Meet Australian icon and proud small business owner Maggie Beer

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Meet Australian icon and proud small business owner Maggie Beer

Maggie Beer is a celebrity chef, Senior Australian of the Year and also a successful small businesswoman.

Her business, Maggie Beer Products, based in South Australia’s Barossa Valley region, turns over around $20 million a year and employs 100 staff.

Beer came under fire from the ACCC earlier this year for misleading product labels on Maggie Beer Products, but now she is focused on her business and philanthropy work.

Food companies are very hard companies to run.

It’s a large small business. It has all the problems of a small, medium and a large business as you’re always trying to do better.

In every business there are things outside of your control that are really difficult to manage but you always try to do better

The business has grown at 20% over the last 10 years, but this year was tighter and it only grew by about 12%. I’m one of these terrible people who don’t get involved in facts and figures – I like the ideas.

Taking on a chief executive hasn’t changed my role yet. [Beer recently appointed an external chief executive to Maggie Beer Products.]

I will never let the ideas or the quality go. I am very involved and always will be, I just don’t want to do it every day. I want to be free enough to do other things as well.

Music is my big thing to unwind. I have a choir and we sing. We have a place by the sea we run away to when we can. I feed my family and friends and read a tremendous amount.

I would like to aim for 50/50 but I’m a workaholic.

You have to seek balance in your life. You need to recharge your batteries as, if you are an entrepreneur, you are driven.

To be an entrepreneur you have to have something unique, have a lateral mind, be persistent and have an optimistic nature.

I started to work on the issue of food and aged care when I was made Senior Australian of the Year. My research led me to knowing that I needed to get involved, but it took some years to decide how I was going to do that.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they find a way. Everyone gains so much from giving, it’s often a matter of timing, the right time, the right place, the right idea.

I didn’t set out as a person to become a philanthropist; I found a cause that needed something.

[Entrepreneurs] are there because they have an innovative idea to start with in the main, they often have the wherewithal to succeed. It takes exactly the same components to be successful as an entrepreneur as it does to pull off any idea in philanthropy.

They need that different way of thinking that led them to be successful as an entrepreneur. It is the same base recipe.

Interestingly, we didn’t share with our staff things that we were doing [in terms of philanthropy] for a long, long time, but it has been pointed out to me that our staff want to know because they are proud of the things we are doing with the community.

This journey that I’m on to try and change the culture and food in aged care is for the rest of my life.

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Cara Waters is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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