From four donuts a day to 5000 on a Saturday morning, Jenna Sanders has transformed a small country bakery into a weekend destination for visitors from far and wide.
Her recipe for success is simple: hard work, social media and great customer service.
Jenna said her vision when she bought the bakery in the small hinterland town of Kenilworth four years ago, was to create a place for families to visit on the weekend.
“My family has been in the bakery business for three generations. I was looking to relocate to the Sunshine Coast, and we’d come across the 97-year-old Kenilworth Country Bakery,” Jenna said.
“I drove out to have a look and I could see right away that Kenilworth was a destination, and the bakery had so much character and even more potential.
“Kenilworth is a scenic 45-minute drive from anywhere on the Sunshine Coast. There are beautiful playgrounds, the Cheese Factory, amazing water holes and hiking trails but there was a lack of good quality wholesome food on offer. It was a great opportunity and I knew if I could just get it out into the world people would want to come and visit.”
Utilising social media as a free marketing tool, Jenna soon realised that people loved taking and sharing photos of donuts.
“Donuts are really appealing on Instagram and Facebook—they’re still only 50 per cent of our business but they’re the only thing we use in our marketing because people love taking and sharing photos of them.
“When we started, we were making just a few donuts a day and it’s not actually my forte. My family are pie makers and that has been my background for the past 15 years, so we’ve had to learn how to make donuts really quickly,” Jenna said.
The road to success for the Kenilworth Country Bakery hasn’t been smooth but Jenna’s resilience and quick-thinking during the COVID-19 pandemic is the reason why Jenna is a Sunshine Coast Local Business Champion.
“During COVID-19 we were forced to think on our feet and change our business model fast to offer home deliveries,” Jenna said.
“Kenilworth is just over 50km from most places so during the lockdown, no one could drive out here. It absolutely ruined the town and ruined the bakery. We were getting 10 customers each day as opposed to 300.
“We delivered from Kenilworth to the south side of Brisbane. It was really tiring, and money was tight. We had to work hard to keep our staff, including two Nepalese bakers who we sponsor.
“It was a very big panic to keep things going and a lot of 18-hour days making orders then delivering them into the night. Surviving that, not knowing how long it was going to last, was really challenging.”
A few months later, Queensland’s lockdown was lifted, and the small-town bakery got flooded with day-trippers from across south-east Queensland and beyond.
Jenna soon doubled her staff and leased the shop next door to keep up with the demand for her food. She borrowed a stop-go sign from the local SES and hired someone to manage the lines of people that ran from her bakery to the end of the main street in Kenilworth.
Sunshine Coast Council Economic Development Portfolio Councillor Terry Landsberg said the Kenilworth Bakery was a great example of small businesses doing big things for our region.
“Council recognises how important small businesses are to our local economy which is why we developed the Local Business Champions series,” Cr Landsberg said.
“I commend the Kenilworth Bakery for its success and for showcasing the very best of our Sunshine Coast hinterland and attracting visitors to the region.
“I’d like to thank Jenna and our local business community for being resilient and agile when faced with these unprecedented events. I’d also like to thank our community for supporting our local businesses when they needed it most.”
Humbled by the title of Local Business Champion, Jenna said to her, it’s about inspiring other small businesses and showing them that hard work, dedication and slogging it out is really what brings success.
“It’s not an overnight boom on social media. It’s coming in every single day, providing good service, good food and a welcoming smile…and that’s why people keep coming back.”
Jenna shares the following key insights from her business journey:
Resilience: Like most businesses, we had everything thrown at us during COVID-19. Being resilient and turning lemons into lemonade was key to our survival and success.
Adaptability: Being able to think outside the box and not stick to the ‘norm’ – this is what will set your business apart from all the others.
Marketing and social media: Take time to connect with your audience authentically and post content that will engage customers. Responding to comments is also key – your customers are the bread and butter of your business and if they don’t feel like you have connected with them, you might not see them again.
Local Business Champions: Sharing Stories highlights the success and capability of our local business community.
The series acknowledges local business efforts, whether it’s a change in their business models to grow current or new business; new business ideas to recover from COVID; or an inspiring story from a local business owner.
Are you a Local Business Champion or do you know of someone who is? Get involved and share the stories of your Local Business Champions via social media using the hashtag #localbusinesschampions