Loving wife, mother, and passionate baker, Priya Maclure, gives us a glimpse on how the importance of balancing family life with talent and passion paved the way to pursuing her dreams and starting her business – Sugar Pot.
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Tell us about yourself?
I remember my passion for baking starting as far back as when I was kid. I was the youngest of three, and with two older brothers mum was always more than happy to let me watch her in the kitchen, and as I grew older, helped me find my own way around it. I used to cling to my mother’s side as she made caramel and watch in awe as she separated the eggs, creamed the butter and dusted the pan with flour before pulling the pan off the heat at exactly the right time and temperature – all without a thermometer! I still think her caramel butter cake is one of best cakes I’ve ever eaten to date. I definitely wouldn’t have the confidence or skills I do in the kitchen today if I didn’t have her to watch, encourage and advise me as I was growing up. At age eighteen, my family crowned me their official baker – it’s an honour I still cherish!
I actually still remember the first big event that I baked for. At the time it was a huge deal for me. I was tasked with baking my grand-uncle’s 80th birthday cake. My cousins, aunts, everyone, were all surprised at how well it turned out. That was a proud moment for me – having all my family there enjoying something I had baked just for them. That was the moment I knew for sure that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I haven’t stopped baking since.
Sounds like your love for baking is very much centred around family
I’m definitely blessed with good baking genes, which I think has helped me a lot. Everything sort of just comes naturally to me – not that there hasn’t been a whole lot of hard work involved! Believe it or not, I never had any professional training. Everything I know, I learnt from my mum. It’s been an art passed from one generation down. Though, fun fact, my mum didn’t really know her way around the kitchen prior to getting married! Once she found her way, with a little help from dad’s constant prodding and encouragement, it became very natural for her as she was already a very artistic person to begin with.
As for me, I have a very curious mind. I love to experiment with different things and try new combinations and techniques to create something amazing. After coming to Australia for my studies, I was exposed to even more varieties of food, which has really helped to hone my process as well.
How did you go from baking being a passion, to becoming a business idea?
I guess a real turning point for me happened when I was working for a media company as an Area Manager in sales and marketing. They held an annual event called ‘The Cancer Council Bake-Off’ and I decided to enter my classic triple chocolate cake back in 2008. It just so happened that Matt Moran himself was judging the Bake-Off that year. There were 30-35 entries and he went around to each one, tasting and providing feedback. When he got to mine, he said, “I’m not even gonna talk about this cake”. I was standing in a corner not quite sure how to react when to my disbelief he then said, “well, that’s the one that won it!” Perhaps most shockingly was when he offered to help me find a job! At the time, I had just given birth and was also getting back into my full time job, so I unfortunately never took him up on his offer.
Despite this, I do consider that moment to be the final push that I needed. I had been thinking of starting my own business for a while, but it took hearing that from Matt Moran to make me realise that I was ready to take the plunge – not that he even knows this! At the time, I had also been making cakes for a lot of friends and family, which helped to boost my confidence level a lot. It got to a point where I was trying to balance my orders and my full time job, as well as being a new mum and something just had to give. My husband and I finally decided it was time to get serious and focus on the business full time and see where it could takes us.
What is Sugar Pot all about?
Sugar Pot is about simplicity. It’s wholesome food made with loving hands. I believe in the warmth and comfort of my family and in the beauty of nature. It is with this sentiment that each and every creation of mine is made. Our Philosophy is very simple: We are proud ambassadors of ‘baked from scratch’. We don’t compromise on our quality of ingredients and craftsmanship, ever.
The name also has special meaning to me. As a baby, my son loved to give out kisses – but he only did so whenever I’d say, “gimme some sugar!”. So I used to call him my little sugar pot. When it came time to choose a business name, I knew that had to be it! I like to think that I’m leaving a bit of a legacy to my kids. They are my reason to succeed and I work hard to give them the best possible life.
Did having a corporate background help your transition into being a business owner?
I mainly worked in sales and marketing, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I learnt so much, especially in terms of interacting with people. I was always out on the road meeting new people, and there was emphasis on cultivating relationships and working with a really diverse group of people. I definitely think that’s the main skill I’ve transferred over to my own business.
What keeps you going, even when you feel like giving up?
I can 100% say that I would not be where I am today without my husband. He supports me in so many ways – not just emotionally, but physically as well! He plays a huge role in the running of my business, wearing the hats of financial adviser, IT support and delivery guy. I am most grateful for him for always pushing me forward and encouraging me. He helps me believe in myself and in my abilities, even when I can’t always see it for myself. I am very fortunate that he has only ever encouraged me and never once tried to hold me back from pursuing my dreams.
“I believe in the warmth and comfort of my family and in the beauty of nature – and I create everything with this sentiment in mind.”
The other thing is my plain and simple love for baking. I love how simple ingredients, combined in just the right way, can create something entirely amazing and delicious as cake. And decorating the cake is literally the icing on top – it’s where I can really let my creativity free. The cake is my blank canvas, waiting for me to bring it to life.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are thinking about or have started to build their own businesses?
Always be authentic in everything that you do – follow your heart, embrace your passions and create based on your strengths.
I read an article in an entrepreneurial magazine once, and it stated that small business owners should have a ‘get-out-of-bed price’. It basically said that if you don’t have one, then you are just selling your skills for nothing. So that would be my advice. Always know what you are willing to work for, and don’t settle for anything less than what you are worth!
I’ll be honest and say that when I started out I was always stoked just to receive an order. But I was naive, and didn’t put much thought into working out what my ingredients cost, and I certainly didn’t think of paying myself a wage. For me, every order was just an opportunity to create something new and learn as much as I could. My line of work involves a lot of work on weekends, which means sacrificing precious time with family. After reading that article, I realised I didn’t have to keep compromising. I set my base price and I never looked back. It definitely helped me moving forward with my attitude to work. Instead of feeling like it was a chore, I felt really good because I knew that I was being well compensated and instead of worrying about money I could focus all my creative energies into creating something truly special for my clients.
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For a spoonful of love and a pinch of passion, have a taste at www.sugarpot.com.au.