How does an artist end up in the cheese trade? If you think about it, the two aren’t really that far removed.
Neither are a necessity for survival, but many would argue life wouldn’t be worth living without them.
It’s the finer things in life that we often crave on a deeper level to add joy, pleasure and colour to our often-hectic days. It’s almost like therapy.
It was during a trip to Vanuatu six years ago that she came up with the idea for her business, Cheese Therapy, which she runs with her partner Sam Penny from Warana.
They source and sends artisanal cheese around the country and the business has become a Sunny Coast success story.
“Neither Sam or I came from the cheese world,” Ms Shadforth says.
“I’m an artist and graphic designer by trade. When we were on holidays in Vanuatu, we found the supermarkets there were very French. You could buy beautiful French cheese and we thought, why is that we get this beautiful produce here so easily, but back home it’s not easy to get unless you’re in one of the major cities.
“When we came back to Australia, we searched for it and found here on the Sunshine Coast, let alone anywhere more regional, it was hard to get beautiful artisanal produce. We decided to figure out how to put cheese in a box and send it to people’s homes.”
With a 20-year background in graphic design, it felt natural for Ms Shadforth to create the Cheese Therapy brand and give it a soul and a personality.
Mr Penny’s background is in marketing, so they made a great team. They are now sending cheese to people in every state and territory in Australia, from the bottom of Tasmania to the top of the country and have become Australia’s largest independent artisan cheese retailer.
“We have about 20 of Australia’s best artisan cheese makers,” she says.
“They are all small, family-run businesses. We also have a pack called Globetrotter, where we source cheese from international makers. We’ve developed special packing that keeps the cheeses cold for up to five days. Cheese is quite hardy, it doesn’t need to be super cold like yoghurt and icecream.”
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Ms Shadforth and Mr Penny live in Buderim and have four children between them. Between juggling the business and the kids, they are together a lot and Ms Shadforth has to carve out some me time to ensure she still paints occasionally.
Her artwork is whimsical and colourful, drawing on tribal art for inspiration to create images of animals, flora and spirits.
“The business is full-time but every now and then, if my week is a little quiet, I’ll paint at home. I don’t have any clients for graphic design anymore, I had to drop that a couple of years ago to do Cheese Therapy full-time.
“I have a beautiful studio at home; it’s my little sanctuary I can go to. I definitely have my moments where I get a bit frustrated because I haven’t been able to paint.
“Painting and art is my passion. It’s my way of creating something that comes from within me that I love. It’s my outlet. For me it’s about balance.
“The last 12 months have been super busy with Cheese Therapy, but we are now getting such a great team together and the business is going so well at the moment.
“It’s giving me a chance to be able to have days where I say this is a day where I’m painting. You can still ring me if you need me, but I plan days where I’m artist Helen, not Cheese Therapy Helen.”
Ms Shadforth likes to keep fit with running, yoga and Pilates and is also studying Reiki.
“You should see my house!” she laughs. “It’s like a bomb site.
“Sam and I are together all the time and we spend pretty much every night talking work,” she says.
“But it’s not talking about work in a way that’s a chore. We’re both really passionate about it and both really excited. After five years of doing this, we’re not bored of it at all. We live and breathe it all the time and there’s no distance, if that makes sense. We don’t necessarily see it as work; it’s part of our lives.”
As an artist at heart, Ms Shadforth understands you don’t need to have all the skills to build a great business. Rather, you need to know the right questions to ask and the right people to surround yourself with to create your own success story.
She will share her business tips for female entrepreneurs at the Female Founder Summit on Friday, October 29, presented by Groei Growth Education Institute.
The summit will give business owners the opportunity to learn from peers, industry experts and female founders who will share their real and honest stories about how they grew their businesses.
Key speakers on the day are Debbie Richardson, Christine Brennan, Adele Spurgin with panel speakers including Helen Shadforth, Zoe Sparks, Yvette Adams and Victoria Berry.
For more information visit groei.com.au/events/female-founder-summit-sunshine-coast.