Can you describe your business in your own words?
Luisa: Honour with fete is about people coming together to enjoy each other and coming together around the table for a sense of community. Yes it looks beautiful, yes it’s food, but at the heart of it is the idea to enjoy each others company. We bring beautiful elements together to enhance that experience. It’s about the wider community, inclusivity, families and friends.
Heath: It’s a safe place for people to come and enjoy food, company and the experience of those things.
What are both of your backgrounds? How did it lead you to where you are now?
Luisa: I come from a big Italian family, growing up my parents were always entertaining, having bbq’s and picnics, so the idea stemmed from that. For a long time, I pushed it away – and it probably took me up until two years ago to come around to the idea. I’d just come out a job in retail and visual merchandising. Heath and I went to Italy and the experience we had around the table every day was just something I never want to take for granted. Life situations had also happened as well as going through some hard times. After that, we thought how can we put everything we love into a business. I also realised everything I had as a kid and what my parents had taught me. I thought about it for a long time – I love food so much, so how can I use my love of styling, interiors, fashion and beautiful spaces? It took me two to three years to brainstorm and get my heart in the right place.
Heath: I played footy for twelve years at the highest level, food is a big thing for footballers, I think there was a stage where I met Luisa and got a different experience. I was trying new things because as an athlete you don’t try anything. It was probably from that point on I got more adventurous. I learnt that the experience of food is not just about eating. Lusia’s Nonna got upset when I didn’t eat because she shows her love through her cooking and that’s something I realised. Through my journey playing footy I got the chance work at La Luna Bistro, run by Adrian Richardson. He’s an Essendon supporter and that’s where I really developed a passion for food, especially bread. It was seeing people enjoy it.
I spoke to Adrian, not sure what I want to do next and he said I seemed to enjoy bread. After that, I read Tartine by Chad Robertson who runs a Bakery in San Francisco. We actually went to the US for our honeymoon and I told Luisa we had to go to Tartine and try the bread. It turns out they bake their bread in the afternoon, not like the morning in Australia – so I got a toastie instead.
Back when you were playing footy, did you ever imagine you would end up a baker?
Heath: Not at all – it just so happened I like to bake bread outside of playing football, and you can’t choose what you like to do. But looking back at it, I’ve always put things in a sandwich. (Lasagna and risotto, just to name a few.)
Where did you get the idea for your business?
Luisa: I knew if I didn’t do this I would regret not knowing how it would turn out, how it might change one person’s day. I come from a retail background, I’m purely a creative person. I didn’t know how any of this would go. I wrote some notes down. It was a good six-month mental battle, some days I just said to myself ‘today I can feel better and do it’. I would say do one thing a day, like writing some notes for a business plan/template, registered a business name, opening a bank account. One step at a time. I was worried it would flop and people will think it’s so stupid, but knew inside it was something I wanted to see grow.
Heath: At the time Luisa thought of it I was in full-time work, now I have a lot more time. I love helping out with the weekend picnics.
Luisa: I thought it was just something for me, but Heath wanted to be a part of it, it was nice for us to grow with it together.
What has the experience been like of working with your partner?
Heath: It’s good because I provide one side of the business and Luisa does one side, the creative direction goes with her. I can add my touch to it, new sides of the business are opening up, which require a more masculine touch. (Keep an eye out for some things in the pipeline!)
Luisa: It just developed into a team thing, it’s been really comforting actually, you hear a lot of negative things about working with your partner. Heath still has so much of his own stuff going on. It’s not fully his life, but it’s completely my life, so it’s nice to have a mutual understanding. A willingness to be in the background sometimes is also important.
How did you get first get your business off the ground?
Luisa: Just started doing and creating it. I started doing grazing tables three years ago for a friends winery and then from that I developed a business name, so it felt real. It made me motivated, I said “you’ve put money into this” so now continue. That was probably the biggest step that I made. But then I just started doing them! I did a mini launch party last February and it was really intimate, just a couple friends and my mum and sister. After that I said “Okay I’d change this and that, this worked, this didn’t”. It was all trial and error!
Heath: It’s still trial and error!
Luisa: Now I’ve got a general flow but it changes, not one picnic is the same. We’re always swapping things, and trying out new ideas to make things better.
What are the biggest lessons you have you learnt on your business journey?
Heath: Expect it to be slow.
Luisa: Totally, don’t have any expectations, because it can change into something completely different from what you started out wanting to do.
Heath: Be open with the changes.
Luisa: Don’t take it too seriously, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you do. Also, it’s super lonely. Coming from a really social career working with hundreds of different people; customers, retailers and suppliers, this is the complete opposite. Figuring out marketing and business, it’s all virtual. I have no human contact until the actual picnic, and then you’re only there for an hour anyway. It’s something I never thought I’d struggle with, but I realised I get a lot of energy from other people.
How important is it to have a business mentor?
Luisa: This goes hand in hand with the loneliness thing – it’s super important. I haven’t had a direct mentor yet, but I’ve been really lucky with the amazing timing I’ve had people come into my life. I’ve met other women with small business, more developed than mine. It’s just getting together for a coffee that has been so beneficial, the chance to make business friendships has been really unexpected. From that it’s lead to other people and collaborative shoots. It’s been amazing having friends who are in business, not necessarily just mentors.
Heath: I would say it’s quite important – I catch up with Adrian (Owner of La Luna Bistro and Bouvier) and his advice is always just go and do it. He’s real straight forward, so his advice is just go sell bread. Keep it simple, learn along the way.
What are your top 3 tips for starting a business?
Heath: Just give it a go!
Luisa: Don’t worry about how you’re going to look, and don’t do it for anyone else but yourself! Don’t do it for your family and friends, because in the end they probably won’t be your customers, and can actually end up holding you back from trying.
How would you describe your life as an entrepreneur in 3 words?
Luisa: Fulfilling, challenging and character-building.
What books/podcasts/shows are you really into right now?
Heath: I like the minimalist podcasts.
Luisa: I’ve been listening to Christina Canters podcast, The C method. I loved the latest one she did about living a fulfilling life.
Heath and Luisa: We’ve also been loving the show Younger! And Sweetbitter, it’s only 6 episodes.(Editors note: Heath’s high school celebrity crush was Hillary Duff.)
Heath: We also liked Animal Kingdom, the show.
Which soundtrack best represents your life?
Luisa: I was talking to my brother and sister about this question, and my sister said mine was Mariah Carey – The Emancipation of Mimi. It makes me feel really confident!
Heath: I’m more into metal at this stage.
What has been the best part of your Activator journey?
Luisa: It’s been so nice mingling with like-minded people, at the same stage, and with the same questions.
Heath: It’s a whole lifestyle change that’s also really nice. Having these workshops and meetings to attend weekly is a change which has been great.
Luisa: The fact that we were invited was also amazing, it wasn’t anything I would have gone out and looked for. The workshops are so awesome – we feel really lucky.
Heath: We owe a massive thank you to RMIT and the Essendon Football Club.
If you could give yourself some advice before you started your journey, what would it be?
Luisa: Things will get better! Allow yourself the space to grow
Heath: Just go for it!
Luisa: Trust the journey, trust your life.