Everyone has to start somewhere. As Queensland’s Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business, I started at Chicken Hut on Station Road in the Logan suburb of Woodridge nearly 30 years ago.
I worked at the back of the shop, putting frozen chickens in the roaster, placing pineapple fritters in the deep-fryer wire basket and adding extra chicken salt to the chips (my apologies to the healthcare professionals of south Brisbane).
How did I get the job? Through my social network before The Social Network. A girlfriend at school worked at Chicken Hut and knew they needed an extra pair of hands. After school, I walked to Chicken Hut and met Tony, the owner, who offered me the job on the spot.
I worked after school and on weekends. Sometimes I would wear the calico apron with blue trim over my school uniform. On the weekends, I was dressed in jeans and covered shoes to protect my feet from hot splashes from the deep fryer.
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I learnt so much from that job: the importance of customer service and anticipating the needs of your customers. I learnt to be self-sufficient and think on my feet. Sometimes there was just me in the kitchen. Tony would leave the shop while he ran errands and I would switch the radio from country and western to pop hits on B105.
At the time my parents were doing it tough. They had four kids at home and rent to pay. After my shift at Chicken Hut, I would hand mum my after-school wages in a crinkled envelope (the 2016 version of me is most likely using a mobile banking app to transfer board to her parents). Most importantly, that part-time job kept me in high school and allowed me to pursue a tertiary education.
I owe (nearly) everything to Chicken Hut.
I acutely know the value of small business to Queenslanders because I’ve felt it in my own life. Today, there are 406,000 small businesses in my home state. In my role as Queensland’s Minister for Small Business, I’ve met many small business owners and the families and communities around them.
I’m hyper aware of how small business has changed from when I worked at Chicken Hut. In 1983, we would write the orders on butcher’s paper in the kitchen, juggling priorities in our head. Now many Logan businesses use a dynamic ordering system on an iPad, connected to their inventory. Customers find them via Google Maps and then check in on Swarm and review takeaways with a pizza emoji.
The Palaszczuk Government wants to make sure we give Queensland small businesses everything they need for a new connected world. We’re developing our Advancing Small Business Queensland Strategy 2016-2020. The Strategy pushes stronger advocacy for small business and makes it easier for small business through simplified and coordinated service delivery. The Advancing Small Business Queensland Strategy aligns with the Palaszczuk Government’s Advance Queensland agenda prioritising innovation and embracing the digital economy.
The thing that hasn’t changed in small business is the people. Whenever I’m in a takeaway, coffee shop or any small business that hires young people, I always think about the next generation of leaders behind the counter. They’re there. You just have to ask for extra chicken salt and say hi.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.