An artisan bakery allows Willa Arantz plenty of scope for creativity, and this shines above all the long hours and endless decisions to ensure she is never in danger of coasting.
Tell us a little bit about your bakery Racine –
It is a tiny hole in the wall in the back of the Woolworths car park in Orange - a cute little shop that is a fun place to visit. It makes beautiful handmade pastries (in particular croissants and viennoiserie) tarts, cakes, organic sourdough, pies, sandwiches, salads, great coffee, and amazing take-home meals. We also have a retail range of condiments, pasta, cheeses, and cool party supplies. There’s literally something for everyone and everything is unique and made by hand - for a tiny shop it has a huge range. We opened in 2012 as an add-on to our restaurant, but have changed our business to focus on the bakery alone.
What is unique about Racine?
Everything is handmade and the range is big for that type of business. We always try to make sure everything is amazing and that ‘good enough’ is not a term in our vocabulary. We also focus on customer service and Racine as an experience, every interaction should be a positive one. Being artisans we do make mistakes and things go wrong, as our bread oven broke recently, so we didn’t bake. That’s the pitfall of being truly artisan.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning and running your own business?
I love being able to have an idea and just do it. Running your own business is really tough, it’s tough on your relationship, financially, and can be all-consuming, especially as a husband and wife team, but getting to go to work and be creative and love what you do and basically do it all on your own terms is amazing. It challenges me mentally and creatively and I love that. Also, you get to pick your work colleagues, so I always work with people I love.
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were starting out? So many things, I really wished I’d had better financial advice - we have done everything the hard way and the expensive way, which left no room for error, we were so young that all we cared about was doing everything the best way, which was great for the customer but caused a lot of unnecessary financial stress. I also wish that I knew that making big changes based on instinct was a good thing, as I would have cut loose certain things we did and people we employed sooner and saved myself the heartache down the track. But no real regrets as I have learned valuable lessons and I’m 95% proud of everything we have done. Without mistakes, there’s no growth.
What advice would you give another woman who’s looking to start her own business in the hospitality industry? It’s a lot of work, it’s not all glamorous and you do it for the love, not the paycheck. Make sure you balance your work life and don’t let it be all-consuming. It is also fun, the work is creative and immensely satisfying when things all go well and the adrenaline rush you get when you’ve nailed a dinner service or a wedding is so incredible, so it's a great industry.
How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
The truth is, it’s not possible to do it all properly, but I think if you are flexible around routine and work, then you can juggle; and it is juggling. My kids grew up in the restaurant and now the bakery and I just trotted them around with me. My daughter spent lots of time murdering “Frozen” on the PA while we set up a wedding and they both ate a lot of gourmet dinners in the office or slept in a makeshift bed as I got ready for service. The best way I’ve heard it described is you can do it all, just not all at once. It may not be perfect but it can be done, so if you accept that, you’ll be fine.
What would you say is your personal definition of success? Loving what you do and appreciating your life. Always having a challenge and a goal. Coasting is my idea of hell.
What’s on the horizon for Racine in 2023? We have expanded our production space to enable us to do more exciting lunch options and make way for a new eating space/wine bar. It will be a separate business but have a lot of the bakery products in a sit-down offering. It has been talked about for three years now, but we had no idea how busy the bakery would become and we outgrew the space. It is slowly coming together, so hopefully, this is the year for it!
Location: Orange, NSW