lady startup

Bringing back the dinner party: Sharnee Beard will make a chef out of any home cook.

Western Australian mum-of-three Sharnee Beard had worked in agriculture for years, but her passion was always food.

So that’s why she started her own catering business in 2007. Now, a decade on she’s launched a second business, a membership-based recipe provider Table and Taste. Because Sharnee knows Australians really want to cook for themselves.

Here Sharnee tells Mamamia all about everything she’s learned being her own boss…

Tell us about Table and Taste… What is it?

Table and Taste is a new concept business, offering cooking classes around Western Australia as well as membership to the most exciting new type of social club, Table & Taste Club.

Table & Taste Club provides the excuse to have friends over, try new recipes paired with wine, all the while having the confidence to cook a three-course menu while being guided every step of the way.

The way it works is together groups of friends can join as a club by buying a 2019 membership for $120 for up to 12 members. Then each month they receive new recipes for a starter, main and dessert, which are perfectly matched with boutique wines. Members receive instructions on how to purchase the wine and given exclusive offers and discounts from each of the monthly featured wineries.

Membership also includes access to the members-only Facebook group with cooking demonstrations, menu introductions and the chance to connect with other clubs around Australia. Table & Taste Club makes it even easier to host beautiful, unique social events at home. The best part is that anyone in Australia can join the club and create delicious menus at home.

Table & Taste
Image: Table & Taste.

What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?

I have a science degree, worked as an agronomist, then ran a catering and cooking classes business for ten years whilst having my three children. My new business fits in perfectly with my stage of life and many other women like me who want to bring back their social life after having babies. I essentially created the club that I want in my life!

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Catering for ten years has given me the career experience to know how to put together fabulous menus to suit a fantastic social gathering, with a relaxed Aussie style.

Although I have a science degree and worked in agriculture for many years, it has made me even more passionate about respecting beautiful ingredients, grown as much as possible by our local farmers. My passion in cooking is less about being precise and more about being guided by exceptional taste.

Understanding a little behind the science of cooking helps me know when a recipe can be simplified and know when to cut out unnecessary steps to achieve the same result.

What made you want to start your own business?

I wanted to work towards something I am truly passionate about and be in control of how much I earn and when I work. I love cooking for friends and more importantly eating fab food but access to good restaurants is limited where I live. I came up with a business that can make a chef out of any home cook and help them create incredible food and wine experiences at home for their friends.

How did you come up with the name?

With the help of my three sisters and husband, who I always go to for advice.

What's the single best piece of advice you got?

I've got three! Firstly, no matter what size your business is, treat it like it is worth a million dollars. This means business planning and detailed consideration of all facets of the business.

Secondly and equally as important is to know your worth and charge for it. The main thing that sets a business apart from a being a hobby is that you are paid for it. If you give away your time, the passion you once had for your business can quickly become resentment.

Thirdly, learning how to automate your systems through MailChimp, which I learned in the Lady Startup course has allowed me to run a club that is streamlined and consistent in the process for my customers.

What's the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?

Make sure you set some money aside for the business and start to build a network.

Also, create a business model that is less about yourself and more about a concept that anyone can replicate, so that you have a business that can be run even in your absence. It would allow me to step away from the business at times and know that it would still be run profitably and in line with the business plan.

At Mamamia, we have an expression "flearning" - failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started your business?

Knowing when to be flexible, quickly move on from failures, accept them and change tactics. My new business hasn't been around long enough for their to be any major flearnings but with my previous business some of the biggest flearnings were in customer service and making sure that customer expectations were clear and that the customer felt like they were being met.

What do you do when you're feeling like you're in a hole emotionally (or financially)?

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I consult my tribe of sisters and let them give me a refreshing perspective of my business. I bounce ideas off them and brainstorm fresh ideas or hone old ones. Or I get back to doing the thing that I was passionate about and that's cooking. I try a new recipe and share it with my customers.

How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed?

One to six hours a day whilst I am planning and establishing my business.

What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?

I knew it was going to be hard work, I wasn't prepared for how all-encompassing it is though. I love my business and live and breathe it. Making money drives me and makes me even more passionate about cooking and delivering what the customer wants.

Tell us about your proudest moment.

When my customers go out of their way to contact me to tell me how much my business helped them. I recently had a lady message me to say that she made the January menu for her family, who are the meat and three veg kind of a family. She said they had never even tried pork belly before and she had never cooked it. With the help of the Table & Taste Club, she was able to cook the gorgeous Palm Sugar Pork Belly dish beautifully and even better, her family haven't stopped raving about it. It makes me proud that my business is making a difference in peoples lives.

What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?

Figure out what you absolutely love! Identify if there are enough people out there who love what you love and see if there are any problems people are having with it. Then figure out if you can provide a fabulous solution for them.

Interested in becoming a Lady Startup yourself or know someone ready to chase their own business dreams? You’re invited to join us! Enrolments open from 21 January 2019. Find out all about The Lady Startup Activation Plan here.

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