The Sweet Meadow


Chapter One

brandAishe Besim
Starting a business is hard. You’ll work like a crazy thing and have to sustain that over a long period of time. Poor pay. Terrible hours. Tons of stress. Any normal, rational person would quit. And that’s what happens. When things get tough, and there will be a point when they do, sane people quit.

But purpose-driven entrepreneurs are different. They fall in love with the change they are making, so have to find a way to make it work. Their love stops them quitting. Love makes them persevere. Love blinkers them to all the worry and stress. And it’s their purpose that fuels that love.
— David Hieatt

A long time ago I was given the book “Starting A Restaurant For Dummies” (I’m sure there was no pun intended). One of the opening lines in the book is this: “This isn’t a venture for the faint of heart. If you want to own a restaurant to have a place to hang out with your friends and get free drinks, we say pay the bar bill and avoid the hassles.”

But honestly, that’s exactly why I had the idea to build The Sweet Meadow in the first place! I wanted to create a space I felt was lacking in regional Victoria – a health-conscious, vegan café where people would want to spend their time, not just their money.  I love how cafes become a central hub for communities and I don't believe we should have to travel to the city to experience conscious, sustainable alternatives. I wanted to make a change in my life and create a space where I could grow and start something afresh, where I could be creative and where I hoped to inspire others to be creative too. 

A year ago today, on Thursday, 20th October 2016, we opened The Sweet Meadow at 7.30am. I had left the café at about 2.30am that morning, prepping burger patties with my mum (I accidentally added non-gluten free breadcrumbs into the mix, so mum ended up driving home and making them from scratch herself).

I was back onsite at around 6am after barely sleeping, because I was so paranoid that nobody would come. I had rostered on five other staff members that day, with most of them working eight hours or more (!). As it turned out, we had over 150 people visit us on our first day, most of whom continue to visit us regularly.

One of the only photos I took on our opening day. I was cooked. 

One of the only photos I took on our opening day. I was cooked. 

Interestingly enough, the best selling menu items on our first day are still some of the favourites twelve months on - Creamy Avocado, Roasted Veg & Chickpea Burger, Vanilla Waffles, Acai Smoothie Bowl, OJ Simpson, Chocolate Mylkshake, and our Caramel Slice.  

Both our menu and our team have grown since then, but making the move from having an “employee” mindset to a “business owner” mindset has been the steepest learning curve for me personally. I have learnt so many lessons this past year, lessons that I think are crucial to creating a sustainable, successful business.

Our busiest day ever, Easter Sunday 2017. 

Our busiest day ever, Easter Sunday 2017. 


“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

Dita Von Teese

It’s a bruise to the ego realising that not everyone is going to like you (or your food, or your milk selections, or the names of your juices), but I’m learning to let go of perfectionism. Running my own business has taught me a lot about that. It’s messy and humbling, and I am learning to show my mess.


“You have to break, take breaks, or both.”

Yrsa Daley-Ward

I always used to say that you only have to take time off if you have a boring job. Then I became a small business owner. Yung Pueblo said “While in the midst of serious internal growth, respect your need to rest.” It took my car blowing up on a Sunday morning in High Street to wake me the fuck up to that lesson. It really was just a reflection of what was going on internally (inflammation). Now I make it a point to take time out every week – my brain needs some rest.  I love turning everything off, staying away from social media and being with nature. It helps bring me to that other part of my brain, where creativity lives and innovative ideas are formed.

A shot from my first holiday in 18 months this August - four days in Queensland. 

A shot from my first holiday in 18 months this August - four days in Queensland. 


“Chase the vision, not the money.”

Tony Hsieh

While I have an extremely strong support network, never losing sight of why I started this business is ultimately the reason why I overcome the obstacles that get thrown my way daily.  The authenticity of my “why” is what resonates with the people visiting. Lots of people travel hours to visit our café specifically, so I want them to have the same experience they have read or been told about. I’m sure my team roll their eyes whenever I change the music selection because I don’t think it’s “The Sweet Meadow’s vibe”, but it's the music, scent, furniture, entrance, toilets, even the cutlery, that all work to set our guest’s expectations and set us apart from other eateries. I will always stay true to The Sweet Meadow’s vision, and choose menu items, products, decorations and team members who align with that vision.




"Traveller, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk."

Antonio Machado

A Chinese philosopher once said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The truth is, if you are clear enough with your intention, you will always get to your destination – it’s how you enjoy the ride that counts. You can choose to be distracted, absent, stressed, overwhelmed. I spent most of my first year at The Sweet Meadow feeling this way.

Instead, I’m heading into The Sweet Meadow’s second year with a focus on making mindful decisions and living in the moment. Making space for the good people, good things and good times. It’s the same life, the same journey, the same road…the difference is how you choose to travel it.

What a ride it’s been so far.

I chose this. Thank you.


