The makers behind Mendooran’s latest product have shown that it’s no pie in the sky. Blue Sky Cheese - Handmade in Mendooran started in 2018 and is the only company of its kind in the region. It showcases quality ingredients which are sourced and produced locally.
The business is the brainchild of local farmers Pip Archer and Deb Kiem, whose combined enthusiasm and dedication have ensured it has become a roaring success in its first year of operation.
“The business has evolved organically and perpetuated by growing enthusiasm from the wider region,” Mrs Archer said.
Operating from the commercial kitchen at Mendooran Showground has been the perfect location because it is close to both of their properties.
“We needed a commercial kitchen that complied with regulations regarding the preparation of food for sale at markets and restaurants, it was available and within our financial reach.
“The kitchen itself was perfect, with a few small changes required and it has a lovely feel with the peppercorn trees, and it faces the main arena. Power, water and availability made it an easy choice.”
Preparation of their single source product involves collecting milk from Little Big Dairy in Dubbo 80km away which is followed by processing, maturation and packaging.
The range now includes camembert, feta, blue vein and swiss cheeses, with locals and visitors alike knocking down the door to see them handmade ‘with skill, passion and intuition.’
The ladies are relishing doing something they enjoy and inspiring other people.
“We have a lot of fun and it shows. At our recent Swiss cheese launch, we dressed in full Swiss costumes and created quite a stir.
“We inspire others to have a go and to foster industry and tourism in our district.”
Their range is available in a 300km radius of Mendooran.
“We manufacture soft and semi-hard cheese for sale at markets, events and restaurants,” Mrs Archer explained.
“We sell at local markets, Dunedoo and Dubbo. We are also increasingly being asked to take our cheese to events and have just had an awesome weekend at Nosh in Narrabri.”
Being the only cheese manufacturer in the Central West has its perks and Big Sky Cheese has been receiving plenty of exposure since inception, which is also good news for their town.
“We have been lucky to have been interviewed several times for The Land, Western Magazine, Win TV, ABC Western Plains and have had many shares on many pages on Facebook.
“We like to put Mendooran on the map and this is the main reason that we have the town name in our own name. When we recently got a silver medal in the Dairy Industry Awards in Melbourne, it was great to see the Mendooran name on the list.”
The secret to success according to Blue Sky Cheese is making a quality product that is sought-after at local markets and events.
“We contribute by drawing tourism to our town and are increasingly being asked as guest speakers to tell our story and do cheese tasting at AGMs and events.”
The women have backed each other in their mutual dream and have continued to embrace every opportunity.
“We know our limits and are happy to keep our business small and personal.
We can only produce a limited amount and therefore cannot attend all local markets. To grow further, we would have to outlay a substantial amount of money and purchase a building.”
Initially, the business partners leaned on each other, bringing individual skills to solve appropriate problems.
“We also both play equal roles in the business but in different areas. We are very like-minded and this has strengthened the brand name.”
Growing into the future, Blue Sky Cheese’s aim is to showcase what can be achieved with effort and commitment.
“We would like to think that we are inspirational in our town and have proved that at any age, you can do anything. In trying times, like the current drought, it’s important to simply have a go.
“We also like to remind people to have fun.”
Overcoming barriers such as rising milk prices, inflation and weather extremes, the pair aim to hire a part-time employee and encourage more work placement in their business.
“It is restricted to only two of us and so far, neither of us has had a sick day!” Mrs Archer laughed.
They also plan to collaborate with a caterer friend who has a lovely home and offer some cheese classes.
The factory is located at 7 Dalglish Street, Mendooran. Regional suppliers include Daily Scoop in Dubbo, Coolah Garden Café & Pantry, Feathers in Coonabarabran and Petals & Seeds Store in Walgett. The Establishment in Dubbo is a client along with various caterers in the region.
“We often say that the community drives our business forward as we have people approaching us and asking us to attend events which opens another door in a different area that we hadn’t considered.”
And Mrs Archer’s advice to her younger self is simple and authentic:
“Have the courage to chase your dreams. Back yourself.”