Finance Your Budget Turning passion to profit: Marion Grasby, chef
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Turning passion to profit: Marion Grasby, chef

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Chef Marion Grasby has always lived by a strict saving plan – so it took a leap of faith to mortgage and borrow all she could to set up her food range business, Marion’s Kitchen.

“Starting my Marion’s Kitchen company was the biggest risk of my life,” Ms Grasby said.

“My husband and I mortgaged and borrowed as much as we could to get it off the ground with no guarantee of success, but it was something we were both passionate about and felt we had to do.”

A former journalist with a passion for food, starting Marion’s Kitchen was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream for Ms Grasby, who grew up travelling around Australia, PNG and Thailand with her parents.

She left her job as a journalist in Adelaide’s ABC Bureau to study a Masters of Gastronomy in 2008.

While studying, Ms Grasby entered MasterChef in 2010 and, while a runner-up, her journalism skills and likeability turned the experience into a career-building move.

Since MasterChef, she has filmed her own show, Marion’s Thailand, and regularly appeared on TV programs like Good News Week, Nine’s Mornings and writes for taste.com.au and MasterChef Magazine.

Marion’s Kitchen provides kits for people to easily make the Asian dishes she grew up eating with her Thai-Australian family, in their own homes.

The range is now stocked in about 3000 stores across Australia, as well as in selected South African supermarkets.

“Choosing to invest my own money in my Marion’s Kitchen food range business was the best financial decision I’ve made,” Ms Grasby said.

“It was far riskier than going into partnership with an established company, but having full control over my business was far more important.”

Her first job was far from food or media, working as a porter carrying suitcases in a Brisbane hotel.

Despite having no experience, she “just tried to smile a lot” during the first interview, and ended up winning the job.

Ms Grasby says there are things to learn in any job, no matter how minor you think your role is.

“The most useful thing I learnt [as a porter] was how to solve problems and how to graciously deal with customer complaints.”

The role as a porter also influenced her choice to become a journalist after she loved talking to and getting to know customers.

“It made me interested in peoples’ stories, which influenced my decision to become a journalist after my university studies.”

Her first pay was also indicative of her life-long money habits, going into savings for an overseas holiday.

With a Thai mother and an Australian father, Ms Grasby spent much of her childhood travelling. Along with a love of food, her parents also taught her to manage and save money.

“I watched them work hard to send me to school and provide for our family,” she said.

“I learned early on that a good work ethic goes hand in hand with making money to achieve your goals.”

She tries to save at least 10 per cent of whatever she earns, a strategy that would satisfy any financial advisor.

“Once I got into the habit of putting that money aside straight away, it didn’t seem to be much of a burden.

“I set saving goals and then use a little to reward myself when I reach those goals.”

Her other advice: “Having a savings account is far better than having a credit card account.”

With her money going towards her business, Ms Grasby said she is still “very much in savings mode”.

“I work hard to make sure any personal debts are absolutely necessary and paid back in full as soon as possible.

“Owning my own home would probably be the biggest investment plan I have for the future.”

Despite all her success, there’s one financial decision that’s a constant regret: “Not paying my parking fines on time!”