For my next interview, I set my mind on getting to know another self-employed local who runs her small business. I wanted to listen to her story: how it started, what inspires her, and what really goes on behind what you see on socials. So I was looking for someone who started her business from the ground up.
Emily quickly came to mind. I’ve been following Emily on Instagram for a while and was instantly hooked when I saw her tasty creations. She’s the local queen of pies. So funny story – turns out, she lives right around the corner from my place. So instead of having an online call or just sending off my questions, we met at a local coffee shop some 5 minutes walk away.
We got sidetracked a bazillion times BUT we finally got down to it. First, let’s get to know Emily a little more.
Who is Emily?
E: I run a small catering business. I have a 9-year-old son, Oliver. In my free time, I love to read and travel. I love to cook and eat – but I think that’s pretty standard haha! I’ve been working in the catering industry since I was 14 – a family friend of ours had a snack bar and on weekends and during the holidays, I used to help them out. I have nice, fond memories of that time and I remember her telling me: “If you want to be a chef you have to learn how to dice an onion properly.” That’s still etched in my mind!
I continued my studies at ITS and also lived in the UK for quite a while and worked at a couple different places. One of which was Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants there – which BTW was one of the worst experiences of my life. I then moved on to work as a Chef de Partie at an AA Rosette restaurant, and I loved it. Spent two years there before moving back to Malta.
What inspired you to start your own business?
E: By a lot of things! Although I love the catering industry, I decided that with a kid I didn’t want to be working weekends, holidays etc. So when Oliver was young, I studied finance and took on a 9 to 5 job within the financial industry. I enjoyed certain elements of it – I loved the stability and needed to have structure at the time. But I always knew that that was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Fast forward eight years in mid-Covid, I decided to take the plunge. It was a long time coming as I wanted to have a safety net of savings – this wasn’t a quick decision, I needed to feel prepared. And if anything, working in the financial sector taught me about planning, strategy, and how to take care of and grow my money. So I gave in my notice and January 2022 was my official start to self-employment. It was nuts!
Walk us through the food/cuisine that you specialise in?
E: This is a tough one. I think I’m still discovering this. Before, when I worked in catering I used to specialize in pastry – fine dining desserts and sweets. However, when I started my own thing. I wanted to branch out. So now, I love to prepare healthy, seasonal, and interesting meals. I also love pies and making not-so-popular pies. When I started making the pumpkin pie, I feel like no one in Malta had trialed this out. And after the third year, I have people who keep coming back for it. But right now I’m enjoying the process of experimenting, flavour matching, and learning new things.
How do you manage your time effectively as a self-employed chef?
E: I don’t haha. I have good weeks and ‘bad’ weeks. So ‘bad’ weeks are when I need to be cooking in the kitchen every single day. I say ‘bad’ – it’s very good for business but it’s not good for me to be in the right mindset. A good week is when I have a Mon-Wed-Fri cooking schedule and do admin, creating content, researching, and planning in between. My work is very seasonal. I would have non-stop months and other weeks where I can plan ahead for those busy months. This is something I’m learning now – that I need to plan for the following months during my less busy periods when I’m not in the kitchen. And, I try as much as I can, to take the weekend off – not always possible. I know this may sound cheesy, but ever since I started working for myself, I have never had a single Sunday evening blues and that is such a big relief for me. Sunday afternoon comes and I realise that I’m actually looking forward to Monday. Mind you, I don’t always wake up chirpy and whatever. But I had moments before in my other job where I was depressed in the mornings, not wanting to go to work. So I’m really grateful for that.
What are your future goals for your business & how are you planning on achieving them?
E: I love this! Immediate future goals are: finish the kitchen and move in! Also, this year I would love to officially launch a consistent meal plan service and eventually hire an employee. It’s not sustainable working 16 hours a day so I’m looking forward to all of this. Those are my goals for this year.
I know you’re just starting out yourself but what is one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking of switching to self-employment?
E: A couple of things.
- It is not as glamorous as people make it out to be. It takes a lot of hard work and hours. It’s not this easy simple life some people think it to be.
- Take a leap of faith but it has to be calculated. It needs to be logical and makes sense financially. So have a business plan and run it by someone who understands. “If it’s meant to be, it will be” is not enough to leave a stable full time job.
- Have a safety net. Whether it’s working a couple of years to have an emergency fund, or discussing with your partner – whatever works for you, have that. There are going to be months were you’ll be in the red – a client leaves unexpectedly or because you’re not paid yet. It might mean skipping lavish holidays for a couple of years. You’re going to make sacrifices but I think that if you’re doing something you love, it’s a sacrifice that you’re willing to make.
Hey, is anything exciting happening for Mother’s Day?
E: I’m trialing some stuff for Mother’s Day. I have something in mind that it either works brilliantly or it won’t work at all! But I have this cute idea – I won’t say anything for now but will keep you updated!
QUICK questions with Emily
Sweet or savoury?
Sweet! I have the sweetest tooth!
Tea or Coffee?
To be fair I’m not so much a film person. I always fall asleep during films so I don’t get to the end of them.
Early bird or night owl?
Early bird for sure. I wake up at 5am and after 8pm I don’t function.
One thing you would like to cross off your bucket list?
OMG, I have so many. How am I going to choose one? Top three?
1. Visit Mexico
2. Adopt a senior dog
3. I honestly want to travel – a lot
Loved our chat Em & look forward to our next coffee date!
Till next time,