THE JOURNEY OF GAYLEEN’S DECADENCE
By Gayleen McQueen
I consider myself an entrepreneur by default. I moved from Joburg to Cape Town about 13 years ago after my husband passed away. It was going to be a grand adventure! Semi-retired, my intention was to buy a nice little coffee shop that would keep me busy. What happened was totally different! Got into the wrong relationship which entailed buying a restaurant ….. which venture ended up turning sour. I was devastated. Here I was in my 50s, going through the menopause, and I was broke. The future looked gloomy. I became very depressed and my self-confidence went for a loop (who’d want to employ me at this age, I wondered). I had one or two close friends I could count on for support, but for the rest it was a private hell I lived through.
Then, out of the blue one morning, an acquaintance who’d heard about what happened with the restaurant phoned and told me about a job going at a small company that promoted raw food products.
I had nothing to lose. So, with butterflies in my stomach, I gave them a call. Fortune must have been smiling on me that day, because I got the job of office manager.
I was over the moon and felt that perhaps my life could go forward again Working for a company promoting a raw food lifestyle, I learned a lot about healthy living and it started to rub off on me. I introduced a whole food diet – no dairy, meat or preservatives but still enjoying a glass of wine (I live in the Cape after all) and indulged in my favourite chocolate treats, but on the whole, the change in my diet affected my life in a positive way. My asthma,chronic sinus and allergies disappeared. So did all the aches and pains, and that feeling of being tired all the time.
I’ve always enjoyed being creative, and in the evenings, after work, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen with my raw ingredients and try out new raw treats that I could keep in my cupboards. (I always like to be prepared.) I’d sometimes take what I’d concocted in the kitchen to the office for everyone to try, and quite by surprise, I found that people who liked to eat this way, wanted more of what I’d made. When a colleague suggested I sell my goodies at a market popular with vegetarians and vegans in Tokai on Saturday mornings, I was really excited by the idea. Now I had the perfect incentive to be creative – and the extra cash in my pocket certainly didn’t hurt!
My colleague joined me in the endeavor: we decided I’d make the “savoury” goodies, like raw marmalade & Essene bread, and she would assemble the chocolate treats. At the time, there weren’t many ready-to-eat ‘raw’ items in the shops, so our stall became very popular. It was hard working full time and preparing for market every Saturday, and after three months, my work colleague opted out. I’m a very committed kind of person, so this was a predicament for me. I didn’t want to let down the regular customers who I knew came every week for their chocolates. I felt compelled to satisfy these customers, so back in the kitchen, I eagerly started to experiment with raw chocolate, filling them with different kinds of soft fillings like mint, ginger and orange. I love chocolate, and this was so much fun (and delicious)! Without even realizing it, my new business (Gayleen’s Decadence) had been born!
At first I still held down my day job, coming home at night to prepare my orders for the next market day. The demand for my chocolates with their soft fillings increased to the point where the way forward would be to directly supply the chocolates to select shops. My creative pastime now had the potential to become a full time enterprise, but it would mean giving up the security of my full time job. I was nervous after everything that had happened with the restaurant, so I initially continued my job on a half-day basis. After some months though, I took the final plunge and resigned to pursue my raw chocolate business dream.
A few things have changed over the years. Although I still eat an extremely healthy diet excluding, dairy, wheat, meat and cane sugar, I no longer follow a raw diet. And neither are my chocolates raw. They are DAIRY FREE, SWEETENED ONLY WITH RAW HONEY, FREE FROM PRESERVATIVES, ARTIFICIAL COLOURANTS AND FLAVOURANTS, and THEY ARE UTZ CERTIFIED.
Today, I have a distributor who distributes my chocolates Nationwide.
The biggest challenge I faced was overcoming my fear that this would not work out – that I wasn’t good enough. But I’ve learned you cannot let it [fear] hold you back from achieving your dreams. My advice to other women wanting to start their own ventures is to listen to the advice offered by other SUCCESFUL PEOPLE but never to doubt their own INNER STRENGTH ….. to rise up to the challenges that face them.