Lockyer Valley and Somerset young business owners Rachel Hales, Megan Hayes, Lenna Gaske, Adina Jane McCarthy and Elijah Kugel. Photos: Ali Kuchel
Lockyer Valley and Somerset young business owners Rachel Hales, Megan Hayes, Lenna Gaske, Adina Jane McCarthy and Elijah Kugel. Photos: Ali Kuchel

Meet the young local business owners thriving in COVID year

A GLOBAL pandemic may have sent some global businesses spiralling, but in the Lockyer Valley, young business owners have reported their busiest years on record.

And for some, this year, during the pandemic, they bit the bullet and decided to open up shop.

The Gatton Star has spoken to five young business owners who against all odds thrived in a difficult economc climate, and discovered what's involved in running a business, and what they love about working for themselves.

Our first story starts in Laidley, where two businesses share the one space, working together pursuing their individual passions.


Laidley Florist and Tea Room owner Rachel Hales. Photo: Ali Kuchel
Laidley Florist and Tea Room owner Rachel Hales. Photo: Ali Kuchel


WHEN the pandemic forced Rachel Hales to shut her Laidley shop, it was a motivator to sublease her cafe business and focus on her passion - flowers.

The 31-year-old has owned the Laidley Tea Room and Florist since 2017, but this year forced her to make the decision to dedicate her time to floristry.

"Because the cafe consumed a lot of my time, I kept the flowers simple, but now that I don't have to worry about the cafe, I want to expand the flowers side," Rachel said.

"They were both really good businesses, but I couldn't spread myself across the two and give them what they deserved."

Rachel started her Laidley business at just 18-years-old in the old Giesemann's building, saying she had "no fear".

"I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I loved it," she said.

Many of the flowers used in Rachel's arrangements are grown at her family's farm in Blenheim, a project the young business owner hopes to expand.

Rachel comes from three generations of florists, having learned her craft from her grandmother. But having her own business has given Rachel the freedom to use her creativity.

"You're always working for something you've got planned in your head," she said.

"The business is what you put into it, which is why I struggled working for someone else.

"We are creative people and having the freedom to do that is worth the stress from other aspects of the business.

Although social restrictions were in place this year due to coronavirus, Rachel reported her busiest Mother's Day on record.

"Because people couldn't see each other, everyone was doing deliveries," she said.

"They just wanted something to take to their mums."

The Laidley Florist and Tea Room is located at 111 Patrick St, Laidley, and can be found on Facebook here.



Amazing Grace Patisserie owner Megan Hayes. Photo: Ali Kuchel
Amazing Grace Patisserie owner Megan Hayes. Photo: Ali Kuchel


THERE'S a slice of family history at Laidley's newest cafe.

Carefully crafted into roulades, cakes and sweets, Megan Hayes has put her own touch into a historic building in Patrick Street with Amazing Grace Patisserie.

Just two months ago, Megan, 24, opened her first shop front, subleasing the cafe side of the Laidley Florist and Tea Room.

"I had Amazing Grace Patisserie before, and Rachel had her ad up and people were messaging me to apply," Megan said.

Previously, Megan made birthday, celebration and wedding cakes - but today, there's an array of goodies on offer at her Laidley shop.

Megan's cooking history includes generations of Hayes, Sippel and Lyne, who are well known for their baking and cooking.

During school, Megan started her passion for cooking at Caffe Sorella in Forest Hill, before moving to Brisbane to start an apprenticeship.

Megan studied commercial cookery and worked at well-known Brisbane restaurants including Echo Bistro and Aria.

Owning her own patisserie with a shop front has given Megan the opportunity to put her favourite items in the cabinet and given her independence to run her own business.

"This is my first shop. It was really only cakes before but now I'm showcasing a lot more of my talent," she said.

She said sharing the space with Rachel, who operates the Laidley florist, was beneficial for cutting operational costs.

"If someone comes in for flowers, they might get a sweet or coffee and visa-versa. They complement each other really well," she said.

Megan said Amazing Grace Patisserie had a small menu and the cabinet treats were always changing.

"Previously I've been out the back with minimal customer interaction, but now I can talk to people and get their feedback and find out what they like," she said.

"The response from everyone has been very nice, everyone in Laidley wants the other businesses to do well."

Amazing Grace Patisserie is located at 111 Patrick St, Laidley, and can be found on Facebook here.



Big Shot Photography owner Elijah Kugel. Photo: Ali Kuchel
Big Shot Photography owner Elijah Kugel. Photo: Ali Kuchel


TAKING photos at local cricket games began as a hobby for Elijah Kugel, but it has since turned into a thriving business venture.

The 22-year-old from Glenore Grove started Big Shot Photography almost two years ago on the side of his full-time after being asked to photograph local sport, birthdays and formals.

