Carolyn Creswell, Founder of Carman’s Fine Foods recently made it as the youngest entrant on BRW’s inaugural women’s rich list with a fortune of $55 million plus her product is one of five selected by the Australian government to be stocked in Sainsbury’s stores across Britain.
At just 18 years of age, she put in an offer to buy out a family run muesli-making business. A lifelong entrepreneur with a business spanning over 20 years, Carolyn believes passionately in taking calculated risks. With Carman’s Fine Foods available in 32 countries and growing, she talks to Leaders in Heels about her journey, then and now.
1. What were your goals at 18 when you first bought out your employers?
It was mainly to save my job and being an opportunist at the time.
2. What made you decide to go into that particular industry?
That was just one of my jobs. I had lots of jobs at the time including working at Coles, as an English tutor, I also babysat every Saturday night to earn money.
3. What are your goals now 20 years later?
We are looking at developing a sub-brand called Yummos; a children’s lunchbox product. I am also filming a TV show called ‘Recipe to Riches’ which will air on Channel 10 in July 2013.
4. Carman’s Fine Foods is available in 32 countries so far. What made you decide to expand into international markets?
It was the thrill of having the product available overseas and the experiences associated with this strategy. It started with one country at a time and has grown since.
5. Did you experience any challenges when expanding internationally?
Nothing in particular. In fact it’s been wonderful to travel the world and learn about other cultures and overall it’s been a rewarding journey.
6. In your opinion, what are the qualities that make up a successful entrepreneur?
The ability of an entrepreneur to take a calculated risk is very important.
7. The best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be honest. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, always try and tell the truth.
8. Challenges you overcame while balancing your business with family?
Being in the moment with whatever I’m doing leads to much better work-life balance and just working smarter and not harder. Personally, I prefer doing things via email or phone instead of face-to-face; I find it helps me to control my time much better.
9. Any particular reason you chose the name Carman’s?
It’s actually the first three letters of my name and the first three letters of my business partner’s name.
10. What are your 3 top tips for young women in business?
a. Love what you do! Your passion, drive and enthusiasm will determine your business’ success.
b. Success is doing the best you can with what you have got. Attitude is everything. If you always think the glass is half full, you will find it rubs off on those around you and leads to a happier and healthier life.
c. ‘Drive it like you stole it’ – Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts, dive into the deep end and go for it!
Getting to know Carolyn…
1. What are you reading presently?
I’ve just finished reading Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth. He’s one of my favourite authors and another one I’m about to start reading is The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done.
2. Do you have a favourite saying or cliché?
It is what it is. Sometimes we spend a lot of time trying to change something when instead we need to work around the circumstances. Don’t pour your energy into changing something when it’s not changeable.
3. What is the one word you’d use to describe yourself?
Passionate. Organised. Enthusiastic. Very much optimistic!