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Where are they now? Bel and Madam Chi Chi's one year on

5 minute read

From four white walls and no furniture, to chandeliers and a wholesome kitchen; it’s easy to see that Bel’s hard work has certainly payed off.

We first met Bel in October 2018 when her business was only months away from opening. 

Now, Madam Chi Chi’s has been open for almost a year.

Located in Maryborough inside a historic building, Madam Chi Chi’s is a cafe that offers delicious in-house cooked meals, local wines and a real sense of home.

“Madam Chi Chi’s is a place where you can come in, have a little cheese platter and a wine on a Friday afternoon, at the end of the week,” described Bel.

In 2017, Bel came to PeoplePlus after working as a teacher for 20 years and burning out. In searching for a new career, Bel decided she wanted to open her own business.

“I thought, I’m not going to work for anyone else, and I’ll never teach again because I can’t; but I love food, I love wine and I love people. Ok, I’m going to make a place and space that I would want to visit myself.

“The worst had already happened to me; my career had ended. I didn’t hold back in getting Chi Chi’s off the ground,” explained Bel.

Now, with Madam Chi Chi’s open and in full swing, Bel tells us that the café is making great progress.

“The new business is going well!

“We’re just starting to really get a reputation that goes further than the town. We have regulars and we have people who discover us and come back later because they really like us,” said Bel.

To prepare Bel for opening her own café, Jennyfer, one of our Recruitment Consultants in Ballarat, reverse marketed Bel and found her a job at a local Clunes Café, where she was trained for six to seven months before the business was sold. 

“Jennyfer knew where to place me, she knew how to speak to the employers and at times, that was a bit overwhelming as I had never been in that situation ever.

“As a mature aged person, it can be pretty overwhelming to go back on benefits and to go get supported, but at the end of the day, I just had to keep my eyes on the prize,” said Bel.

From working in kitchens and learning from the best, Bel was able to gain the skills she needed to run Madam Chi Chi’s efficiently.

One of the meals from the Madam Chi Chi's menu

At PeoplePlus, we support jobseekers to fulfill their work goals and dreams. However, our assistance continues even after the employment process, as Bel’s recruitment consultant, Jennyfer, has continued to be involved in her journey.

“Bel and I shared a passion for food and there where many recipes she tried out on us at the PeoplePlus office, as she began to develop her menu for Madam Chi Chi’s. I was very proud to be at her grand opening and to still visit her beautiful café now,” explained Jennyfer.

The inside of Madam Chi Chi's in Maryborough from outside the cafeIn the short time it’s been open, Madam Chi Chi’s has really grown and transformed, with the café hosting events and cooking classes for locals. But Bel tells us that owning a business does require a lot of compromise, as she’s had to adjust her goals slightly.

“Initially I wanted to have a delicatessen, but what I’ve found is that, the deli hasn’t quite kicked off the way that I thought it would.

“The deli’s something that’s going to take at least another year to grow,” said Bel.

Despite these challenges, Bel wouldn’t have it any other way because she truly loves owning Madam Chi Chi’s.

“When I was burnout, I felt empty.

“I just thought, for once in my life, I’m going to make one dream happen. I feel so much more in control of my life and it’s a powerful thing to have.”

We can’t wait to see how Madam Chi Chi’s continues to grow as Bel hopes to develop a takeaway section and to be considered for a Golden Plate Award.

We’re very proud to see Bel achieving her dreams and we wish her all the best.

If you’re wanting to try out the delicious food and wine served at Madam Chi Chi’s, check out the Madam Chi Chi’s Facebook Page.

Photo Credit:

Diana Domonkos Photography. 

Diana is a former PeoplePlus New Business Assistance with NEIS Graduate

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