• Owner of The Nutty Baker Nina Siljanovic. (Supplied)
A growing number of Australians are leaving their full-time professions, choosing to forego the certainty of a six-figure annual income, to set up their own business. But is being your own boss all it's cracked up to be?
SBS Small Business Secrets
21 Jul 2016 - 2:48 PM  UPDATED 19 Jan 2017 - 2:04 PM

For Nina Siljanovic, life is sweet - if not exhausting.

After five years as an investment banker in London and Italy, she returned to her roots in Sydney's east.

But it wasn't the move that moved her career in another direction - it was a biscuit.

"I went to a friend's party with some amaretti I learned to make in Italy by hand, and people went beserk over them. I thought, maybe there is something in this, doing what I love and making a living from it."

Four years on, Nina has her own shop and supplies a dozen businesses with her homemade sweets, but with little money in the bank, she invested in increments; one cake tin at a time.

"I didn't plan this - I thought when I came back here I would be in another office environment, so I didn't save any seed money or do any of the things entrepreneurs do," she said.

Trading a corporate salary for baking has meant her workdays often extend to 12 hours, 6 days a week, a move Nina says was a "bit nutty", which was why she named her business, the Nutty Baker.

Until recently, she spent two days and then one day a week in a finance role for reliable cash flow - choosing to make a step, rather than leap into uncertainty.

"The business background that I have is very helpful, from being the one in banking lending the big businesses the money to being the business on the other side."

Since moving from a counter top in a pub in Sydney's Paddington,  she now rents her own bakery space in Vaucluse, for 500 dollars a week, deliberately steering clear of the cafe-saturated and expensive inner-city.

The retail portion of the business has grown from 10 to 40 per cent of the business - and it's no longer just Nina behind the counter.

"I have an opportunity to create a space where people want to work for me and to me that is, I am shocked people want to come work for me like it's a real place to work!"

The  Australian baked goods industry is worth 4 billion dollars a year and the market is becoming crowded.

In 2015 there were more food service and accommodation businesses opened than businesses from any other industry.

The Nutty Baker business has set herself apart by retaining an old-fashioned approach, attracting customers by knocking on doors, sending letters by hand and hanging a simple wooden sign.

Nina is earning significantly less in her now role, and says it's been a hard slog.

'If I had known the sacrifices I would have to make I may have thought twice, because although I love it it has been hard."

Until 2016, she worked part time in an office to fund her shop - and took some time to trust she could depend on the bakery alone.

Advisor Matthew McCarron who is a partner in the enterprise section of  KPMG consultancy says sometimes it's worth taking an immediate risk - even if it doesn't work out.

"Culturally I think we have an issue in Australia where there is this fear of failure, which really runs counter to the concept of trying to embrace entrepreneurship as part of our culture in business."

For her part, the Nutty baker has no regrets from working hard for a humble income.

"I didn't know that I could run a shop, I didn't know that I could do any of this, so if I planned it five years ago, there'd be nothing on that plan, I'd still be in the bank," she said.

"All I can say to people is if they have got that feeling and they think they could do something - go for it."

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