P.S. Thank you to the hundreds of you who have shared a photo, video or status about your time at The Meadow. We love seeing your creative shots at the end of a busy day. Much love X


Colour Me Happy

brand, inspirationAishe Besim
The romantic little town of Manarola was my favourite of Cinque Terre, Italy. 

The romantic little town of Manarola was my favourite of Cinque Terre, Italy. 

Colour has a powerful effect on our perception of the world around us. 

I started thinking about a colour palette for The Sweet Meadow months before I had anything ready to design. This would extend not only to the design elements of the brand but also the colour of the plates, cutlery, walls, napkins, benches, coffee machine (seriously) - everything! 

Restaurants are on to the fact that colours matter and they are starting to use it to their advantage. Serve a dark-coloured cake on a black plate instead of a white one, and diners think the dessert is sweeter and more intense. Match the colour of the food you are serving to the colour of the plate and people eat more.

I worked with my graphic designer to choose seven colours (of course) to work across every touchpoint. Most of these colours were inspired by my recent trip to Europe, Italy in particular. They have pastel-coloured villages perched on the side of cliffs overlooking the ocean - talk about inspiration overload!

I started collecting images that inspired me across fashion, design, interiors, nature, travel, everywhere really, and soon saw some common colour themes come through. This is how I chose the basis of the colour palette - it was instinctual, rather than based on any science or research (apparently McDonalds uses red and yellow because red = a sense of urgency and yellow = hungry). Keep scrolling for the seven colours you're going to see a lot more of. 

Grey - Pantone 877 C
Grey is a neutral colour that enlightens the softer colours it's paired with. Light grey is calming and soothing and also symbolises elegance (silver). I also love the look of concrete, grey timber and grey bricks as textured finishes. 

Apricot - Pantone 169 C & Rose Gold - Pantone 696 C
These are the 'neutrals' - known as the earth tones, these are nature's first colours. They are associated with creativity, heat, sunshine, warmth, health and change.

Dusty Pink - Pantone 1767 C
Pink is the colour of happiness, fun and romance. Using pink in a brand suggests a compassionate, caring, feminine and youthful identity.

Lilac - Pantone 524 C
This colour is a symbol of peace and tranquility. As it is a light shade of purple, it suggests refinement, grace and elegance. Lilac, lavender and violet flowers are often delicate and considered precious. 

Pastel Green - Pantone 566 C
Green is the colour and word synonymous with the notion of all that is fresh and new, flourishing and full of vitality. Studies show our brains associate the colour green with nature, growth and development. I intend to use this colour throughout the space in it's purest form - with plants!

Baby Blue - Pantone 2707 C
Blue is the colour of the sky and seas, often associated with depth and stability. It symbolises trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, truth, and heaven. It has also been shown to slow human metabolism and produce a calming effect.

Images of Cinque Terre & Amalfi Coast my own. All other images via tumblr and Pinterest.

The business of business cards

brand, living the sweet lifeAishe Besim

I don't care that we now live in a digital age - the humble business card is still important and will not be replaced with a digital version any time soon.

This last month has seen me have meetings with architects, builders, landlords, creatives, antique dealers and salesmen, and scribbling down my email address and phone number on a scrap bit of paper just doesn't cut it. What a way to project an image of professionalism!

I made it a priority to invest in something tangible now so that I could carry something around with me in my wallet. Not purely to hand out to others, but for myself - my dream is really in motion and I need to keep my eyes on the prize!

I haven't had my own personal business card since my first job out of uni back in 2007, so I knew I wanted to invest in something special. Having studied and worked in marketing for the last ten years, I understood that business cards do more than provide contact details. In many cases, it is a person's first impression of your brand. A memorable business card will create a great first impression and is more likely to be shared. 

A few months ago I was reading about the founder of Bespoke Letterpress, Alischa Herrmann. Alischa developed a love for the ancient art of letterpress printing (it was invented back in 1439) and after investing in an antique cast iron letterpress, she established the company in Brisbane. Now operating from Bowral, NSW, Bespoke Letterpress is one of the world's leading letterpress studios designing and printing couture letterpress stationery. I knew once I checked out the studio's website that I'd found the perfect printers for this project. 

So what image did I want to portray with my business card? Firstly, I wanted it to be printed on a recycled plant-based stock. Lots of memorable cards are printed on metal or hologram plastics, but I wanted to go with something more earthy (of course). I ended up choosing a beautiful 600gsm cotton stock in ivory, famous for its smoothly finished uncoated surface.

My graphic designer friend who developed my original logo put the design together, which was created with letterpress printing techniques in mind (letterpress doesn't look as effective with large solid areas). 

The ink colour was a soft pink that was hand mixed to match a Pantone colour, with the end result being delicate, whimsical and slightly fragile (like the Because of the labour-intensive nature of this printing process the cost doesn't come cheap, however as a creative person myself I think it's important to support these old-fashioned ways of living creatively. 

Check out Bespoke Letterpress on Instagram here