After graduating with a degree in education, Lisa spent years teaching young children and then raising her own. However, there was always a form of creativity and entrepreneurship that she felt had been unexplored, especially after having her third child.
“I felt I needed to build something for myself,” she told Women’s Agenda. “When I had my first and second child, I did return to teaching, but when my third arrived, I knew I would really struggle to do well in both, being an amazing teacher and an amazing mother.”
Lisa said her entrepreneurial spirit was energised once she rekindled her love of baking desserts, and especially when she realised the stunning visual power of turning them into designs that looks like real flowers.
During Sydney’s lockdowns, she spent hours playing around with piping, experimenting with buttercream and designing her own florals. She found she had a knack for piping flowers onto cupcakes, and quickly realised she had something spectacular to share with the world.
And so she opened Sweet Botanics – specialising in cupcakes that look like bouquets of flowers — from her kitchen home in Kellyville, Sydney.
“I was piping these florals when my kids were asleep at night,” Tu said. “It was my way of recharging my batteries for the next day.”
At first, Tu was terrified that no customers would come.
But within days are sharing photos of her business and creations on Instagram, the orders were flying in.
“When I received my very first official sale, it honestly was the best feeling!” she said. “It gave me the confidence to stop doubting myself and keep moving forward. We are our hardest critics.”
“Each day brings new challenges and exciting opportunities,” Tu added. “I want to show my kids that if you put your mind and effort to what you love to do, you will see results.”
Tu spent months putting together the necessary paperwork to accredit her business under the NSW Food Authority legislation. Along the way, she took online courses in marketing, social media, and digital advertising.
She did this while caring for her three young children, all under the age of 8.
“For those who are parents with little kids, the lockdown took a lot of energy from both parents,” she said. “I was constantly thinking of creative ways to occupy and entertain them. They loved it but it was exhausting for me.”
Yet Tu’s creative fervour and tenacity continues to grow, and she is inspired by other creative artists in hospitality.
“People who are also in the art industry, like florists, cake makers and other women who also pipe buttercream flowers for a living,” she said, listing those whose strength and innovation she draws inspiration from. “Even though we all live in different countries, social media has definitely allowed us to connect, sharing each other’s ups and downs.”
As for her life balancing the demands of running a business (all on her own) alongside caring for her three children, Tu does her best to put boundaries around what she can control.
“I try to work on my orders when the children are asleep,” she said. “Which means I sacrifice my sleep.”
“Something will have to give. For me, it was definitely my sleep. I’m hoping I will get my sleep back. It feels just like having a newborn stage. That’s why I call Sweet Botanics my fourth baby.”
Tu also share valuable advice for anyone wanting to start a business.
“Do your research,” she said. “Depending on what you want to set up… I needed to attain council approval, insurance, food certificate. Business licensing,” she said.
“Also, find like-minded people in your field so there is continuous support, and avoid people who discourage you from doing what you want to accomplish.”
Finally, Tu wants budding entrepreneurs to not be afraid to ask for help.
“For example, asking your parents or in-laws to look after the kids for a few hours,” she said. “I don’t think my business would have worked if it wasn’t for the help of my parents and in-laws for occasional babysitting.”
As for her career as a teacher, Tu remains adamant that she has “…just taken a pause,” from it.
“I love how much academic, emotional and mental impact I can make towards their early years of learning,” she reminisces. “My reward is the children’s ‘light bulb’ moment. It’s the best feeling.”
For now, Tu is working through a huge influx of orders after a busy Mother’s Day. Her orders had reached maximum capacity just hours after she posted her Mother’s Day range online. She hopes that the weekend was a time of reflection, love, and support for all women.
“I’m thinking of those yearning to be mothers, those stepping in as new mothers, mothers who have lost their children and children who have lost their mothers. I hope people know that they are all special and very much loved.”