Celebrating South Bank’s Businesswomen: Elisa Cao

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, we interviewed Elisa Cao, owner of MySweetopia. She shares her insights on starting her own business, female role models and her hopes for women worldwide.

Did you always plan to start your own business?
Not really. There was a point in my life where I really needed to start looking after myself and my health required me to do something differently so I decided to create my own business!

Why MySweetopia?
I needed to connect with people in a different way. Coffee allows you to create a community in a calm environment.

Is the Australian cafe industry an even mix of men and women?
Our café has a majority of girls. Employing people based on skills is my primary focus. We’ve seen a healthy mix of men and women over the last couple of years.

What’s the most rewarding part about owning your own business?
Watching a young team grow, develop and want to be the best they can be. We’ve been able to employ people with very limited skills and watch them learn. Seeing our international contingent improve their English is really quite exciting.

What’s the biggest challenge for you as a woman in business?
Definitely work-life balance. To be able to be on-trend, look to the future and revise menus takes time. To be able to balance that with life is a struggle… I have a son and he’s a big part of the team. He has been able to interact with the staff, he knows everyone’s birthday and attends Christmas celebrations. He has had to be a part of the growth of the café. He’s been able to grow with us.

How do you balance your work life and your life outside of work?
It’s a struggle. I’ve learnt to have the right staff so I can be away from the business. My two cafe leaders are vitally important to the success of the business. It has been exciting to build their confidence so they know they can lead a team.

Sounds like delegation is key. Do you have any advice for women starting their own business?
Take risks, but calculate what those risks are. Don’t doubt yourself half way through. Once you embark on the journey, continue to evaluate risks and change things as required. It’s also about financial understanding as well, which is a challenge for a lot of people.

As a woman, have you ever faced criticism at work?
In the industry I formerly worked in, there was a huge disparity in pay, respect and how you would achieve success. In the café industry, there is so much less of that. It’s fantastic.

Do you have a female role model?
Dame Quentin Bryce, for her professionalism, capability and awareness of legalities. Not many people, male or female, can achieve such a successful career while raising a family.

What would you like most to change for women worldwide in 2017?
Equality. I feel I am contributing to that by employing people based on their skill sets or potential skill sets. At a senior level of any organisation, there are less and less females in the majority of cases. There are 50% females so why don’t 50% go all the way to the top? A girl can cut it just as much as a boy.

How are you celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 at MySweetopia?
Pink cinnamon scrolls! Life is good with sweets and if they are pink… why not!?


Want to meet more inspiring women of South Bank? We also sat down with April Shen, owner of Espresso Garage and Fara Sutjipto, owner of Denim Co.

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