Isabelle Bach, Owner of Melbourne bespoke boutique bakery Proof is in the Pudding originally trained to be a professional ballerina. She was dancing full time with the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet when injury struck and forced her to change career. When Isabelle couldn’t find the traditional decadent desserts she wanted to eat, she started baking them. To her surprise, others loved them, so she started Proof is in the Pudding.
She was also studying a Bachelor of Social Science at the time. As her business grew and became successful, Isabelle became increasingly busy. Despite being highly motivated, she was ultimately faced with choosing between study and continuing her business. But she didn’t want to abandon either. Isabelle researched, and found Swinburne Online‘s flexible study options allowed her to continue to pursue both her passions. She discovered that she was able to select subjects where learnings were immediately applied in her business.
When you retired from ballet at 19 due to injury, how did you decide what to do next?
Initially I believe I fell into a pattern of, “I should go to uni and get a ‘proper job'”, as per the stereotypical academic career trajectory. I had interests in psychology and nutrition, so simply browsed a few available courses at a range of Melbourne universities. The psychology course at Swinburne Online most took my fancy and seemed to be thorough and interesting, so I selected it as my first preference. To gain entry I completed the STAT exam, supported by a more personal application which explained my past as well as future academic goals. This must have caught someone’s eye because I was swiftly offered a place which I eagerly accepted.
Why did you choose to switch to Swinburne Online and what impact did this have on your life?
Following a couple of years on campus, as my baking hobby became busier and aspects including commuting to campus and scheduling tutorials and lectures in a complementary manner became more challenging, I looked into online options. At first I was terrified. Both because I was very used to a face-to-face tutor who I could contact for advice, and also I was less confident in my technological skills. I was also concerned as to how lectures were accessed.
It didn’t take long for these fears of change and the unknown to dissipate. Once I was able to log on, navigate the portal and discover that you had access to just as many, if not more, resources and modes of support I knew that Swinburne Online was for me. I was able to develop my own timetables and review resources in a manner which suited my learning styles. Both the teachers and students had a level of motivation greater than what I’d experienced on campus. I attribute this to the fact that online students have a deeper motivator provoking them to study compared to campus students, because they have made an effort to incorporate study despite a competing interest.
As a 22-year-old business owner, how have your Swinburne Online electives helped you succeed in business?
When selecting my electives I browsed the range on Swinburne Online and selected those which took a personal interest. Naturally many business related units that would have immediate real world applications took my fancy including accounting and business law. A greater understanding of these topics has allowed me to tackle all aspects of business management.
As a leader, what is your management style and how has this helped you build a successful and profitable business?
I have a small, close knit team. I don’t lead my team, we collaborate. It is extremely important that everyone knows I appreciate the effort and loyalty they provide. Regardless of how superficial a task may appear, I have at some point conducted that task myself. So I don’t view myself as superior from my team members. If there is a dirty cake pan and I’m in the wash room I will clean it, even if a team member is present to complete this.
I listen to the concerns of my team and work with them to ensure every aspect of our tasks flows smoothly. A Proof is in the Pudding team member must like desserts, love smiling, and take on board the passion I have for what I do. Ensuring my team feels appreciated and passionate about their role means work is enjoyable, performed to the best of their ability, and it creates loyalty.
How do you successfully manage to fulfil your passion for baking decadent cakes and complete your Degree in Psychology and Sport Science?
Lists! I cannot survive without my daily ‘mind sieve’. This is a comprehensive list of all the tasks, in order of priority, which should be conducted that day. For me this includes things from the daily bake orders, new clients who have requested a call, ingredients to be ordered, and accounting to be completed; all the way to lectures requiring completion, assessable tasks, and weekly reading. As I go each task will be ticked off the list. This provides me direction, structure, motivation and self reward to see tasks becoming completed. It also fool-proofs you from forgetting to complete anything, or waking with a lack of direction. As the dessert cafe has gotten busier the lists have certainly gotten longer! I now work on a daily basis from three separate diaries.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Juggling social/family life with work/study life. I’ve had to sacrifice time with friends and family in order to keep up with my commitments. I’m fortunate to have an extremely supportive family. No matter how long I work for they continue to ensure they’re available to Skype from interstate, or provide advice. When they fly interstate to visit me it isn’t rare to find my dad with a bottle of windex in hand lending support with cleaning the shop front.
What are you most proud of?
This is a really difficult question for me. I’m not sure to be honest but potentially the fact I haven’t given up. It became very difficult to juggle study and work as things became more challenging academically whilst the business became busier. I wanted to let one aspect go for a long time but using Swinburne Online to better manage my commitments meant I was able to pursue both simultaneously. It is challenging to keep up with everything, bounce back from criticism, and the exhausting long hours, but I’m glad I did.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
In today’s world the traditional academic trajectory is quickly changing. No longer can a person simply gain an undergrad degree and enter the workplace. Everyone has a challenge ahead of them when they engage in study or start their own business. But if you can find a topic which interests you and identify your inner-most motivators you’ll be set for success.
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