In business, timing is everything. It was a lesson Geoff Dance had already learned in his previous career in corporate strategy, and it proved especially true when he opened Burleigh Baker, which makes and sells artisanal sourdough bread on the Gold Coast.

With a keen interest in traditional food honed during extensive jaunts around rural France and Italy, Geoff sensed that people would be willing to pay top dollar for good quality, delicious food with nutritional benefits. The timing proved exactly right – but Burleigh Baker was still a risky proposition, he admits.


'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.’

Local matters

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.’

'All our raw materials are local. All our technicians are local,’ Geoff says. ‘Our customers are all local.’ It’s why Geoff trusts BOQ Business and his local Burleigh branch for point of sale and everyday transactional banking.
Geoff and Lisa Burleigh Baker, Gold Coast, QLD


Geoff’s top three tips for business success

  1. Make use of tech

    Burleigh Baker might make bread the old-fashioned way, but it relies on very modern technology. With support from BOQ Business, an asset finance loan makes investing in baking technology a no-brainer.
    ‘We have a big solar system that runs our ovens during the day.  Once they’re up to temperature, they’re quite cheap to run, and I can manage all that with wi-fi.’

  2. Use local suppliers

    Right from the start, the brand has been committed to supporting locals – and that support comes right back to them in the form of returning customers.
    ‘All our raw materials are local,’ Geoff says. ‘All our technicians are local; for any design, we use local designers.’ It’s also why Geoff trusts BOQ Business and his local Burleigh branch for point of sale and everyday transactional banking; - ‘you need somewhere to do local banking,’ he says. ‘There used to be three banks in the main street of Burleigh. There’s now one – the Bank of Queensland.’

  3. Time it right

    The best strategy for a successful business, Geoff says, is anticipating what the market will be ready for.
    ‘About 50 per cent is hard work and 50 per cent luck,’ he explains. ‘And most of luck is about getting the timing right. So if you want to become an entrepreneur, which is a tough gig, you had better make sure the timing’s right.’