People and Places
Lifelong friends are good for business By Kate Sears

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Having been best friends from the age of 13, Nicole from Panda Blairgowrie and Kate from Be Fit Food reflect on their 22-year friendship and how they guide each other in business. 

What’s your favourite thing about the other?

Nicole: I have always admired Kate’s ambition and determination; her love of food and how she wants to change the way we see health through her business. Watching Kate win the Telstra Business Awards for Be Fit Food for Victoria was an amazing honour that represented how hard she has worked over the past years and I have never been more proud. 

Kate: I’ve always respected Nicole’s work ethic and loyalty. Once you have Nicole on your team, she is a teammate for life. Over the course of the past few years her drive towards business has shifted, and while she still works hard in her business, there are other factors that motivate her. If you look at Panda Blairgowrie, you can see that organic and whole locally sourced produce is now a key motivator. 

How did you work together?

Nicole: We have not worked a lot in each other’s businesses, but have been more of a helping guidance to each other over the years. This did change in 2017/2018 after Be Fit Food featured on Shark Tank. I jumped in and assisted Kate with the growth and marketing of Be Fit Food. We worked well together with an honesty that not all employees can have. 

What’s your favourite thing about being in business?

Nicole: For me personally, the direction that we took when we opened Panda Blairgowrie changed in comparison to if we opened it a few years ago. I have been going through IVF for nearly three years now and the main thing that has changed is our perception of food and beverages. I now try and stock as much organic and local produce as possible. 

Kate: I love getting up and going to work every day to hang out in the office with a really motivated, optimistic and enthusiastic team of 20 females in our head office, and I am now proud to say we have added one full-time male too. Yes, we have plenty of males across the business too! 

Any advice for other women hoping to get into business?

Nicole: I have worked in a male-dominated field my whole adult life, and while it was not always easy, I have always worked hard and stayed true to myself and my vision. Also, surrounding yourself with strong women who lift you up instead of dragging you down is a must. 

Kate: I totally agree with Nicole here — surround yourself with amazing people who lift you up and tell you that you can! I love that my best friend backed my business even when times were tough, and not only did she make her husband jump in and help us, but she invited all of her friends and family too. 

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