In for a penny: Melbourne’s Penny for Pound ...

In for a penny: Melbourne’s Penny for Pound Bakery

From humble beginnings as a wholesaler in the back kitchen of a mate’s cafe, Melbourne’s Penny for Pound bakery now has its own light-filled storefront, a staff of 15, and the hearts of the neighbourhood.

Despite achieving local fame as a go-to bakery and patisserie, co-owner and co-founder of Penny for Pound, Matilda Smith still gets nervous doing interviews.

Matilda and her partner, Ben Wilson, started Penny for Pound together three years ago with nothing but second hand equipment, a dark kitchen and a drive to make their dream a success. But while Matilda thinks every chef wants to go out on their own at some point, it was harder than they thought it was going to be.

“We tried to go into it with open eyes and we realised it was going to be a difficult thing and lots of work and take a real effort, but I think you can never really prepare yourself,” she said.

“A small business is really a labour of love.”

A pastry chef by trade, Matilda heads up the kitchen and the creative side of the business while Ben complements her nicely with his degree in business and his background in restaurant management. In fact, the pair met when they were both working at a hospitality venue in Sydney, before they moved to Melbourne to pursue the dream of owning their own business.

“Ben’s the business brain, he does all of the things that I’m clueless about and don’t want to do,” Matilda says.

“It’s funny, we each think that each other’s job is the hardest part of the business.”

Matilda credits this divide-and-conquer approach to their success so far, as well as being willing to put in the long hours required in a small business. With three years being open for wholesale under their belts, she says they look back and laugh now at the crazy hours they put themselves through to keep the business going.


“I really think you have to be passionate, you have to love it or else it won’t work.”

Above all though, Matilda says that staying humble and starting out small is an important part of going into business.

“I think a lot of people these days probably over-capitalise and you see people spending so much money on beautiful fit outs for cafes and restaurants and I just sort of think, ‘oh my goodness, you’ve got to sell a lot of poached eggs to make back this huge investment that you’ve made.’

“Hospitality’s going in a really funny direction where it’s a lot about image and winning design awards and things like that, but I think we tried to consciously start really small, so we got second-hand equipment when we first started and tried to keep it really humble and not spend beyond our means.”

And they stuck to their budget, making products in two to three batches a day because they only had a small mixer.

“It took us about a year and a half to finally get the big mixer that we needed and that was something that we really worked towards.”

Although they planned to open a shopfront when they first took the leap into business, the universe had another plan for them and they ended up running wholesale for two years, seven days a week, before opening their little shop on Bridge Road, Richmond a year ago.

It felt like a setback at the time, but looking back, Matilda realises not opening a shop right away was a blessing in disguise because with all they’ve learnt along the way, they’ve been able to do a better job opening the shop now than they would have been able to do at the start.

The store itself was another serendipitous gift from the universe.

“This is another instance that we were very lucky,” Matilda says.

“A friend of ours was opening a café and they’d taken over this space on Bridge Road in Richmond – it was quite a big space but they just wanted the front half.

“I think it used to be a bakery café or a pizza kitchen café or something like that, so they used the front space and said ‘oh we’ve got this area out the back that used to be like a pizza kitchen so it’s got some ovens and things like that; would you guys want to rent it from us?’

“So we were really lucky we sort of got given this space so we never looked around for a kitchen or anything.”

In terms of fixing up the space, they again stuck within their means, doing only what was absolutely necessary.

“We put a new lick of paint on and cleaned it up but we haven’t done much to the floor plan or anything like that.

“It was a really dark space when we took it over but now we’ve got lovely windows in there now, and it’s really nice and light and bright.

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