It is all possible!

Making Work, Work for you

Alison was born in the Blue Mountains, spent some time in Armidale for uni and then decided to shift gears and move to Sydney. While figuring out her next steps, she worked in a bar with a great team, where she met her now husband Gareth and enjoyed the city nightlife.

Before long she was working her way up the corporate ladder in talent acquisition and recruitment for large companies. Alison and Gareth lived for weekends where they’d go out for brunch and use their business brains to ponder the turnover of their favourite eateries, examining the headcount, contemplating estimated costs and per head expenditure as a mental exercise just for fun. As a self-confessed foodie. Alison said it was a pipeline dream in the background to run her own hospitality business and offer what she loved most from her hospitality roots – a great experience for guests.

At one point when the pair were haemorrhaging cash through some waterproofing issues in their apartment, they vowed to not buy gifts for one another that year. Instead, Gareth opted for a thoughtful notebook for Alison’s business planning – complete with a draft profit and loss template pinned to the front page, which no doubt the business banker in him couldn’t resist.

A backpacking holiday not long after caused them to really slowly down and examine their life from a different vantage point. Alison felt stuck on the corporate hamster wheel – trying to sell the office career dream to others but not really believing it herself. It no longer reflected her values, and she began to think about what their life might look like in the future, as well as how they’d financially manage if kids were part of the picture. She wondered if her and Gareth would become like ships passing in the night – a recipe for marital ruin she thought.

They began to design another life for themselves. Gareth had grown up on the South Coast of NSW and had fond memories, plus with his parents there – having support nearby was appealing.  Alison also knew from previous visits there that moving wouldn’t mean ‘missing out’ on the things she loved like great eateries, coffee and destinations. Before long they were planning the move to Berry, and then later the beachside village of Gerringong.

It soon became Alison’s full-time job to find a business that would fit the dream she could turn into a reality. She researched businesses in the footprint of Thirroul to Huskisson and even downloaded an app to count foot traffic at key spots. She spoke to locals, poured over tourism and demographic data and did more than her fair share of research before settling on an unassuming café in the main street of Berry with plenty of potential.

There was lots of work to do to ship it into shape and gain approvals for necessary renovation works. But after over 2 years and two major renovations, it was rebranded to ‘The Garden Berry’ with a beautiful new look, menu and liquor license to customers’ delight. Trade doubled virtually overnight. Alison was not prepared for the overwhelming response of the community – who were clearly pleased with her vision and execution.

While the last few years have not been without their challenges, from bushfires, to COVID, floods and cost of living pressures – the business has survived and pivoted to thrive. At a time when workforce shortages have plagued many businesses, Alison enjoys a full team of staff – putting it down to her determination to offer people in the industry the respect they deserve. She treats interviews as an opportunity for prospective staff to quiz her and her commitment to quality conditions for her team – rather than the other way around.

“I believe what sets us apart is a mutual feeling of respect where all ideas are welcome and everyone is encouraged to bring their skills to the table to make a difference.” Said Alison.

With one child now and another on the way, Alison reflects on their decision to make the move and appreciates the action they took:

“While it was an adjustment at first – meeting people at my stage of life and not getting to enjoy catch ups with my girlfriends in Sydney as often, I’m thankful for the pace of life we have now. We don’t rush from one thing to the next constantly at the mercy of traffic and corporate demands.”

“We’ve found a way to make work, work for us and I’m so glad we did,” she added.


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