SEVEN years ago, Sally and Adam Gleaves were conducting their entire business from a small lunchroom balcony overlooking the airport runway.
Now they are running Chef Express, one of the most successful contract companies in the local hospitality industry.
Sally recalls how the family business was transformed from a two-man show into a company that now provides executive chefs to kitchens throughout the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
"When Adam and I first started the business, Adam was the only chef we had and I was working in another full time job," says Sally, a former marketing executive.
"I worked right next to the airport and I would use my lunch breaks to run Chef Express, coordinating major corporate deals over the phone between planes coming in and taking off, trying not to let on to people that I wasn't even sitting in an office."
A far cry from the runway-side operation they were running less than a decade ago, Sally and Adam now contract on behalf of 30 executive chefs with plans in train to hire 20 more.
Recently the team has been able to offer volunteers to local high schools, send a chef to assist with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution day and even provide an entire team to work on a dinner with Living Room star and celebrity chef Miguel Maestre.
Sally puts the company's unexpected success down to a keen eye for publicity, creation of strong relationships and an insatiable desire to outperform the industry competition.
"We saw that there was inconsistency with other contracting companies, sometimes with the quality of staff, the skills, the qualifications or even just the attitude," says Sally.
"We also saw bad communications between agencies, and once we noticed the market was crying out for quality and reliability we realised we could do this, and do it a lot better."
With five-star training, extensive industry knowledge and a sharp kitchen knife beneath his belt, Adam began as the company's first contractor.
Within a matter of months he had more clients than he could handle on his own, so the business decided to take on a second employee.
This pattern repeated itself year after year, and today each member of the expanding team is still filling their diaries with ease.
According to Sally, the business has now reached a point where she and her husband can take more of a back seat when it comes to day-to-day operations, concentrating instead on their family lives.
"When we first built Chef Express it definitely came with a safety net, thinking that if work for our other chefs fell through we would just try to keep Adam busy.
"But now it's at the point where even a recent injury Adam sustained, leaving him unable to work for eight months, barely impacted the volume of the business at all.
"We're also able to run the business seamlessly with taking care of two young children; I can work from my home office and still drive the girls to and from school every day."
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