SME spotlight: Andrew Connole

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Let it rise: Andrew Connole is the founder and director of Sonoma, an artisan sourdough baker that has grown to six bakery cafes across Sydney. He shares his insights into business growth.

My top tip to run a smart business is…

Always do whatever it takes to exceed the customer’s expectations – without customers, you have no business.

I consider my greatest achievement in business to be…

Starting the business by a 1080km commute to bake 300 loaves of bread. Sonoma was built from passion, determination and lots of will. No money, but endless amounts of focus.

To stay perennially motivated I...

Focus on making the brand as great as it can possibly be. It’s all about building Sonoma into a brand of significance.

I’m passionate about my business because…

Sonoma was built from passion – no business plan – just pure passion. The inspiration was from Northern California; a simple formula and an abandoned wood fired oven in Bellata at the old general store owned by my great-grandparents from 1919 to the late 1950s. Starting from adversity with no money, just massive amounts of passion and integrity, and driving 1080km to bake the best loaf of bread we could.

To be where we are today is testament that without passion and ferocity we wouldn't have achieved what we have to this point. Now it’s time to make the brand remarkable from those humble early days in Bellata.

Sonoma is all about passion matched with beautiful product. It has always been about innovating not imitating.

My tips to build word-of-mouth are…

It has always been about the quality and consistency of our product; striving for excellence and matching that with outstanding service; and creating a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread that has substance and soul.

One of my most successful marketing activities to date was…

Supplying Sydney’s finest restaurants.

On setting and achieving goals, my motto is…

See the realisation of the goal, focus on achieving that goal and then do whatever it takes to make it happen.

My thoughts on retaining good staff are…

Treat staff with respect, and like family, and give them autonomy.

A key focus in the year ahead is…

Continue the journey building the brand.

My advice to start-ups is…

Always do more than you're willing to be paid for and realise that you have to be happy to lose before you win. The early days of Sonoma were nothing short of absolute sacrifice: 20-hour days over and over without reward. As they say in life, nothing outstanding happens without sacrifice. Most importantly you have to be committed to enduring the pain in order to realise the gain.

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