Bringing a childhood love of cooking and her family food traditions from South African, Michelle Cullen Ferguson carved out a new family life in Australia volunteering in the school cafe at a busy Brisbane school and in administration catering for public functions. Then a move to Toowoomba supporting her husband’s work, saw a change in lifestyle and the transition to a new community, which can often present a challenge. Michelle is no stranger to challenge, her philosophy regarding her epilepsy – “disability does not define you” – is one she carries in to all aspects of her life.
Her faith in human nature and the strength of neighbourhood connections saw her feeding the neighbours with old-fashioned fare while settling in to the new community. The favourable reaction to the hearty favourites, and the enthusiastic word of mouth requests, saw Michelle start her home-based catering business. Developing weekly menus of basic dishes using chicken, mince or beef, gave gentle control of the volume and offerings, as well as an opportunity to grow her creativity and community reach….. and Shell’s Friends & Family Fare was born.
COVID saw an opportunity for portion-controlled, competitively priced favourite meals to help families through a tough time. The word spread and orders grew. With both pick-up and delivery options, family support from her husband and daughter has been instrumental in the business growing to its current success. Family is Number 1! Michelle worked with Chef Penny to strengthen her hospitality background, and the catering side of the business is now a force to be reckoned with.
Her business journey has allowed Shell the hindsight to share with others – to be successful in a new initiative be sure to have all the systems, licences and legal requirements in place right from the beginning. Michelle’s attention to detail and scrupulous health and hygiene practices, have given her a winning reputation within the community in a short space of time. Her vision for the future includes a kitchen extension to cater for substantial orders and events, employing a casual extra and continuing to operate with integrity and honesty. The instinct for sensing those qualities in the network in Toowoomba, sets her moral compass. It has also been a core factor in showing up, taking risks, gaining confidence, setting clear boundaries and being resilient in the face of any challenge.
Shell’s Friends & Family Fare is an excited sponsor for the forthcoming Business Leaders Breakfast event with ABIA Weddings Australia and Kim Cahill’s Toowoomba & Darling Downs (TDD) in July. Michelle is providing the quality bonbonnieres for the event, showcasing her versatility and commitment to the client’s needs. Michelle’s ‘heart for community’ sprinkling good vibes will be a valued part of this event.
Blog by Molly B