11 March 2022

When it comes to business, Meredith West is one smart cookie

| Sally Hopman
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Meredith West

Owner of Dough Re Mi Bakery at Wagga, Meredith West. Photo: Jackie Cooper, Jack of Heart Photography.

Meredith West reckons she has the recipe for success: go with your gut feeling, literally, when it comes to good business – and treat those who work with you as if they’re family. And if you make something everyone loves, you’re clearly a woman of taste.

Meredith, who grew up on a farm outside Wagga, runs Dough Re Mi, a bakery in that city that not only provides individually made cookies for all occasions, but also provides a “home” for its staff.

“When I worked in Sydney as a paralegal, my boss was really nasty,” she said. “I told myself at the time that if I ever ran my own business, I would never ever be like that.”

Today Meredith runs the cookie business with one full-time colleague to help with the baking and up to six casuals, who do the icing – and regularly come up with good ideas for new designs.

Many of her staff are people whose priority is their family, but still need a job to help pay the bills. By making their hours flexible, having enough staff on call to cover for someone who has to take leave for family reasons, treating everyone with respect, and encouraging their brilliance when it comes to a new cookie design – to say nothing of taste-testing the product – it’s a happy family working environment.

Dough Re Mi cookie

This Dough Re Mi cookie says it all – you are awesome. Photo: Facebook.

Meredith said she learned to bake by watching her mother at the stove on the family farm.

“I used to help her when I was young and found that I just loved baking,” she said. “To me, it’s like a science.”

And she should know. Meredith trained as an environmental scientist at Charles Sturt University in Wagga before she tried a variety of other skills when the family lived in Sydney.

But she was always going to return to Wagga. So with husband David and their three children, they headed back home.

“I wanted to come back here so I could look out the window and see the trees,” she said.

It’s worked out perfectly for the family. Meredith’s husband, David, works from home as an art director for a magazine while Meredith, although she has her shop in town, bakes from home, finishing off the cookies at the shop.

“I feel really grateful, my husband has been my greatest support,” she said. “He’s also been a better wife than I was because I was so glued to baking.”

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Meredith ran her whole business from home for six years before taking the step to open a shop in town.

“Of course we ended up opening the shop three weeks before COVID struck,” she said. “Perfect timing.

“It was really awful. I remember my accountant saying at the time that I had two options: I could close the doors and I’d be eligible for Jobkeeper or whatever it was, or I could dig my heels in and push through. I knew if I pushed through I’d have a job – and so would my cookie family.”

So Meredith kept the shop open, changed a few things around to be COVID-safe like putting a shelf at the front door so, although people couldn’t come inside, they could point to what cookie they wanted. The appearance of the store mascot, Henry the Unicorn, also helped.

Pink unicorn

When Henry the Unicorn is out the front of the Wagga shop, that means the cookies are ready to go. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Henry was a horse in a previous life but was reborn as a unicorn – a very brightly coloured unicorn, who tells everyone within sight that the shop is open for business.

“He just makes people feel good,” Meredith said. “How could a hot pink unicorn not make you feel good?”

The business survived the pandemic and is, literally, hot. It sells cookies throughout Australia and when Region Media spoke to Meredith this week, she was finishing off the biggest order she’d had to date – 2500 cookies designed to celebrate Harmony Day in South Australia.

She has sold cookies to everyone – from a box to cheer up folk in COVID lockdown to huge orders for companies like Disney – “we made Mickey Mouse ones for them”.

Every cookie is made by hand, all to Meredith’s secret recipe. The only thing she’ll reveal is that the recipe contains an “obscene” amount of butter.

Does she see her business as successful?

“I have a shop, a unicorn, almost 10 staff and can even take home a wage, I’d say I was frigging successful.”

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In Australia they are called biscuits. This is not America.

Meredith West12:19 am 16 Apr 22

Hi Janene,
Thanks so much for your reply. I actually call them biscuits when they are naked, fresh out of the oven. But then when we ice them in the all the beautiful decorations, this is when they are transformed into cookie. Cookies are biscuits in drag, freakin’ fabulous.

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