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From teacher to foodie. How Belinda is cooking up a new hub of culinary delights at Maryborough

5 minute read

Belinda had a dream for her local community. It was opening a place in Maryborough where people could meet, eat, drink, and talk. Somewhere locals would naturally gravitate to.

After 20 years of working as a teacher, she suffered from burnout, a leading cause of attrition in the education profession.

At 50 years of age, Belinda decided it was time for a change.

“I knew I couldn’t keep teaching, it was too much, I couldn’t commit the way you needed to. The first time I left teaching was for four years and I cleaned professionally as an interim job to pay the bills.

“It wasn’t the best experience for me, and I decided to quit and go back into teaching – but I went back for the wrong reasons. I thought I could make it work, but it just didn’t, and it was then that I knew I needed a real change. A life change.”

After leaving her cleaning job, Belinda came to PeoplePlus as a job seeker in 2017. While looking for work in hospitality, she decided that she wanted to take a leap of faith and go into business on her own.

“I love food, wine, and people. I’m passionate about all three of those things.  But at 48, who was going to hire me? I hadn’t worked in hospitality since I was 18 and serving at Taco Bill.

“I really didn’t want to work for anyone else - I needed to go and make my dream a reality,” she said.

It was then that Belinda decided to take action on her dream to open a continental-style delicatessen in Maryborough, country Victoria.

Belinda met with her Case Manager Tara to discuss her options.

“The first thing I noticed about Belinda was her vibrant personality. She was such an outgoing and keen job seeker. She was a big burst of energy and had the absolute passion for her dream.

“She had a vision of what she wanted to achieve, and she was going to do everything she possibly could to make sure it came to fruition,” Tara said.

Belinda and Tara’s plan started with thorough research. Belinda wanted to learn from the best and looked at finding jobs in the region where she could learn the most.

Through reverse-marketing herself, Belinda was able to secure work experience in some of regional Victoria’s best restaurants and eateries, including Bread and Circus, Mercato’s and Meigas, selected as one of the top 500 restaurants in the 2017 Australian Financial Review.

“The owner and chef of Meigas, Jose Fernandez, was great to work with. He's been incredibly supportive of my business dream,” Belinda said.

“I had an idea to learn from the best and provide a place in Maryborough that I myself would want to go to.

“I also did some work in cellar door sales at Mount Avoca Winery and Blue Pyrenees Estate. I tried to learn as much as possible with the goal of bringing this knowledge and skill to Maryborough – my continental deli with a cellar door,” she said.

Belinda’s work experience in commercial kitchens also allowed her to further utilise our services for the jobactive program.

Not only did PeoplePlus arrange a wage subsidy for her work experience employers, but they also provided Belinda with continual support.

“PeoplePlus has always had this ability to make my journey to fruition so much easier.

“The provided me with a phone, a chef’s uniform and face-to-face support.

“Not only that – but I completed all of my food and beverage training through PeoplePlus – without which I would be nowhere right now!” she said.

Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Belinda. Case Manager Tara acknowledged she faced some hard times when she thought she’d bitten off more than she could chew, and that it might be easier to throw in the towel.

“At one point Belinda hit a hurdle and she was depleted, but not defeated. I’m glad I was there to continue encouraging her to push through to achieve her dream,” Tara said.

And for Belinda, she believes the pressure makes her work harder for her future success.

“I’ve literally put everything on the line for this.

“I sold my house. I’ve invested everything – financially, physically, mentally.

“I will not give up. It’s not in my nature,” she said.

So what happens next for Belinda’s burgeoning business?

“At the moment, life is great – I’m really happy. In the next two weeks, I have a meeting with the council and Silverchef (an organisation that does hospitality fit-outs) to get the deli opened.

“From there, I’ll be coming to PeoplePlus to help find the staff to fill my vacancies. I already have knowledge of job seeker incentives and wage subsidies that Tara provided to my employers that I’ll be using for my team too.

“Once we’re up and running (with an approximate date of November), I really want to engage with the community and check-in with everyone.

“I’m hoping to hold themed nights to cover a wide range of topics such as breastfeeding for new mums, difficulties faced by farmers, men’s depression and so on. I want people talking and coming together. To do this over awesome food and local wines is my idea of heaven!

“And the best part is I know I can do it.

“I know PeoplePlus wants me to succeed.”

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