When Jon Williams first visited Cambodia back in 2003 from Australia with a Khmer co-worker, he never envisioned that someday he would own a small business in Phnom Penh. Now, twelve years later, he has successfully established Aussie Gourmet Bakery, a wholesale supply company that delivers fresh baked goods to local supermarkets, restaurants and catered events across the capital. As a wholesale specialist operating since 2009, Jon “The Baker,” takes pride in the fact that all of his products are handmade and fresh, using traditional time-honored recipes.
“I make cookies, multigrain and whole wheat bread, hotdog rolls, hamburger rolls, English muffins and cakes. Although I primarily sell bread, I am most famous for my meat pie,” he said. To make sure his pies achieve award-winning perfection, Jon imports quality beef and spices from Australia and flour from Singapore.
Beginning as a baker’s apprentice at 17, the 38-year-old refined his skills by studying throughout England, Germany and France, learning about the rustic varieties of sourdough and the light French baguettes.
After years owning a bakery in Brisbane with his wife Chanthou, Jon considered leaving the trade behind in search of a different profession. Recalling those stressful, high demand years in Australia when he tirelessly managed the machines in the back while his wife operated the till and supervised the store front, he said that “work was so busy that we never got to see each other or spend time together. Business was good, but it was too much. So we came to Cambodia to enjoy a better life.” However, as the culinary expertise increased throughout Phnom Penh, Jon saw a demand in store shelves and restaurants that needed to be filled.
“I started Aussie Gourmet bakery with just one bench and one mixer,” he said. “It was just me and my wife. Now I have 25 employees working to fill the orders.” Lacking a professional and dedicated pool of talented bakers, Jon has trained and recruited his workers from scratch, instilling productivity while passing on his craft.
Aussie Gourmet Bakery supplies Smile Mart, Panda Mart, Neil Mart and many other convenience stores as well as Bayon, Thai Hout and newly opened Super Duper Supermarkets. Their bread is alsp delivered to the burger joint Aussie XL.
Although Jon is a testament to the rewards of being an entrepreneur in Cambodia, running a small business has never been easy. He often spends long hours baking, sometimes from 8am to 5am. And it wasn’t until the last three years that business really started to take off. But once sales took off, Jon managed to keep up with supply by reinvesting in his equipment and staff. Currently, with his bakery filled with aromatic smells of fresh dough while heat radiates from the ovens, he is considering refurbishing his building to increase output. He also aspires to open up branch stores in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
Because starting and running a small business carries an inherent risk, Jon cautions that it takes hard work and determination to make an idea become a reality. “You can’t just open a business and think it will run itself,” he said.
“Life is easy in Cambodia [as a Westerner] and you can enjoy a high quality of life at a reasonable cost. I tell people, ‘come over here and you will love it.’ But as a small business owner it takes a lot of hard work and dedication and you have to be willing to adapt to the changes and work with the locals,” he said adding that community engagement is a key to success.
For a full selection of Aussie Gourmet Bakery’s products, visit http://www.agbcambodia.com/