My name is Maryann Tsai and I was born in Taiwan and migrated to Perth when I was ten. I’m a qualified engineer and entered the corporate world as an account manager before having my son, who had various challenges, so I remained his primary carer until he began kindergarten. I’ve always been interested in baking and am a massive foodie who had big dreams of owning a bakery.
As a self-taught baker without any prior business experience, I set out to find a mentor via the Global Sisters network. I completed their ‘Sister School’ business education program. After completing the program, I provided baking batch samples to the local parents at my son’s school at pick-up time. Local interest in my products whilst I created my business in the background. I received honest feedback, which helped me develop my initial offers. This strategy worked well as free market research and built my confidence.
When did you start your business?
Missy M Sweets launched in mid-2020 and is a homemade, small-batch, preservative-free bakery that offers decadent cookies and brownies and customised dessert gift boxes with Asian-inspired flavours for locals in Perth. We ship our chunky cookie box and fudgy brownie box nationally. We are stocked in local cafes, businesses, and IGA and have an online store.
We specialise in:
- Dessert, corporate and birthday dessert boxes
- Speciality cookies and bars (i.e., giant cookie cakes, wholesome cookies, figs & dates bars, breakfast cookies and florentines)
- Fudgy brownies
- Chunky cookies
- Gift vouchers
I have remained a Solopreneur, working from my home kitchen and occasionally renting a commercial kitchen. I developed the ‘Baking Business 101’ program, with the pilot program currently in progress.
I have also recently launched a social enterprise Reach Her this September to suport and empower women from diverse backgrounds to improve their confidence, mental and physical wellbeing and help create a sense of belonging by helping them gain an entry into employment from education and training.
What was the inspiration behind starting this business?
I’m privileged to have been raised in a family of generational entrepreneurs, from my grandparents and parents before me, who has remained a significant influence.
Whilst I grew up with a high cultural expectation to become a highly skilled white-collar professional, I attended University to study Engineering (as expected). Once I completed my degree, I knew deep inside that it wasn’t my purpose and would leave me unfulfilled. After losing my father, I witnessed my mother struggle without any financial security of her own. I was determined to avoid the same predicament and find a way to create opportunities for marginalised women. I had much time to consider how I wanted my future to look and realised baking has always been my dream and my happy place, so if I combined the two, that would be incredibly rewarding.
What are you most excited about in your business?
The ability to create a product from scratch and to sell it to the public. As a creative, I’m constantly looking for ways to innovate and create new baked products and to bring it to the market.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?
The greatest challenge has been a culmination of financial uncertainty within the food industry compounded by the impacts of the pandemic. These include ongoing supply chain disruptions, shipping delays, price increases of key ingredients and packaging materials, customer spending during lockdowns and border closures for Western Australia.
I dug deep, ordered what I could, and used any profit to reinvest into the business by renting refrigerated storage at a local café. Anything that didn’t require refrigeration got stored in cupboards in my home.
Sometimes it felt like it was too much and not worth continuing, running at a loss. I stayed true to my mission to build a social enterprise, which kept me future-focused, working through the night to develop my training program and push ahead. I’ve since trained a widowed woman in her 60s with very limited English for the past ten months, beta testing the program.
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?
Keep believing in yourself, your mission, and your vision; even when there are no sales or customers – they will come. Be kind to yourself on your journey as no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, and that’s how we grow. If you happen to make one, be accountable and use it as a lesson, there’s no need to hide it.
I draw much inspiration from entrepreneurs such as Marie Forleo, who taught me that success is not an overnight journey. It requires sacrifice and determination – so make sure you surround yourself with women who are further along than you so you can be inspired. Entrepreneurship can be isolating, so surround yourself with like-minded people to reduce loneliness and stress and continue growing.
Why did you enter the AusMumpreneur Awards?
AusMumpreneur is such a highly regarded platform and a great community, so I challenged myself to enter the awards, to be heard by an incredible panel of judges, and to connect with likeminded Ausmumpreneurs. The award application also allowed me to reflect upon my business and how far I have come along in my business journey.
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards?
The connection and opportunity offered by AusMumpreneur. I was offered the opportunity to co-author a business book – Ignite that has been a major highlight this year. I have also connected with some amazing AusMumpreneurs as well.
What surprised you most about the awards?
Being a finalist for this AusMumpreneur award is a blessing and a gift. It has allowed me to reflect on my business journey. I was very surprised that my business was awarded silver place for Multicultural Business excellence in WA this year. I’m humbled and grateful for this recognition.
How did the awards help you in your business?
I was able to connect with other likeminded AusMumpreneurs through the award and was given the opportunity to co-author the business book – ignite this year. I’m very excited and grateful for this opportunity.
What advice would you give to other mums thinking about entering the awards?
Just enter it, you’ve got nothing to lose – in fact you will gain a lot from entering the award because it will allow you to reflect upon your business journey and celebrate your success.
What has been the best thing about starting your own business?
The ability to set my own work hours. I’m able to still be present for my son – do all the school drop offs and pickups, be present at his school activities and still be able to do what I love – managing Missy M Sweets and Reach Her. I have learnt so much from running my own businesses and have developed lots of great skills at the same time.
What’s happening next in your business?
I’m currently looking for an operations manager for Missy M Sweets and next year we are planning to move into a commercial kitchen permanently to scale our operations. I’m also in the process of running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for Reach Her and recruiting industry leaders, coaches and mentors to join us to run our workshops and programs.
What are your big plans for the future?
My goal and mission are to build the capacity, skills, and confidence of women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to enter entrepreneurship through baking. I provide equitable and accessible training programs at no cost to women with no business or baking experience and guide them towards financial independence.
To achieve this, I have enrolled in the Certificate IV Training and Assessment to formally assess future trainees and provide them with certifications after their training. Additionally, I have big plans to move out of my home kitchen and into a commercial kitchen full-time, bringing in staff to allow me to scale the business further.
Once I conquer the Perth market with my business, I aim to secure national stockists and become a household name. The more visibility our brand receives, the more significant the difference the social enterprise business can make for marginalised women. I’m also excited to offer our free workshops and programs to marginalised women through Reach Her this year so that more women will be able to gain an entry into employment through education and training.
What is your website and/or social media links (eg. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram)
Reach Her – https://reach-her.com/