The Advent of a Dream
I am a notoriously impatient person. I have started a hundred projects over the years, and rarely seen any of them through to their completion. It is in my nature to be this way, to start something then get distracted by something else coming along.
It has, therefore, come as quite a shock to me that I have had the patience to wait three years for my business to come to fruition, and that I have designated a very long timeline to get it functioning. Must be slowing down in my dotage.
“Alderman Providore” was conceived just over three years ago, and had actually morphed out of my partners and mine original “Alderman Catering” business. As much as I love the catering side of food, I am in my early 50’s now and find catering way too hard. It takes three days to prepare for a function, which is three days on your feet shopping, doing mise en place, chopping, cooking and organizing. It is three days when you don’t sleep much, don’t eat properly, and pretty well run yourself into the ground. When it is all over, you just want to spend a couple of days sleeping. This is not to say that the end result isn’t worth the work – it nearly always is, but as you get older, it gets harder and harder. So, “Alderman Providore” grew as a natural progression from this. It is probably only logical that with almost 28 years of retail management experience, and a great knowledge of food that this sort of business would evolve. However, it hasn’t been an easy road.
The original concept was for a retail food Providore on the Far North Coast of NSW, around the Bangalow area. The business plan was 18 months in the creation, and a great, ambitious plan it was. This was not just to be a Providore, but over time was to eventually have a café attached, move into top-end homewares and appliances, and a local gallery showcasing homewares by local artists. It was a dream – a very expensive dream. My partner and I estimated that we would need a minimum of half a million dollars just to establish the base business, and that was not about to happen – especially with one person on DSP. NEIS would not even have made a crack in the amount we needed, and we would have had to have moved up the coast to live for me to be even able to apply for it, at least to use in that area.
So, Alderman Providore went into a hiatus, the dream unapproachable, but not forgotten. I started to conceive of the idea as an Internet proposition, a cyberspace storefront as distinct from a physical storefront. The business plan went into rewrite mode – a lot harder to do than I realized, as it meant an entirely new way of thinking, a real ‘moving outside the square’. It is also a work in progress at this time.
http://www.alderman-providore.com was launched about 2 months ago, and is most certainly a work in progress. I took up an offer of a one month free trial with http://www.prostores.com , took up a very risky – for someone on a pension – offer of a $2000 limit rise on my Mastercard, added on a $500 advance from Centrelink and…hey presto, the business was born. I had already sourced catalogues and wholesale pricelists from companies that we wanted to deal with, and within two weeks, our spare bedroom became a stock room.
So, what do we do? We source Australian made gourmet food products from right across the country. Australia is now a treasure trove of high quality, fantastically packaged gourmet foods and you only have to visit my site to get some idea of how vast the range is. Okay, we know that a lot of it is expensive, but we never intended it to be otherwise. It might be expensive, but the quality, diversity and imaginative nature of the foods more than qualifies it. I stock: mean relishes from South Australia; Australian native food products and dukkah and rubs from the same state. From Coogee comes a creative range of chutneys, jams, relishes and mustards; luscious nutcakes and biscuits from 120-year-old Benedictine monastery ovens in Western Australia; saffron from Tasmania; muesli and biscuits from Leura in NSW; chutneys and fig products from Albury; dukkah from Queensland; antipasta from Boort in Victoria; wonderful sauces and dressings from Daylesford; the list goes on and on. We have just been asked to be the Sydney agents for a range of “Australian Harvest” organic and bio-dynamic gourmet foods from the Yarra Valley, which we are going to be presenting to the public through magazines, our sites newsletter, and gourmet food parties. It is starting to get exciting. It is developing a life of its own, and it’s mine!
If you were to ask me if this is the hard way to get into business, I’d have to say… yes. It has been a steep learning curve. We currently use PayPal on the site to process EFT and credit card transactions, and though this is a secure, fast way for people to pass through the checkout, it has proven to be expensive, so we are applying for an EFTPOS machine through the bank – something we intended to do in the first place, and should have followed through on. We don’t accept credit at all, though it is offered by just about every company we deal with, or will deal with. This is a good way to get yourself into some serious trouble, as the temptation to over-commit yourself to buying stock that you possibly won’t be able to afford is too great. If we can’t afford to pay for it, we don’t buy it. It doesn’t mean I will never have it, it just means I won’t have it at this time. I’ve encountered a few arseholes along the way, people who either don’t know how to run their own businesses – though they are all experts on yours – or who think they are too good to have their products on a fledgling site. There is one very reputable gourmet food retailer who has disillusioned me completely. But, out of the 200-odd people I have contacted over the last few months, they represent only about 5 companies whose products I will never deal in, and I consider that a pretty good averages. A lot of the people I have had dealings with have started out this exact same way, and are very supportive, and this has been a very positive aspect.
Ask me in twelve months how I think it is all going, I may have a better idea then. That is certainly the timeline it is on to start going somewhere, and some of the long-term projects of the business plan will be kicking in around then.
In the meantime, please visit us at http://www.alderman-providore.com and join our newsletter (I believe it is very good, from feedback I get) or email us any suggestions or thoughts you may have. If you are on a pension and want to know all the ins and outs of establishing an internet business, please contact me at email@example.com and I will more than gladly give you any help I can. BGF are running workshops on getting yourself back into education, or back into areas of the workforce that you may not have considered, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Three years ago when Marie Crosbie worked for BGF in the back-to-work project they were running at the time, her and I nutted out the basic plans for Alderman Providore face to face for three months. I think she would be pleased to know that all the time and effort has born fruit.
