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A cheesy adventure for artist

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A cheesy adventure for artist

After spotting a gap in the market and following her instincts, artist and designer Helen Shadforth has become a cheese entrepreneur and business success story.

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. It’s almost like therapy.

It was six years ago that Helen Shadforth came up with the idea for her business, Cheese Therapy, together with her partner Sam Penny. They source and sends artisanal cheese around the country and the business has become a local 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 it 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. 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 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.”

Ms Shadforth and Mr Penny live in Buderim and have four children between them. They spend most of their time together 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 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. Add that to the family and business and it’s a busy life.

“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 don’t necessarily see it as work; it’s part of our lives.”

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. Speakers include Debbie Richardson, Christine Brennan, Adele Spurgin, Zoe Sparks, Yvette Adams and Victoria Berry.

For more information visit groei.com.au/events/female-founder-summit-sunshine-coast.

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Leigh Robshaw is a journalist who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years. Originally from Sydney, she has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Latin America. She joined the team in 2012 and is MWP's deputy editor. Writing, reading and travel are her greatest passions.

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