WHEN years of hard work, dedication and passion come together it is inevitably going to be a successful venture - something that Champagne & Gumboots founder Stacey Dadd has certainly accomplished.
For the past eight years Ms Dadd's business has undergone many transitions, starting the journey as a humble lifestyle blog.
While it has grown into a fully-fledged and flourishing business, the process has not been without its fair share of challenges.
However, if anything, these challenges made Ms Dadd more resolute than ever to follow her dream of owning her own business - even though it started as a completely different vision.
Ms Dadd grew up in the country, with her family farming at Cunderdin before moving to Toodyay, which is where she currently resides and calls her home town.
It is the inbetween years that drove a desire to begin planning her own business and it is an inspiring story of what determination, being a mum, facing health issues and combining it all with entrepreneurial skills, can achieve.
"I grew up in Toodyay and I did what many country kids do as soon as they can and that is move far away from the little country town and moved to the big smoke," Ms Dadd said.
"I had a very high-flying career initially, I started out as an assistant store manager for a jewellery company and then after a lot of promotions I ended up as an area manager for Western Australia and my husband Dan had a career as agribusiness manager for NAB."
They built a house and a life in Perth, but the pull of their country upbringing was too strong to ignore.
"Dan grew up in Goomalling and we both realised we actually hated living in the city and had been spending every weekend escaping to the country," Ms Dadd said.
"We had been working so much and had the added stress of trying for a baby for a long time and I basically had to give up my career, because the stress was insane, in order to get pregnant.
"I finally got pregnant and we both knew we didn't want to raise a child in the city - we both had been brought up on farms and we wanted that for our child too."
Toodyay was the perfect location for their new home, having easy access to Perth, being 20 minutes from Dan's family and buying a small 61 hectare (150 acre) property with Ms Dadd's parents and building their dream home.
"We run 60 head of sheep - we get the best of worlds really," Ms Dadd said.
"We both have our careers still and Lachie our son gets to grow up the same way we did in the country."
It is obvious that Ms Dadd's motivation to succeed in everything she tackles in life is what elevated the Champagne & Gumboots business to the position it is in today, however like any business owner will tell you, the journey is not as simple as it looks.
While building her career and life in Perth, she lost herself to her work.
"I was working such insane hours, I literally just lost all my hobbies," Ms Dadd said.
"While I struggled to become pregnant I then also had a difficult pregnancy and was put on bed rest at 18 weeks while we were also designing the new house for the farm.
"I realised really quickly during this time, that I am not the kind of person who can sit around at home and do nothing."
This is how the Champagne & Gumboots lifestyle blog came to be.
What started out as being all things lifestyle morphed into being more of a food blog due to the gluten free recipe conversions Ms Dadd was putting up online.
"I had been put on a gluten free diet due to health issues a few years prior and I was just converting recipes randomly that I used day-to-day into gluten free ones and posting them on the blog," she said.
"I realised pretty quickly that the number one thing people were coming to my website for was the recipes."
It was then Ms Dadd decided it was something that required more attention.
She did some research and looked at what the market was really missing - and that was sweets.
"I had a few recipes so I decided, let's do this," she said.
"So I started sharing these recipes and basically converted to an exclusive food blog and really went down that path."
Ms Dadd believes a lot of her success stems from this early online presence and the initial blog.
"I have a lot of following on the internet because I spent so much time building my blog," she said.
"I am very highly ranked on search engines, as an example my caramel slice recipe out ranks Donna Hay's on Google.
"It is things like that, which kind of made me the authority in Australia on it, because no one else was doing it."
While there were plenty of meal conversions to gluten free around, no one was focused on sweets and cake baking.
This realisation and popularity led to more research into making the sweets, selling them at home and in Perth.
It was at this stage that Ms Dadd became fully aware of just what a niche market she had and life became very busy.
"We did a lot of research and while there were gluten free options available, most of these were not Coeliac safe," she said.
"I spent months getting it all set up and I even designed my own flour blend for baking.
"I started initially at the Kalamunda Night Markets and sold out of cupcakes in 30 minutes - even before the markets had officially opened.
"I very quickly realised after my first few markets that there was a need," she said.
"It wasn't just the sales, but more-so the reactions of people who were so happy to be able to safely buy gluten free and a product that was as good, if not better than regular gluten cakes."
I can attest to the fact that many won't know the cakes, cupcakes and sweets are gluten free as they really are that good.
