Rachael Bermingham is the co-author of the hugely successful 4 Ingredients cookbook – Australia’s best-selling cookbook to date. By taking a simple idea and utilising her marketing nous, this working mum has reinvented herself as an author and motivational speaker, and is proof that with hard work and self-belief, anything is possible. She speaks with Career FAQs about her inspirational journey.
How did you come up with the idea for 4 Ingredients?
My good friend Kim McCosker said she’d always had a really good idea for a cookbook that only uses a few ingredients – and I said, ‘I’d buy that!’ At the time my husband Paul was working away 11 days out of every fortnight. I was mentoring women in six countries from home during my son’s sleep times on how to build businesses, which I enjoyed. What I didn’t enjoy was trying to come up with something fabulous to cook each night.
So I nagged Kim over the space of a month about how the book was coming along. She’d say, ‘No no, I’ll never do it, I’ve got too much going on.’ Like me, she was a work-from-home mum. She has a degree in finance and is really switched on in that area, and was busy writing up financial plans for clients.
One day she turned around and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this book idea and I reckon you’re right, I reckon it’s got legs. I’ll do it if you do it with me!’ So we put our heads together and we came up with a very quick and easy, no-nonsense cookbook with recipes you can start in the evening or when your friends drop in so you can whip something fantastic up in no time. We strategised, worked out a plan and put the steps into place. We wrote mostly at night after putting the children to bed.
4 Ingredients became the best-selling cookbook in Australia, and now it’s on the best-selling lists in the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, and we’re looking into launching it in the USA at the end of this year or early next. All that led to 4 Ingredients 2 and 4 Ingredients Gluten-free and we have a stack of sensational titles rolling out over the next few years. We’re madly cooking through the next book which comes out in August.
This is going to sound very strange, but I believe in the law of attraction and I actually did know I was always going to become successful even though when I was thinking about these things I was so poor there were times when I was scrounging around the house for loose change to buy a loaf of bread.
I knew I was going to be successful – I just didn’t realise it was going to come in this form or that I was going to become an author! But Kim and I are very hardworking girls – we’re incredibly proactive and productive, you have to be when you have children and work from home. Our philosophy is to focus on what you want and put in the time and effort to achieve it and you will be rewarded.
My first business was when I was 19 and I had my own hairdressing salon. My hairdressing gave me the social skills to talk to people because basically I’m a bit shy and awkward, so hairdressing helped develop my social skills.
Shark feeding? I can’t really work that one out I must admit! I did it for three years at Underwater World on the Sunshine Coast and it was fantastic! I guess I’ve always been a bit risky and adventurous in my nature, I’ve jumped out of planes and bungee jumped and done some wild things in my time. I’m seven months pregnant now and I’m still jet skiing. I guess it’s just in my nature to be a bit rebellious and test the limits.
The next vocation was in travel. I worked for Flight Centre for five years before opening my own travel agency and that really was the pivotal point in my career. September 11 happened just after we opened, so no one wanted to travel and I had to learn how to get people in my agency door. I learnt how to market and ultimately that experience and skill has been the vital ingredient for all the successes since and to date. I have always been very interested and enthused by the challenge of business. It’s different every day and in particular I love working for myself. It’s incredibly rewarding when you can work how you want, when you want and from home.
All the little things you do in your life are pieces leading to something bigger, it all happens for a reason, like the travel agency – I had to learn how to market to make money and keep afloat.
I heard that marketing was 80 per cent of a business, so I got onto the Internet, I went to the library, I read everything that I could and still 90 per cent of the things I learnt didn’t even work for me! But I kept trying and eventually found the10 per cent of strategies that did work for me – and I still use them today. Once you find your way and style it all works seamlessly and successfully.
My first big success was soon after I left travel when I was approached by a women’s property investment group to write a marketing plan, implement it and thereby launch their program – all without an advertising budget. I ended up taking that business from a zero dollar turnover to a 2.5 million dollar turnover in five weeks!
That’s right, I have no uni qualifications – I didn’t even finish school. I went to grade 10 and then managed a boutique, and then I became a hairdresser straight away. I took courses over the phone, listened to TV seminars, went to conferences, read, listened, looked and learned what I needed to know. I’m a very hands-on, learn-on-the job type of person. I just gave things a go. I fast-tracked through other people’s mistakes – mind you, I have made plenty of mistakes of my own too!
Yes, they’re due in early May. For the last five years my secret weapon has been scheduling. I learnt how to schedule, I have a diary (a PDA), and an iPhone that all sync to the central organisation centre. My schedule is my lifesaver because there is only so much you can do during a day.
Pre-babies you can schedule things in at relevant times. When you’re a work-from-home mum you can’t do that. I worked out that I could do six things successfully in a day so I have six things on my list every single day – and I make sure they’re all done before my head hits the pillow each night.
You have to be very diligent, particularly when you are working from home because everyday things can easily distract you. For instance, I don’t take any personal phones calls during working hours – my work time is my work time, I can have a chat to my best friend when I’m feeding Jaxson or playing with him, but I don’t mix business with pleasure. I am very focused and make sure I am productive in the time I have.
I do. My family and I are very blessed because they have more of me than a mum that has to go out and work nine to five, Monday to Friday. They see more of me, have more of my time and energy, and we hang out a lot more. It took me 18 months to establish my business this way – but it was very worth it.
I’ve always been a thinker and a planner and even when I was a kid I started my little power mantra that I still have to this day – which is ‘dream, believe, create and succeed’. I had these four words taped to my walls when I was 16, so every night I’d dream of a goal, I’d believe I’d achieve it and I’d see myself doing it, I’d create the steps necessary to make it happen and I’d visualise myself enjoying the success of having it become a reality. I’m driven by the challenge, the experience of the journey and the feeling of success at the end of that journey.
Don’t compromise. All the mums out there think they have to compromise, they think they can’t do this, can’t do that – but it’s just not true! If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Ladies, don’t compromise – if you want to have a career and also be a hands-on parent, then you can do it too. I’m no different to you. I started out with nothing, I was in debt, I didn’t have anything, my husband was away working so we could pay off our debts. You have to believe, you have to have a strategy, and plan, plan, plan! And remember that you are different to everyone else – just carve out your own way. You can do whatever you set your mind to. Nothing is impossible, and I’m the proof in the pudding.