Carolyn Creswell was never one of those entrepreneurial kids with a lemonade stand dreaming of owning their own business someday.
But when at 18 years old, an opportunity to buy the muesli business she worked for presented itself, she went for it.
That was the beginning of Carman’s Kitchen, which is now a staple in the breakfast food aisle with its muesli, bars and ever-expanding range of wholesome creations. It’s also a business worth millions and millions of dollars.
The 43-year-old told Mamamia’s Lady StartUp podcast that she may not have been born with an “entrepreneurial spirit”, but she did innately know a good opportunity when she saw one.
And in 1992, that’s what the then-uni student had the owners of the muesli business she had been working for – earning $8 an hour on a Tuesday afternoon – told her they were selling the business and she’d be out of a job soon.
When most 18-year-olds would have started looking for another part-time job, Carolyn spoke to her co-worker and together the pair offered their bosses $1000 each to buy the business.
“I remember at the time thinking ‘well, it’s $1000. I saved that up from working at Coles, what’s the worst that could happen if I did this?’,” she said.
“We offered them a $1000 each and they laughed at us and said, ‘no’. They wanted $10,000.”
But it wasn’t long before Carolyn’s offer started looking good.
“And progressively they sent other people to come and look at the business and they couldn’t find anyone that wanted to buy it, so three months later they said ‘alright then, we’ll take your offer’.”
“So that’s how Carman’s was born.”
The mum-of-four also explained where the name Carman’s came from: “It’s the first three letters of my name and the first three letters of my partner’s name at the time.”
Carman’s co-founder has since left the business, and Carolyn has built it up to be worth more than $50 million – her ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ attitude serving her well. But it hasn’t always been easy. She told Lady StartUp that at one point she was so broke that she getting her brother to syphon petrol out of her mum’s car “when she wasn’t looking”.
“I’ll never forget what it felt like in those days. But as corny as it is to say they were instrumental in how I view Carman’s today.”