My name is Jo-Ann Wolles. I’m a chef and a mother of three and I live in Sydney. My business is called Goanna Hut, it’s based on my indigenous cultural heritage on my mother’s side of the family. I mix and blend my own native teas and I cater.
When my youngest son was diagnosed with autism, I stopped working split shifts and long hours as a chef. To entertain myself, I started working the gourmet markets – that’s how Goanna Hut started.
My mum’s family are from the Wiradjuri nation, up through the back of Coolah and Mudgee region. Wiradjuri is one of the largest nations in NSW and the goanna is one of my family totems. My great-great-grandmother was part of the Stolen Generation and to avoid more children being trapped, they used to say we were Black Irish. When my grandmother was old enough to leave Cowra, she moved to Sydney.
I combine my cheffing skills with the native foods we have – everyone walks past lilly pilly every day and so that’s one of the ingredients that I like to use a lot – building an awareness of produce that belongs to Australia and is traditionally grown.
Native produce is drought-proof, better for indigenous communities. Getting back to what mother earth is supplying us is beneficial for the body and the land.
Sister School opened doors. I was doing things by word-of-mouth, letting the product do the talking, not me. But Global Sisters said, ‘No, you need to start promoting yourself.’ I’m not great at putting myself out there. They’re building me up for the next level and they helped open avenues to the corporate world. They also nominated me for the AMP Tomorrow Maker award, which is what helped my business get a webpage and a decent little laptop.
T2 have jumped on board and out of the six teas I blended, they’ve put in an order for three of those. ‘Energise’ is native lilly pilly mixed with pomegranate on a green tea base. ‘Eclipse’ is a mix of a hibiscus blue flower with lavender, and when you add a dash of honey and lemon to it, she’ll turn purple. It’s exciting and daunting at the same time, with lots of learning curves with packaging and purchasing. You’re always learning, it doesn’t matter if you stop and start. I still need to learn how to get the business running throughout the year and not just in peak times.
Global Sisters have also given me basic computer skills and financial skills. One of the accountants helped me navigate the Xero program and checked our policy and procedure. Before that, I wasn’t taking an up-front deposit and that has been a great help. Everything from trademarks to accounting to logos has all been pretty much thanks to Global Sisters.
Success, in the long term, is to own my own house and to have ongoing clientele with the business so that we can employ more people. Stability for my family and stability in the business is the three-year-plan and the ten-year-plan is to get talking about how to get my teas into Asia. I’m looking forward to what the future’s got stocked there.
The more we get people eating and tasting native products, the more accessible and viable they will be for everybody. Giving back to community, supporting mobs or cultures or tribes around native produce: it’s about bringing a lot more to the table than just Goanna Hut.