By Melissa Grant
Balancing a small business with motherhood is bringing some pretty sweet rewards for Ashlea Gillard.
The Pakenham mum is the founder of Milkie Co, a growing business for customisable gifts that started out selling cheery custom cookies.
Ashlea has been nominated for the 2021 AusMumpreneur Awards, which celebrate and recognise Australian mums in business achieving outstanding success.
Her path to becoming a successful small business operator started about two years ago when she went looking for some birthday cookies for her partner.
She found a business selling what she wanted, however she didn’t like the price tag.
“I said ‘I’m not paying $45 for six biscuits just to be sent with happy birthday’,” she said.
“So I thought I’d give it a go myself. It was really fun… I just kinda started to make them.”
Ashlea started selling sugar cookies as a side hustle and before long she started making other customisable gifts.
“While doing the sugar cookies, I started doing keyrings and candles, and little bits and pieces to have a bit of an extra income coming in,” she said.
“A lot of people were buying sugar cookies as a gift but wanted something else to go with the cookies.”
At the time, Ashlea was working as a full-time sales executive. But when Covid hit she was made redundant.
Looking back, it was the push Ashlea needed to put more time into her growing business.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise,” she said.
“I was at a point where either I do less with Milkie Co or go full-time.
“I was reluctant to make the jump but I literally had no choice.”
Ashlea used a big chunk of her savings to upgrade equipment for her business.
Recently, she purchased a UV printer to work in conjunction with her laser cutter to customise and personalise her products.
Milkie Co’s range is huge with key rings, car diffusers, candles, lanyards, scrunchies, earrings and more.
Ashlea hasn’t looked back. She’s currently taking about 300 orders each month and has started building a shed at her parents’ house to store her products.
She has also started another venture called Spottie Lottie, which does laser cutting for other businesses with customised products.
Ashlea, who has two sons aged 4 and 6, and a stepson aged 11, is busy but has been able to structure her work days around the kids.
“We’ve got into a bit of a routine now,” she said.
“My youngest goes to kinder three times a week – on those days I get a lot of work done. I try not to work on the days he’s at home. A couple of days a week the boys go to after school care which gives me more time to do things.”
Ashlea was stoked and surprised to be nominated not once, but twice, for the AusMumpreneur Awards – she didn’t know the awards existed until she learned of her nominations via email.
The winners of the 2021 AusMumpreneur Awards will be announced online this October.