to go to bed and get up and do it all again at 11pm. It was really tough on both of us.”
Q Trish, Warwick did his apprenticeship as a teenager so he knew to expect long hours when you bought the bakery. What didn’t you expect?
Trish “There was the added torture of no wages or drawings from the business. The income just covered the staff wages, outgoings and loan repayments. Financial help had to come from support from both sides of our families. They have been absolutely marvelous and without them it would have been impossible. We wouldn’t have survived. It was just exhaustion and a fiscal nightmare. It was harder than we thought it would be.”
Q Where do you see yourselves now after 19 years?
Trish “Today we have two bakeries and employ 27 locals in Carina and Capalaba and we’re looking for premises for a third Flour Monkey Bakery. We love change and we’re quite progressive so always looking for fresh ideas.”
Q Are you considering franchising the name Flour Monkey Bakery?
Warwick “No. Our model is one of traditional home cooking with mainly natural ingredients, purchased from local suppliers. We buy fresh salad ingredients every day and we make all the pastry from scratch. Our recipes are inherited from our families or adapted from old recipe books such as the CWA (Country Women’s Association) which my mother was a member of when I was a child.
We’re always trying new ingredients, procedures and techniques and recipes. We encourage our staff have a go. You can’t do that with a franchise.”
Trish “You won’t find bright coloured buns and cakes in our shop simply because natural ingredients and flavours don’t come in bright colours. It has cost us more to buy local but our principle is to support those who support us.”
Q Flour Monkey Bakery has 27 local staff which is not a small payroll. Has training them been hard?
Trish: “Yes. We have employed university and school students and the unemployed. Warwick has even given the odd homeless person a job and given them a go. It’s all been worth it and if we had our time over we would do it all again. Everyone deserves a chance. Some have no idea of work ethic and need a lot of training but what we value most in our staff is the loyalty they return us.
We have staff that have been with us for over eight years, these people are the back bone of the business.
Some of our best staff arrived at our door with problems getting employment but with patience and one on one time they have all managed to learn their jobs and be productive. We give everyone a chance and Warwick puts a lot of time into their training and apprenticeships. A lot of people rely on us to pay them weekly so we have a huge responsibility to our staff.”
Q Why did you choose Capalaba for your second Flour Monkey Bakery 5 years ago?
Warwick: “We were living in Thorneside and Redland Council were offering support for small business called ‘Business Grow’ which was the leg up we needed. They supported us and helped us all the way. That was really great.”
Q You say you need bigger premises and are now ready to grow your third bakery. Will this be in Redlands too?
Warwick: “We’d like it to be but we’re struggling to get any support from Council, so probably not. Five years ago we’d phone council and there was always someone to talk to. They’d meet us on site and tell us if the premises would meet standards and discuss the changes required to meet compliance requirements. That’s gone now and there’s no one we can call to tell us what’s acceptable and what’s not. When I called a few weeks ago to get advice for compliancy, I think I was talking to a call centre. They couldn’t put me through to anyone and referred me to the council web site. This is so frustrating and disappointing. It made me angry actually.”
Q What service did Redland Council give you 5 years ago through the Business Grow scheme?
Warwick: “When we were developing our Capalaba bakery, we could talk to Council people about anything to do with council compliancy which is extremely tricky. The Business Grow people came out on site and help us with our fit out guide lines. It was great to have someone talk you through what was sufficient and what wasn’t.
It saved us tens of thousands of dollars in fit out costs, and just as importantly it saved us a lot of time and stress. We need answers now, not flick and scrutinise through a council web site. That’s no good to us.
Nearly all small businesses are starting from nothing, it’s every day people with a skill or an idea and the courage to have a go. You hear a lot about small businesses failing in the first few years of business. I believe a lot of that is because people are not fully prepared for what they are getting themselves into.
If given the support and guidance they need from the very beginning we would have a lot more successful small businesses, which means more jobs. We had that support from Business Grow and I honestly believe people would benefit from a similar program now.”
Trish “We’ve been looking to rent vacant shops in Redlands but after finding there’s no longer any Council business advisory service we are now looking closer to our Carina shop. We can’t operate without a food license and compliancy is just too expensive to get it wrong. When we’re working so hard in our business, neither of us has the time to sift through relevant and irrelevant internet pages and if we get it wrong we will lose everything.”
Q You obviously weathered the GFC. How has it changed your business?
Warwick: “2005 business was very positive and we could borrow for anything. Now it’s still very difficult to get a loan to purchase equipment. A replacement oven costs about $60,000. This is big hit to our cash flow and inhibits our business growth. We use the local Cleveland Bank of Queensland bank who come to us and help us with everything. We can walk in and talk to them about any business advice and they have been just wonderful for our business. Brett and Julie are like friends, they have come with me to look at sites and looked over figures of existing businesses for sale to help us make the correct decisions.”
Q When cash wasn’t readily available, how else have you financed new or replacement equipment?
Trish:”We have never stayed in a house more than 5 years. We only look for a good buy and make a profit when we sell. This is how we have funded new equipment and growth. There are a lot of costs for a bakery. Pest control is every 6 weeks, the cleaning never ends. We can’t cut costs in these areas and can’t always depend on cash flow.”
Q I see you have an old dog by your feet. How old is she?
Trish “We adopted Mable when she was 14 from Little Legs Pet Rescue. Neither of us had a second thought. We both knew we had to bring Mable home with us for her final years. We knew she was deaf, blind and arthritic and we wanted to ensure her final years were the best they could be.”
Warwick: “while we had budgeted a lot of money for cataract surgery, it really stretched our budget when 4 days after bringing Mable home she was hospitalized and diagnosed with pancreatitis on Christmas Eve. It cost us a fortune but we have never counted the cost. We thought we were going to lose her but she pulled through and she is worth every penny, she has better sight after the cataract surgery.”
Trish “We feel so rewarded and wouldn’t be without her and Billy.
Q Who’s Billy?
Warwick: “He’s sitting on the veranda. He’s another rescue dog. He’s thirteen or fourteen and has mental health issues.”
Flour Monkey Bakery
The Flour Monkey wants to bring back the real taste of food. Real breads, real cakes, and the best meat pies, with nothing artificial. Our cakes are made from scratch using the freshest and finest ingredients.
Delicious meat pies made with 100% lean Australian beef supplied by the local butcher. Their friendly staff take pride in their work and have a sense of ownership over the bakery.
Opening Hours: Capalaba Monday to Friday: 7.30am – 7pm; Saturday: 7.30am – 5pm & Sunday: 7.30am – 5pm
To learn more about The Flour Monkey Bakery see their Facebook Page.
Redlands2030 thanks Trish and Warwick for participating in this interview and sharing their story.
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There are more perspectives on the small businesses of the Redlands in the pipeline. If you want to tell your business story contact: firstname.lastname@example.org