Now, just to keep this column on track, and to continue this blatant promotion of my business I will offer you some recipes that can be made using products from the site (or substitute similar).
AGLIOLIO PASTA WITH FRESH TOMATO & PARMESAN
with ‘Valley Produce Company’ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
VPC Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 chili, finely sliced
1 roma tomato, diced
30g fresh peas
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon chopped basil
2 serves spaghetti pasta, cooked
This is the ultimate 5 minute pasta!! In a hot pan, add some VPC Extra Virgin Olive Oil and fry the garlic and chili until golden brown. Add the tomatoes, peas and salt & pepper and cook for about one minute. Add the pasta and basil and cook the flavour into the pasta. Top with freshly grated parmesan and serve immediately.
FIVE MUSHROOM SPAGHETTI
with ‘Valley Produce Company’ Lemon Infused Olive Oil
spaghetti for two
3 tablespoons VPC Lemon Infused Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
5 button mushrooms, chopped
8 oyster mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 large field mushroom, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Bring a pot of water to the boil and add some salt and a little olive oil. Start to cook your pasta. Place a fry pan over the stove and bring it to a high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of VPC Lemon Infused Olive Oil and fry the garlic until golden brown. Add the mushrooms all at once, season with salt & pepper and sauté. Drain the pasta and place in a pan with the parsley. Toss the pasta through the mushroom mix and serve immediately with fresh parmesan.
WILD ROCKET, BLUE CHEESE & PEAR SALAD
with ‘Valley Produce Company’ Amber Walnuts & Truffle Infused Honey
250g wild rocket lettuce
1 pear, shaved with a vegetable peeler
10 VPC Amber Walnuts
50g blue cheese, diced into small pieces
1 teaspoon VPC Truffle Infused Honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt & pepper
Mix all ingredients together and season to taste.
Serving Suggestion: Serve immediately with the Blue Cheese & VPC Truffle Honey Soufflé (below). The blue cheese & truffle honey can be replaced with 50g fetta cheese (soft & creamy).
TAMARIND CHICKPEA & HERB SALAD
With’ Goan Cuisine’ Tamarind Chutney
1 x can Chick Peas, cooked and drained.
150g TAMARIND CHUTNEY
250g potatoes, cooked & diced
½ cupcoriander, roughly chopped
Medium red onion
¼ cup mint, julienne
40ml olive oil
Juice of lemon, to taste
Salt, to taste
Combine ingredients and allow flavours to infuse for a couple of hours before serving.
For a non-vegetarian application, add shredded roasted chicken or large fried prawns.
Makes 5 portions.
Using ‘Tas-Saff’ Tasmanian Saffron
50 – 100mg Tas-Saff saffron
One and a half cups of Australian long grain rice
20 grams butter
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cups boiling water using
1 chicken stock cube
Remove lid from Tas-Saff saffron vial and fill with boiling water.
Leave to infuse for 24 hours.
Use a heavy saucespan with a tight fitting lid.
Prepare saffron as per instructions below.
Heat butter and oil in a deep saucepan and cook onion until soft without colouring.
Add rice and cook for a further minute, stirring all the time to ensure the rice is well coated with butter and oil.
Stir in approx. 3/4 of a cup of stock then add your saffron infusion, stir and mix well.
Add the remainder of stock ensuring that all the saffron is rinsed out of the cup.
Stir well, then cover tightly and cook gently for 20 minutes.
Remove lid and stand for a few minutes to let steam escape.
Turn rice with a fork to fluff up and serve.
Serves 4 to 6 people.
DUKKAH ENCRUSTED CHICKEN OR FISH
With ‘Thistle Be Good’ Dukkah
Take a chicken breast and cut into strips 2 inches wide. Lightly spray with olive oil. Take one tablespoon of your favourite dukkah and mix with two tablespoons of breadcrumbs in a small freezer/plastic bag. Drop the strips of chicken into the bag and give the bag a good shake. Now remove beautifully coated chicken, place on a lightly greased baking tray and cook for 12 mins either side at 180 degrees or alternatively cook on the hotplate of the barbie.
‘SIMPLE’ SQUASHED POTATOES
with ‘Simply Tomatoes’ Green Tomatoes with Garlic & Oregano in Olive Oil
6 Medium Potatoes
1 Tablespoon SIMPLY GREEN TOMATOES
Wash unpeeled potatoes and cook until soft. (Either boil in water or cook in the microwave).
When soft put potatoes between paper toweling and squash to flatten the potatoes slightly.
Place the potatoes on an oven tray* and cover the potatoes with the
SIMPLY GREEN TOMATOES and oil. Bake in a moderate oven until nicely browned.
(Optional – add a little rock salt, or flavoured salt before cooking).
*Browns quickly in an electric grill with a lid, approximately 5-10 minutes.
A very quick, easy and delicious way to serve potatoes. Something different!
AUTHORS NOTE: I do a very similar dish to this, though it is called ‘Car Crash Potatoes’ and is absolutely fabulous.