leadership

“She’s the delight and I’m the baker”: Roger and Lesley Gillespie’s entrepreneurial love story

Cara Waters /

Roger and Lesley Gillespie, the founders of Bakers Delight were honoured as “champions of entrepreneurship” at the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Southern Region awards ceremony in Melbourne last night.

It’s been a big week for the couple who became grandparents for the first time on Wednesday.

Lesley Gillespie told the audience “there wasn’t a grand plan to have a Bakers Delight in every shopping centre in Australia… but we’re almost there.”

Bakers Delight now has over 700 bakeries across Australia, New Zealand and Canada and the couple own and manage about 30 bakeries.

“We didn’t start out to be what we are now, we started out to make a bakery and provide a living for our family,” Roger Gillespie says. “We weren’t entrepreneurs, we just started a business.”

Roger Gillespie attributes the secrets of Bakers Delight’s success to the strong partnership between him and Lesley.

“She’s the delight and I’m the baker,” he says.

He jokingly puts their successful marriage and business down to Microsoft’s Outlook system, admitting the pair sometimes sit across the kitchen table scheduling appointments with each other.

Speaking to SmartCompany Roger Gillespie says the couple turned down an offer to buy Bakers Delight earlier this year because of their family.

“Our children want to stay in the business, so we said that’s fine we will keep going,” he says.

Gillespie says a succession plan is of the “utmost importance” for family businesses like Bakers Delight.

“You have to have security for the franchisees and the whole network and everyone involved so it’s very important to have a clear succession plan and do it early in the transition period rather than wait till the last minute and have a sloppy changeover,” he says.

In the future, Bakers Delight plans to open “a lot more stores” in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

“We will keep doing what we are doing,” Gillespie says.

Gillespie isn’t ruling out a return to the United States for the bakery.

“That’s a strong possibility. We’ve been there twice but may go back for a third time,” he says.

Other winners at last night’s awards were Sam Chandler, of Nitro Software who won emerging entrepreneur, Michael O’Keeffe of Aesop who won industry entrepreneur, Joe Davenport and Owen Kerr of Pepperstone who won services entrepreneur, and Chris Dance and Matt Doran of PaperCut Software International who won technology entrepreneur.

Tim Conolan won the social entrepreneur category for founding charity TLC for kids.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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