'I could see an industry that was pretty well on its knees,' he recalls. At the time, major food retailers were selling everyday products like milk and bread for as little as $1, severely affecting the bread and dairy industry in Queensland. While 14 bakeries along the Coast had recently closed their doors, Geoff and Lisa were planning to introduce a product that would likely cost around $9 per loaf.
Thankfully the local community responded exactly as he'd hoped – with great enthusiasm.
'The business has been built by word of mouth,' Geoff says. ‘The most frequently asked question in the shop was "How come your bread tastes so good?" And that's got to do with the way we go about lacto-fermentation. But the second most frequently asked question was "How come I can eat your bread?" In other words: "Why am I not bloating?"’
Burleigh Baker follows traditional processes of fermentation that makes their bread easier to digest, enhancing natural flavours and reducing FODMAPs. This means their products are packed with benefits for gut health while also tasting delicious – a fact which his customers can certainly attest to.
‘I think our first-year turnover was $750,000,’ says Geoff. ‘We had five employees, we now have 40 and we’re north of $5.5 million.’
In a business strongly rooted to its community, having the right people is vital. The smiling faces of Geoff and his wife Lisa are regular fixtures in the store, and they’ve chosen workers who share their values and are passionate about Burleigh. By offering workers flexibility, the couple has built a team willing to go the extra mile for the business.
‘You need really good people,’ Geoff says. ‘Most of our workers are chasing two things. One is a chance to work in a business like this, where nutrition and the wellbeing of our clients is important. And two, they can go surfing. We have a lot of surfers, a lot of people are interested in food nutrition, a lot of people studying naturopathy or nutrition.’
The power of people also applies to the business’s succession plan. At 74, Geoff knows he won’t be able to run Burleigh Baker forever, but over the past year, Geoff and Lisa have dedicated their time to mentoring the next generation of Burleigh Baker leaders.
With their core values and Gut Health Policy in mind, Geoff and Lisa are working toward building a team that can embrace their strong focus on quality, nutrition, and crafting delicious baked goods — with the wellbeing of their customers the ultimate goal.
‘I wouldn’t like to see this taken over and destroyed,’ says Geoff. ‘If you want people to care about the business, they’ve got to care about the customers and about the sorts of products that you provide.’