It's since snapped into a thriving business that keeps Elijah busy most weekends and editing photos most evenings.

"At the moment I can only photograph on weekends," Elijah said.

"I'd like to go full time, probably sooner rather than later. The sooner I take the plunge I'll be able to say 'yes' to more jobs and market myself a lot better."

Since Year 8, Elijah's focus was on studying landscape architecture, but once he started, he couldn't see himself on that pathway.

Friends and family started asking him to take photos, and shortly after, Big Shot Photography was born.

Elijah is a self-taught photographer, using videos and YouTube to learn new skills.

He describes his style as raw, emotional and candid with limited editing, but it's his personality that shines during photo shoots.

"I just try and relate and by the end of the session be their friend and someone they feel like they've known for ages," Elijah said.

"Lots of people are very nervous about having their photo taken, and I didn't realise that until I got my own professional photos done.

"That's why I try make it really light, fun and relaxing as possible."

Elijah travels most of south east Queensland for his photography but wouldn't reveal any of his secret locations often used for photo shoots.

"I love a good country backdrop, rolling hills and long grass. But I also like dry and rugged."

Check out Big Shot Photography on Facebook here, or visit Elijah's website here.




Bang For Your Buck Horsegear owner Lenna Gaske, with her dogs. Photo: Ali Kuchel
Bang For Your Buck Horsegear owner Lenna Gaske, with her dogs. Photo: Ali Kuchel

WHAT originally started out as a horse rug repair business has turned into a Somerset business busting at the straps looking to expand for the second time in four years.

Lenna Gaske, 28, and her father Nigel, started Bang For Your Buck Horsegear in 2016, and despite coronavirus pandemic, have experienced their most successful year to date.

The Lowood business began when Lenna was fixing rugs and would take note of what she liked and didn't like about other products.

She saw a gap for affordable horse rugs and began designing and trialling her own brand.

In 2016, the first shipping container of rugs arrived.

Today, they stock and deliver about 100 tonne of rugs across Australia.

"I was never good at working under someone else," Lenna said.

"When I worked in cafes, I had good ideas, but management would say no."

Running her own business, Lenna is able to put her own ideas into full swing, but says it can have its downfalls.

"If it's only a good idea in my head, it's my fault, but it makes you really accountable," she said.

Lenna says her dad is the businessman behind the scene, whereas she is the designer and horsey person, who works with the customers.

This year, coronavirus sent their online shopping orders into overdrive, with orders shipped daily across Australia.

"When all the closures were announced, we went from having one of our biggest weeks ever to dead quiet the next week," Lenna said.

"Then the following week online shopping kicked in and off it went - we've had our biggest year to date so far."

With an increasing demand for affordable horse rugs, Bang For Your Buck is looking to expand, with the possibility of finding land to build a new warehouse.

Until they expand, Lenna can't increase her stock numbers or product lines.

"We can't bring in any new lines at the moment because we don't have anywhere to put stock," she said.

"We are looking for somewhere in the Lockyer or Somerset to build."

Bang For Your Buck Horsegear is located at 4 Kleinhans Rd, Lowood. You can visit their website here, or Facebook here.



Fine Lines hairdresser and owner Adina Jane McCarthy. Photo: Ali Kuchel
Fine Lines hairdresser and owner Adina Jane McCarthy. Photo: Ali Kuchel

STARTING a new business amid a global pandemic was never going to be an easy option, but for a Laidley hairdresser, it meant securing a job.

As Queensland went into lockdown, Adina Jane McCarthy and her business partner Tonilee opened a hairdressing and beauty salon in Laidley.

They weren't allowed to offer beauty treatments, so the duo relied on hairdressing to kick start their new venture.

But when you fast forward to the end of the year, Fine Lines is thriving.

Adina Jane, known as AJ, has been a business owner previously for six years, but decided to open up shop and work for herself.

"It is hard work, but you get what you want," she said.

"I love being my own boss, and I don't have someone telling me what to do."

AJ started her apprenticeship at 15-years-old, but after finishing her trade she spent a few years working out what she really wanted to do.

She was fortunate to return to a salon in Laidley, and ended up returning to TAFE to upgrade her skills.

Today, she has two apprentices - a hairdresser and a barber - who are like AJ, embarking on their journey into the industry.

"I like to give someone an opportunity and I like to teach," AJ said.

"I'm not just giving them a job, or getting them to help me all the time, it's about helping them to achieve what they want to be."

Through Fine Lines, AJ is able to cut hair in her style, and be herself around customer, as well as specialising on bright, bold, rainbow-coloured hair.

And it's ironic that as a teenager, AJ had her hair cut at Jennifers - the exact building she operates her business from today.

Fine Lines is located at 166 Patrick Street Laidley, you can visit them online here.

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