It’s hard to believe that over a decade has passed since the year our whole family — including Phoebe and Coco, who were then six and eight years old — officially signed on to the Dello Mano dream. The decision took place eleven years ago at our weekly “family circle,” a tradition we adopted to share positive, confidence-building discussions with the kids in those important formative years. This week, the topic on the table was the possibility of a small family business ( to become Dello Mano); after years of lofty plans and daydreams, would we finally launch our business? We knew the business would absorb a large portion of our time together for years to come, so it was crucial that Phoebe and Coco had as much of a say in the matter as their parents. Our daughters — accustomed to being taken seriously by adults — took some time to confer between themselves. The pros seemed to heavily outweigh the cons: Mummy and Daddy around all the time, as many brownies as they could eat. The vote was unanimous: Dello Mano would launch.
Our daughters were immediately full-fledged and indispensable employees. We could never predict when we would receive a flurry of orders; they often came after our other employees had left for the day. The first time this happened, we were at a loss — we couldn’t leave those orders unfilled, but there was no way we could finish everything with just two pairs of hands. Phoebe and Coco insisted on working with us all night, stirring and rolling and baking until every last brownie was wrapped in its requisite gold foil. We collapsed in satisfied exhaustion and the finally slept a few hours, then we all got ready to do it all over again.
Less than a month after we started, the Brisbane foodie and force of nature Jan Power invited us to her selective Powerhouse Farmers Market. Ms. Power, who was as detail-oriented as she is passionate, nurtured us through the process, but we were nevertheless nervous at first. We had pioneered brownies in Australia – we had disrupted the market as we know now, but in those early days, it just felt like we were on our own – seemingly the only people who cared about brownies and certainly the only ones doing anything about propelling brownies into the Australian marketplace. It was nerve-racking, to say the least. Also up to that point, we had sold our brownies almost exclusively online and by word of mouth; a physical location meant a whole list of new overhead items: tents and tables, branded decor, service staff. As soon as we brought up the question of finding servers, Phoebe and Coco volunteered. We hired them on the spot and made them their own Dello Mano uniforms: white t-shirts emblazoned with our logo and matching bandanas tied over their brown hair. We may be biased as parents, but we think they looked unequivocally adorable.
Of course, working at a farmers market requires far more than cute uniforms. Every other weekend, Phoebe and Coco had to wake up at two in the morning to dress in those t-shirts and help us pack the trunk with stacks of brownies. They slept the whole 40-minute drive to the market, roused themselves in time to help us build the tent, and then fell back asleep in the car until daybreak. Though it may be hard to believe that an eight year old and a six year old were enthusiastic about waking up at two AM, neither daughter ever complained. They were committed to helping our business grow, and they knew that dedicated businesspeople always stick to their commitments.
All the Peraltas are inveterate gourmands, so the promise of good food was a powerful motivator for those taxing mornings. As the sun rose over the Brisbane River, the girls ran to the nearby stall of an elderly couple, who greeted them like royalty and served them egg and bacon rolls fit for princesses. The savoury, buttery bites, not to mention the kindness and warmth with which they were served, gave them enough energy to power through the day. In homage to the beloved breakfasts that fueled the first days of Dello Mano, we now serve our own version of an egg and bacon roll on our new savoury menu, available at both our New Farm and Tattershall locations.
If the egg-and-bacon-roll couple were Phoebe and Coco’s market grandparents, then the other vendors were a gaggle of aunts, uncles, and cousins, all eager to teach our daughters the tricks of the trade. The girls quickly learned about bartering and haggling from their fellow tradespeople, Kylie who would ask to swap brownies for hot chocolate, Len for fresh juice, and others for a range of desirable goods. Kylie was a particularly fierce negotiator, and taught our daughters to be the same. Today, both Phoebe and Coco can hold their own in trade negotiations as confidently as experienced businesspeople — which, in fact, they are.
The market customers played an equally important role in our daughters’ business educations. In those days, we only used manual calculation — no cash register or computerised system, just a calculator and quick heads. The girls soon became far more skilled at arithmetic than their grade levels required. In recognition of their impressive performance, we promoted Phoebe and Coco to “manager” and “assistant manager” roles. Even after we hired additional staff, the CEOs and other important types who shopped at the market would often request to be served by the manager. Phoebe, looking confident beyond her years, expertly tallied their large orders while assistant manager Coco helped her box them up. This treatment was a great boost to their developing self-esteems — from that point on, they never stood for being underestimated because of their youth or gender.
Our daughters’ early education in business, trade, and self-esteem must have steered them towards their current career paths; both Phoebe and Coco are now in university, where they study double degrees in Business and Law. Despite their busy schedules, they take the time to work at the Dello Mano shop every Saturday and Sunday, when we serve our popular High Tea and Brunch menus. As parents, we naturally think they look just as sweet in their crisp brown aprons as they did in their Dello Mano tshirts ten years ago. More importantly, they are confident, capable young women with the rare ability to run a successful business with warmth and compassion. Please feel free to visit Phoebe, Coco, and the whole Dello Mano gang this weekend to experience our signature Dello Mano warmth.