Strong Yet Feminine Profiles are a series of interviews, showcasing ambitious women who are striving to follow their passion. Many are working full time and pursuing their dream on the side, some have already taken the leap, and share their experiences (the good and the bad!).
Any career decision is difficult, but making a leap into a different field, in order to pursue a true passion, has to be one of the most inspiring stories. I know, for me, hearing stories like these were crucial to bolstering my confidence when considering my own change in direction.
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Rosalind Chik, Founder of Smokin’ Lotus shares her experience of following her dreams to launch her Delicious and Original Street Food business.
Q: Tell us a bit about your career path before Smokin’ Lotus
My career path was incredibly varied before I started Smokin’ Lotus. Nothing I did before this ever seemed right. I always felt like I was having to pretend to be something I wasn’t. I taught English in China, sold advertising for the Commonwealth, worked in environmentally sustainable tourism at Tourism Concern and The International Tourism Partnership, and finally I was a Technology Consultant at Accenture.
Q: Was there a eureka moment when you knew you had to go for it?
During my time as a Technology Consultant I became more and more unhappy. I hated my work, I hated the travel and spent every second I could thinking about what to cook next and dreaming of going of going back to school to study cooking. I started toying with the idea of starting a street food stall and running supper clubs to see if my cooking would pass the test with paying customers. But the real eureka moment came when I was planning my wedding. I was getting catering quotes and all of the ones I really wanted were coming in at 10 to 12k and it was just a bit out of our price range. One day I went to visit my friend Annette and she sat me down and said “do the catering yourself, you are more than capable and it will be better than anything you can buy”. We then convinced my husband to let me spend 8k on equipment, I created the first Smokin’ Lotus menu and it was launched at the wedding. The rest is history.
Q: Had you always had a passion for food or is it something you cultivated over time?
I have always loved food. When I was a child my favourite moments were watching my mum cook dinner and BBQing with my dad. Even though it is something I have always loved, that love has gotten much stronger over time. It was only in the last 3 years that I started to realise that food was in the core of my being and the thing I wanted to dedicate my life to.
Q: What has been the most challenging element of this journey?
This is a great question! This journey has been more challenging than I could have ever imagined! It has taken all of my strength, resolve and will power to stay focused and to keep going at times. The first year that was the toughest. It was so lonely, cold and more physically demanding than I could ever imagine. I often wanted to pack it all in but this little voice inside of me kept saying “but what else would you do” and that kept me going. I ran around frantically doing prep, admin, trying to get good market spots, going to shops and carrying 50kilos of groceries home in my backpacking backpack (pre getting my driving licence), setting up and taking down my whole gazebo set up and running markets by myself, the whole time making no money getting myself in debt to continue.
Q: What has surprised you the most about your new career?
My new Kerb side family. For me getting signed as one of the Kerb traders has totally changed my business and things have really gone up from there. I no longer feel lonely as every day I go to the market the people who should be my competitors are actually my new-found family. We all muck in together and do anything we can to make sure each other are ok. When I forget something like gas they have my back and vice versa. It gives me hope and shows how well the world could work if we all just helped each other out!
Q: Were your friends and family supportive of your choice?
Incredibly!!! Without them I never would have had the guts to follow my heart and my dreams. I also would have been homeless and starving during that first year!
Q: What is it that motivates you when you feel like giving up?
My friends, family and that little voice that says “but what else would you do”
Q: What advice would you give to anyone else thinking of taking the plunge to go it alone?
Do it! It is the most rewarding thing you can ever do. However, be ready to truly push the boundaries of what you think is possible. Aim big and never give up on yourself.
Q: What experience from your earlier career has been the most useful for Smokin’ Lotus?
Strangely enough it was the job I hated most that prepared me for running a business. As a Technology Consultant I learnt how to be organised, how to present information and deal with a huge range of different people for different backgrounds.
Q: What has been the most rewarding moment to date?
Three spring to mind: getting signed as a Kerb trader; being listed as one of Timeout’s top 50 street food traders in London, and getting invited to cook in the Angela Hartnett tent as part of London Food Month.