Entrepreneur, Emily McWaters, started her first business at the age of 22, and now at 31, is the CEO and founder of The Hamper Emporium, one of Australia’s leading corporate and personal hamper providers. Quick to become one of the major players in the hamper market, The Hamper Emporium provides services to some of Australia’s top blue-chip companies, including QANTAS, AMP and Westpac.
With a string of successful companies under her belt at only 31, Emily passes on her top 5 tips for young people wanting to start a business.
Top 5 Tips for Young People Starting a Business
Don’t place limitations on yourself
Buying a café at 22 was a massive undertaking and definitely not something most people my age did. It’s important to challenge yourself and not make decisions based on what you “think” you should be doing. Don’t be daunted by your goals, no matter how big.
Be involved with your business
While it’s important to spend time working on the business, it’s still important to work in the business. Being so hands on with The Hamper Emporium in the beginning really helped me to understand what my customers wanted, what was working and what wasn’t. Even today, I still source every item for my hampers and can answer any questions anyone has about my products. Particularly if you’re a young woman running her own company, you definitely face a lot of assumptions that you don’t know what you are doing. Understanding your business from the bottom up counteracts any misconceptions about your knowledge or abilities.
Know who your customer is
Corporate clients make up a large portion of the business, so it’s important to identify what they value and find unique way to incorporate that into our services and products. I have a dedicated tasting room on site for my corporate clients, enabling them to pick exactly what they want to put in their gift hampers. Often it will be the CEO themselves that come in to choose what goes into the hampers, so never underestimate the value of personalised service and the impact it can have.
Explore your options
There is no one size fits all business model, so really research your options when it comes to financing your business. Remember that self-funding your business can sometimes be a better option than relying on other forms of investments. I turned down a 7 figure offer from a Venture Capitalist as they wanted a 50% equity stake in both of my companies (The Hamper Emporium and Kingston Foods). Although it was a difficult decision to make, ultimately self-funding the business was the right call.
Plan ahead for the tough times
The decision to self-fund the business meant planning was crucial to success. You can have a strong business and not have any money in the bank, so during the rough times we focused heavily on our cash flow and involved all of the staff in planning how to overcome that. 65% of revenue is made during the Christmas period, so it takes a lot of forward planning to manage that.
The brainchild of Western Sydney resident, Emily McWaters, TheHamperEmporium.com.au was created after noticing a genuine need for hampers with great quality products at a reasonable price. Emily’s career in food started when she was only 22 after buying a small run down café in Sydney with her life savings, soon after she quit university. Within 12 months, Emily was able to turn around the run down, Sydney cafe and make a tidy 6 figure profit.
With her love of gourmet foods and the food industry, Emily decided to set up the successful wholesale food company, Kingston Foods Australia, where she sourced hard to find national and international delectable food items. Initially employing only one staff member, Emily expanded the business to employ 10 staff and sales reps by the time she sold it for a large 7 figure sum in early 2014. During her management of the company, Kingston Foods distributed to Coles and Woolworths and imported the largest gluten free brands Glutino and Udi’s direct from the USA to Australia.
After noticing a gap in the hamper market, Emily started The Hamper Emporium in 2010 by creating hampers packed with fine gourmet treats to cater to every budget and selling them from a trestle table at the Met Centre in Wynyard. With her boutique hampers quickly being snapped up on a daily basis, The Hamper Emporium grew to now become one of Australia’s leading corporate and personal hamper providers, sending out tens of thousands of quality made hampers every year.
Through partnerships with the most respected independent gourmet food importers and wholesalers as well as directly importing products themselves, The Hamper Emporium provides consumers and corporate clients with unique and branded high-quality food products that can’t be found at your local grocery store or deli.
Emily still sources all the items in each of her mouth-watering hampers personally, and has recently moved to even larger premises in Regent Park spanning over 1100 square metres.
McWaters attributes her success in the business world to her being driven and hard working – “Being passionate about what you do combined with a drive for success has enabled me to establish and sell a series of successful companies. I am fortunate because I love what I do, which translates into the enthusiasm I have for my work and when dealing with suppliers, employees and my corporate customers. I’m also mindful that the essence of a successful business is providing consumers great value with what they want, when they want it.”