This month marks a big milestone for The Cheesemaking Workshop: our nine-year anniversary! We’ve gone from running cheerful cheesemaking classes in a living room and home kitchen to winning business awards and launching our own branded line of food products (yes, really!). Here’s Lyndall to tell how it all began, and why we love doing what we do so much.
“We’ve come a long way from when we first started, which was me teaching people in the kitchen in my own house at Emerald Beach. We didn’t even have a tarred driveway, people would have to walk down the dirt driveway around potholes. It was very rustic and ad lib.
“When I first started teaching, I didn’t even have a website. I didn’t know anything about Facebook. I had little adverts in the newspaper and marketed through word of mouth – mainly people asking me to teach them.”
It all started with the Soft Cheese Workshop
“I wanted to offer the full day – six cheeses in six hours, jam-pack the variety in and get as many as people as possible to realise that “wow – cheesemaking’s not hard, I can do this in my own kitchen”.
“Then 12 months in, Wayne my husband built me a purpose-built kitchen, because it was getting impractical to host the workshops inside the house. And we outgrew the purpose-built one within 12 months!
“We’d have eight people in it at a time, but because we had a big back deck, sometimes we’d get groups of 12 or 20 people, so we would then move the kitchen out onto the back deck and have an open-air cheesemaking workshop. You’d be looking over the dam, kangaroos and ducks, and we’d be out there making cheese.
“We ran two to three workshops a week, but I was also away a lot, travelling to remote areas to teach as far north as Hervey Bay. People would hear about the classes on Facebook, and radio and television interviews. It was so unique when we first started and people were starved for things, especially out west. Then I did teaching projects for Landcare as part of a mental health initiative for remote communities.”
The tipping point: growth and moving to the Big Banana site
“The reason we’re now so big is actually Mel! I’d been away for three months teaching and I reached the point where I just wanted to stop. That’s where Mel came in.”
“I was in a completely different headspace: I really wanted to expand. I wasn’t happy with keeping it a small home-based business, I wanted something bigger” says Mel.
Lyndall says: “Mel’s dream had always been to have the deli and to have the teaching kitchens out the back. And she said to me that ‘if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough’. And that was it!
“We stumbled on this vacant location at the Big Banana in late 2015 our way to do Tastings On The Hastings, and I happened to pull in here and saw the “For Lease” sign. We started renovations within weeks. Everything fell into place to make it happen.
“Then the rollercoaster started when we moved into this place. Ever since then it’s just been massive.”
As well as our beautiful deli which offers the biggest variety of cheeses between Sydney and Brisbane, we now teach nine kinds of workshops including pasta and breadmaking, we sell 10 types of branded cheesemaking kits, and last year we won four Sunny’s Business Awards. In the next six months, the second edition of The Cheesemaking Workshop book is being released internationally. It’s going to be a huge year!
Reflecting on the nine years of business, Lyndall says: “It’s never been a case of sitting on your laurels, as soon as you think you’ve hit a bit of a plateau, boom – you’re off again, new ideas and new goals or new things to offer.”
“It’s all about having passion. If you don’t have that passion for what you’re doing, it’s not going to happen – passion about home-grown and home-made. Passion about organic and sustainable. Passionate about the environment. And about food and the memories it evokes in people.”
Mel says: “I had one of the deli staff say to me the other day: “You just look so excited by everything, when it comes in.” And I really am – I never get tired of it, or of learning each story or bit of history behind each cheese.”
And last of all…
“The thing that’s most important to us is to thank everybody,” says Lyndall. “We’ve got so many people who started coming to our workshops way back when, and they still come in and see us. We think about how many friends we’ve made out of it – from the workshops and from the Cheese Club. Everywhere we turn there are more wonderful people who are really the ones who make The Cheesemaking Workshop what it is today.”