We sat down with Bill and Lyn Rose, owners of the Old Fernvale Bakery, to discuss earning a crust, having a lot on your plate and the long hard road to making dough.
Driving down the Brisbane Valley Highway, it’s hard to imagine Fernvale without the Old Fernvale Bakery. It would be like a France without an Eiffel Tower, or an Italy without a Rome. For many, owning a successful and iconic business like the Old Fernvale Bakery is just pie in the sky, but not for Bill and Lyn Rose who are a living, breathing testament to the saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. It’s taken countless hours of late nights, clever marketing, a tonne of dough and good old fashioned hard yakka to get where they are today. For 48 years, the Old Fernvale Bakery has been a labour of love for Bill and Lyn and they’ve well and truly earned their crust. I sat down with the dynamic duo to learn their recipe to success.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO OPEN THE OLD FERNVALE BAKERY?
When we first came to Fernvale, it wasn’t the town it is today. There was just a post office, one pub, a little general store, a guy who sold food out the side of this caravan and the shoulders of the road were still dirt. There was a real need for somewhere where people could buy a fresh loaf of bread and somewhere to grab a fresh bite to eat. We really needed something that would put Fernvale on the map, thus the Old Fernvale Bakery was born.
WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET?
We have identified that our market are tourists, particularly those from the Brisbane and Ipswich areas. Unfortunately, in the currently economic climate, we could not survive on local business alone so have had to target outside the region to get business.
DO YOU ADVERTISE?
Yes, most definitely. We pay for print advertising in the Gatton Star and the QT, in particular for editorials. We also pay for radio advertising and over the years have built a strong relationship with River 94.9 FM.
HOW DO YOU MARKET YOUR PRODUCT?
I like to have a finger in a lot of pies when it comes to marketing. We have an online presence with our website, a social media presence with our Facebook page, a radio presence with River 94.9 FM, and a presence in the print media world with the likes of Gatton Star, the QT and other news publications. When it comes to marketing you’ve got to know your product, know your target audience and think outside of the box. We’ve just recently bought a beautiful old 1911 T Model Ford and had it professionally painted and branded with the “Old Fernvale Bakery” written on it. It’s quite a talking point and has already sparked the interest of local media outlets. It’s just another way of getting people’s attention and focussing on our brand whilst celebrating the past. It’s not your usual way of marketing, but our T Model Ford certainly turns heads!
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES AS BUSINESS OWNERS?
When it comes to operating a business, there are always going to be challenges, and you can either roll over and die or just keep fighting, and that’s what we’ve done. It’s been 48 years of pushing, fighting and hard yakka to get the Old Fernvale Bakery where it is today. Many people wouldn’t realise this, but when we first started, Lyn would be out the back of the bakery until the wee hours of the morning, baking bread and slaving away, while I was up the road doing the same at our original business. There were years of long hours and sacrifice and we’ve poured our hearts and souls into this bakery, which is why it’s so special to us.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE CHALLENGES AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM?
- Overhead costs are astronomical, in particularly power prices are through the roof at the moment. The only way through, is to just keep fighting and the key is marketing. You’ve got to have confidence in your product and market the hell out it. I’d do anything to get the word out there for my business.
- These overheads don’t just affect us as business owners, but the local community, which then in turn affects our business. It’s like a vicious circle. This high cost of living has affected the socio economic climate which means many people in our region don’t have the money to pay for luxuries like a nice meal out at a cafe or a fancy cake to take home for after tea. This is why we’ve had to market to the tourist market, because the local market just can’t supply us with enough business to keep afloat.
- Competition in the local market place is always going to be a challenge. People will come up with new products and start new businesses, whether there’s enough business to go around or not. The key is to make sure your business is the best it can be. Maintain the quality of your product and market it like hell and that’s the only way to beat competition.
WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT WOULD SURPRISE OTHERS ABOUT YOU?
Some may find this hard to believe, but I’m actually an introvert by nature. Although, I’ve made a name for myself as someone who can be outspoken, it’s a skill I’ve had to work on all my life. My real nature is actually quite quiet and I’d sooner be surrounded by my cows than surrounded by people. When I’m not being “Bill Rose of the Old Fernvale Bakery”, I’m just a quiet man, who likes to sit peacefully on my deck overlooking my property and watching my beautiful Charolaises cows go about their business.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
I come from humble beginnings and grew up in a poor family. When I was young, I decided I wanted more and I wanted better for my life and for my family, so wrote my own advice. My advice is to set yourself goals and work like hell until you achieve them. My mother and father were salt of the earth people and they worked hard their whole lives and that stood me in good stead and inspired my desire to succeed in life.
TELL US ABOUT THE STAFF AT THE OLD FERNVALE BAKERY?
We have some truly amazing staff and bakers that are employed at the bakery. You can’t have a good bakery without good bakers, so we invest a lot of time and money in staff development. We encourage our younger staff to set goals and work towards them and offer incentives along the way. We encourage our staff to enter nationally recognised baking competitions which gives them confidence and expands their horizons. We also hire in well renowned bakers from all over the world to come and bake with our staff. I believe that being a baker is a fantastic career path, if you can bake, you can work anywhere in the world. Baking can be so uplifting and we encourage our staff to be the best they can be and assist them as best we can on their journeys.
IS NETWORKING AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE BAKING INDUSTRY?
Networking is crucial in any industry. Over the years I have acted as the Queensland president of the Bakers Association of Australia and was one of the founders of the “Excellence in Baking” competitions as well as being involved in a number of other initiatives in the baking industry.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER, LESS EXPERIENCED SELF?
Be inspired everyday to be the best that you can be and do the best that you can do and you can’t go wrong.