Startup Stories: How Carman’s Kitchen Became a $50 Million Business

By Marta Gurzeda - Oct. 9, 2012
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Running a successful company, having a team of satisfied employees, a happy family of four children and a husband, while still remaining positive, energetic and in control.

Can a woman have it all?

Charismatic entrepreneur and Founder of Australian muesli business Carman’s Kitchen, Carolyn Creswell can.

Her success story started in Melbourne in the early ‘90s. At the age of 18, the first-year Arts student bought a small business producing hand-made muesli for $1,000. With no formal business mentor or coach, and with no formal business qualification, Creswell has learned everything on-the-job. After 20 years today she manages a $50 million company and exports to 32 countries. Last month she was crowned Telstra Businesswoman of the Year (Victoria).

Let’s find out more about her success.

You started running your own business when you were 18. What is the one behaviour or trait that helped you get to where you are today and one that held you back?

The trait that helped me get to where I am today was definitely my confidence. Being confident about what I’m doing and where I’m going, being determined to pursue my goals and not being scared of knocking on many doors at the very beginning helped me remain focused and motivated. The trait that was a bit of a problem for me at the start was probably not having a strong numerical background. Fortunately, there is nothing you can’t learn!

What was the biggest hurdle you have faced since starting your own business?

Nine years ago one of the supermarket chains decided to stop stocking our lines because of slow sales. It hurt and I was devastated. But I didn’t give up and worked really hard on increasing sales. After 18 months Carman’s was back on their shelves.

Do you remember your first hire?

My first official employee was a man who packed the muesli. He was a wonderful, warm person. I put an ad in a local newspaper to find my first office employee. I needed a person who could help me with the invoicing. It’s been 9 years and the person is still here with Carman’s as our brand manager. Today we have 20 carefully selected employees in our office.

What makes the Carman’s team exceptional?

While building great team I believe in a values-based process. We look for people with the right attitude that will match our company’s philosophy. Carman’s people are passionate about what they do and about real, healthy food. I think this makes the Carman’s team exceptional. A person who eats fast food every day probably wouldn’t feel good around here.

Such a team needs an exceptional leader. What features make a strong leader?

Strong leaders are those who are admired by their teams and other stakeholders. To be admired you have to deliver what you promise. Your team has to be able to trust you.

As a successful businesswoman, wife and mother of four, how do you manage to maintain a work-life balance?

I do my best and try to always be in the moment. When I’m at work then I’m 100% there. I’m organised and work hard to leave office on time. When I get home I switch off and focus on my kids and my husband. All important school events are in my calendar as soon as I find out about them, so I can plan ahead and nothing comes in the way. I treat my family commitments like work commitments. That really helps.


Marketing Specialist at RecruitLoop. Previously with Unilever. Loves traveling and discovering new cultures.


Marta Gurzeda

Marketing Specialist at RecruitLoop. Previously with Unilever. Loves traveling and discovering new cultures.

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