24 hours with Charlie’s Cookies

Name: Jacky Magid

Company name: Charlie's Cookies

Title: owner, cookie-lover, innovator and sales manager

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life. 
Charlie’s Cookies is a family business that is owned and managed by myself and my husband, Ken Mahlab.

I manage the product development, sales and marketing and Ken is responsible for operations and finance. We are also lucky to have a fantastic executive team working alongside us.

A typical working day for me looks like this:

  • 9am: Arrive at the office with my customer service hat on. I check in with my team and problem solve any queries to ensure we have happy cookie customers
  • 10.30am: I put on my product development hat, taste test trial batches and review recipe updates with the production team
  • 11.30am: I meet with my husband Ken to discuss the strategic plan and manage any HR issues which may involve interviewing and recruiting new team members
  • 12.30pm: I meet with my team on operational matters
  • 1.00pm: I squeeze in a tuna salad while sitting at my desk and catching up on emails for an hour
  • 2.00pm: I meet with clients and follow-up sales calls for the rest of the day

What training/education did you need for your job?
Eight years as a lawyer helped me develop strong people management skills. My training in the legal profession provided me with transferable skills. I’ve found that my ability to problem solve, communicate professionally and objectively and my love of systems and processes are just the features that set us apart from other cookie manufacturers and what our clients love about us.

I have also previously worked in alternative dispute resolution and negotiation skills training – this certainly honed my communication and interpersonal skills.

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path. 

  • My first job was working on the production line at Greta Lingerie in 1982 – this was my parents' business. It was almost a given that my first job would be on the floor of our family business. I was given the task of making the ‘bows’ for the underpants, using a foot controlled bow making machine.
  • I dreamt of doing medicine or law at university and ended up doing the latter, studying arts first at the University of Melbourne between 1991 and 1993 and Law at Monash between 1994 and 1997
  • Upon graduation, I worked in commercial law for eight years between 1998 and 2005. During this time I worked heavily in business conflict resolution and crisis management, where the systematic approach became more relevant.
  • My husband Ken and I purchased the business in 2004 and Charlie’s Cookies is a story of a successful turnaround. Originally launched in 1994 as Uncle Charlie’s Cookies, the business went into administration 10 years after its establishment so we then worked hard to turn things around. Since then our much-loved local cookie shop has been transformed into a boutique food service and retail brand.
  • By the end of 2014 we expect our products to be available in over 200 gourmet stores and independent supermarkets nationwide. Our delicious cookies are also found on Qantas domestic flights and Virgin Lounges, so we’re well travelled!

What tools and/or sofware do you use on a daily basis?
I check the Charlie’s Cookies social media platforms on a daily basis, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

I also couldn’t live without Excel and Email (Outlook). From a sales perspective I regularly look at sales reports on MYOB and use Salesforce our CRM software.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?

I think the thing I am most proud of is having a professional life but at the same time being as present as I can to my children and family (and now horses).

A recent proud moment at Charlie’s has been the development and current launch of our new Mini Melting Moments range.

Our mouth-watering Mini Melting Moments are a real innovation for the category. After almost a year of perfecting the recipe, we’ve worked hard during product development and packaging to create one of the first commercially produced quintessentially Australian Mini Melting Moments ranges. We were lucky enough to recently win an RASV packaging Champion award for our efforts and bronze medals at Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

Biggest daily challenge?
With up to 25 key members on our busy Charlie’s Cookies team, knowing how to manage staff effectively is an ongoing daily challenge and consideration.

Biggest career challenge?
In 2003 the previous ownership saw the business (then called Uncle Charlie’s) go into administration. The ultimate challenge for Ken and I was turning it around and get back into the black. Knowing where we’ve been allows us to go into the future with strategy and some wisdom.

Deciding to join my husband (Ken Mahlab) in business at that time was also a hard and yet very important decision. Although it wasn’t always easy in the first couple of years, working at Charlie’s together is a great union and we’ve learnt to work as an effective team. We each bring something very different to the business that together makes it a fun and successful partnership.

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
I think one of the challenges for sales in the food business is the fragmentation of the gourmet food market. I wish I had more hours in the day or an army of people to be able to get my product more widely distributed and be able to give every customer the most exceptional service.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
In the food service industry nothing is guaranteed and continued supply depends on product and customer service quality. Distribution of a new product and brand is a challenge and takes time and investment before you create the demand.

We understand it is important to stay innovative and keep up with or stay ahead of trends – ultimately it’s about staying relevant.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
Charlie’s Cookies is a family business with a strong social and community commitment and supports a number of philanthropic and educational groups. With a strong emphasis on feeding the hungry and supporting the local community, Charlie’s donates at least $50,000 worth of cookies each year to FareShare, local community groups and other sponsorship programs.

Recently, Charlie’s Cookies sponsored The Feed Melbourne Appeal, Shout Lunch, Fight Hunger lunch.

At Charlie’s we believe that the joy in life comes from the mini moments that happen while you’re busy planning for the big ones. Life’s short. Eat the biscuit!

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