As you can imagine the business was booming and Ms Dadd was baking all week to attend markets across Perth every weekend, including the extremely popular Upmarket, as well as the Coeliac Australia Gluten Free Expo, which really boosted the exposure.
In the meantime the brand was building as Ms Dadd was also baking cakes for weddings, birthdays and special occasions, with bookings up to six months in advance.
This whole time she was working out of her home kitchen at their Toodyay farm.
"Being rural definitely also had its own set of unique challenges," Ms Dadd said.
"Like running a gen-set to finish baking a wedding cake.
"I worked from home for the first five years, but at one point I had commercial fridges set up in my dining room to accommodate all the cakes.
"That year I almost killed myself (from working too hard) but people wanted the products and I was the only one at the time providing this service."
Ms Dadd said many people did not know the sheer number of people with Coeliac Disease, one in 35 Australians are diagnosed with it - and of the remainder one in 70 has the disease undiagnosed.
For this reason she went through Coeliac Australia accreditation, which is a long and difficult process, but well worth it.
"Trying to get other businesses to recognise the importance of being Coeliac aware is something that I will advocate for," Ms Dadd said.
"It really is so important and worth it."
The natural progression was to look at what direction to steer the thriving business.
"We discussed different options, but always came back to needing a store," Ms Dadd said.
"I had outgrown the home kitchen and we did toy with the idea of building again, it cost the same as setting up in an established store space."
This is when perhaps the most emotional hurdle for her business came about.
At first Ms Dadd had wanted to set up her Champagne & Gumboots Bakery & Café locally.
The store would have created jobs in the community and brought in business to the town, considering the amount of followers the website, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages had amassed.
It appeared not everyone shared her enthusiasm as she was unable to get the required approvals.
"I had my heart set on my hometown, but just couldn't make it work," Ms Dadd said.
"But I knew I wanted to open a store so I moved my search to Perth.
"Perth property owners were more welcoming and then we found this property in the Swan Valley and it had the space we needed and the location was good in terms of travel from the farm."
Unfortunately as all of this was finally coming to fruition, the COVID-19 pandemic was in full flight.
"It was a tough time for all businesses during lockdown," Ms Dadd said.
"For us regionally, we were unable to come to Perth.
"We had to refund thousands of dollars of wedding cakes because of cancellations and regional lockdowns."
Managing to pull through with the assistance for JobKeeper payments, Champagne & Gumboots survived and from the first blog back in 2016, Ms Dadd finally opened her Herne Hill bakery and café in January this year, again in the midst of a lockdown.
Although there has been turmoil and a rollercoaster of ups and downs during the set-up process, she said it has well and truly been worth it.
"It felt like anything that could go wrong did or would at some point," Ms Dadd said.
"But to be finally here with a commercial kitchen and the ability to hire another baker and staff is so fulfilling.
"I don't think it really has fully hit me yet.
"I am in the kitchen most of the time, so I don't have as much interaction with customers as I used to at the markets, but when I do get the time it is great to speak to people and hear how happy they are to have safe, gluten-free treats.
"One of our most popular treats is our Devonshire teas - people can't believe they are gluten free."
The issues created by the pandemic are multiplied for Ms Dadd as her gluten-free accreditation does not allow any recipe changes if she is unable to source regular products.
Having the commercial space has allowed her to plan the business's future and it is definitely bright for all her devoted followers and customers.
"At the moment I am booking wedding cakes for April 2023 and 2024," Ms Dadd said.
"With a new baker coming on board, it is allowing us to look at expanding our reach.
"We are looking at the possibility of a second store down south, this is because of the sheer volume of customers we have for weddings and events in that region."
"I eventually would love to go national.
"We have a product that people not only want but need gluten free - for so many it is not a lifestyle choice - it is a necessity and they should be able to access it easily everyday."
Ms Dadd's enthusiasm and passion for what she does is infectious and the atmosphere of her store is enticing, making you realise what knowledge and drive can achieve.
Her mind is always working and while building her own empire may be tiring and at times stressful, she certainly has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.
"I love photography and food photography, and I want to publish my own cookbook next," Ms Dadd said.
"In the meantime I will continue to develop my recipes."
Fate comes from the Latin word fatum, something that's your fate is said to be a done deal, not open to revision.
While Champagne & Gumboots has undergone a few revisions, it has indeed been fate for owner Ms Dadd.
Even if it isn't how it was first envisaged, it has become an empire for her and an absolute gem for those seeking sweet treats.
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