We are all familiar with the concept that the best careers are built on doing something that you love. I have always loved working in the family business, it would be clear that I am passionate about food. Earlier this year I considered I had gone too far when two dear friends & I spent half an hour discussing porridge - where to get it, the best way to make it and what to put on it! So from a work perspective I have been very lucky.
Despite this I have often felt that I should be doing more, that I needed to be following a career where (to use a clique) I made a difference. At university I followed another of my passions, politics and would have told you that I wanted to get a job with the Department of Foreign Affairs. International relations and law still excites me and if I was not working with the family or with food, I would love to work for a NGO, the Dept of Foreign affairs or even at the UN!!!!
It is easy in retail to become jaded to the point that you question the virtue of what you do. At its most basic level we sell cakes and if we weren’t, many others do. While years ago there were few quality cakes shops, Melbourne now has plenty. Apart from the big names like Laurent and Browns there are great little shops in most suburbs, with good quality products.
Boxing Day provided a humbling and bittersweet reminder of how even the most seemingly unimportant things that we do, impact on the lives of others, whether we realise it or not. Reading The Age A2 in an article by Stephen Cummings “Sweet Relief in a Hug” he writes of standing on Chapel Street after the death of his mother and a hug shared between him and his son.
If 2009 was not a good year for the Cummings family then 2008 was that year for my family- what you take from these times is a profound sense of what is important. I became acutely tuned to all the things that the people we lost gave me. From my grandmother I learnt the importance of family and motherhood as a career, from my Grandfather I got a strong work ethic and a desire to help and accept others without judgement.
What surprised me was the smaller, seemingly insignificant stuff. Thanks to Granny and Gramps, I have an understanding of the virtues of the handkerchief over tissues, I can’t let myself out of someone’s house (it is a superstition & I am not even superstitious) and that the best BBQ’s involve “a few snags, bread, sauce and none of those fancy salads”. These are the memories that you do not even realise you have until our loved ones are gone. In Cummings article he mentions standing outside Paterson’s “watching intently the cream cakes.....Such behaviour has been genetically gifted to me from my mother”.
What an amazing gift I have been given to know that although some days I feel like we just sell cakes, that many of our customers have actually formed strong emotional ties that get passed on. Most retail business rarely hear of the good things they do, it is in our nature to call to complain (which is perfectly reasonable) but not to compliment. Unusually, we get many calls where before the customer places their order they share their Paterson’s story-starting with “I have been a customer for 50 years” or a similar sentiment, so thank you Mr Cummings and thank you to everyone who has ever shared their personal experience and gratitude with us.