Kathy Liebl, pictured, came from Australia to Luxembourg in 1998
Photo: Patricia Pitsch
When Kathy Liebl quit the financial sector in 2013 to open Kathy’s Deli & Cupcakery, she knew the hours would be just as long if not longer. Five years on and she tells Delano she has never felt more satisfied.
Jess Bauldry: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Kathy Liebl: I came from a small town in Australia called Mumurkah. My father was a thorough-bred horse breeder. My mother was a domestic housewife who loved baking. I’m one of five children. I grew up on the farm in the kitchen on the back of a horse.
What was your career path previously?
My husband’s father emigrated to Australia after WW2. Opportunities meant that he came to Luxembourg to work for a few years and suggested with the climate of Australia, we were going through a recession, perhaps Europe would be a good place to bring the family.
So, we packed up the family and moved out. We sold our business in Australia--we had a retail gift business. I also had a small bakery section. I started in Luxembourg as a PA to the sales director for a fund industry company. That was in 1998.
What was the turning point that made you want to start Kathy’s Deli and Cupcakery?
A friend of mine passed away. I thought ‘I don’t want to have regrets’. I always wanted to have what I’ve built today. I wanted people to come in and feel welcomed, a coffee shop with home-made cakes and food.
I quit my job in 2013. I did lots of research, got the licensing and just did refresher courses. I talked to women’s groups and did cakes for family and friends to see if there was a market for it. Because Luxembourg is very special and will the people embrace it or will it close after nine months?
What, if any, were the obstacles you faced in making the change?
One of the hardest challenges was getting the (restaurant) licence because I’m not a fluent French speaker. Most of the courses were in French so I took a translator with me. We spent a lot of time together going over everything I had to learn. In the exam, she wasn’t allowed to be with me. I was allowed to take a French and German dictionary and they gave me an extra 30 minutes. I passed on my first attempt!
Is language still a challenge?
Now not so much. I’m fortunate with my team. We speak about eight different languages. We’ve most clients covered. My French has improved since I’ve had the shop.
What helped you to make the change?
My husband and family and friends who all loved what I baked and my ideas. They encouraged me. They said it’s going to be hard work. I’ve friends who also have a business with long hours. They said it’s not going to be easy. Of course, you never have any real idea until you’re put into it. Some weeks it’s 80 hours.
Were there any surprises?
I think I was perhaps naïve in that I expected the place to be crowded all the time when I first opened. It doesn’t work like that. You have to put in the ground work and do marketing.
Are there ever days when you wish you were back in finance?
The financial industry takes a lot of your time and energy and so does this job. But now I’m doing it for me. It’s not that I didn’t like my old job, but I didn’t feel the satisfaction at the end of the day.
What advice would you give to someone else starting a similar business from scratch in Luxembourg?
Have a really good project plan. Speak with the chamber of commerce. Speak with other people who have set up a business. Females can go to mumpreneurs, a great network of women who have set up enterprises. Take your time, do your research, find the right location. Have a good bank balance, you will need it. Have a good relationship with your bank, should you need an overdraft facility. It’s important you be prepared. You can’t be prepared for the time and energy it takes. But you can be prepared for planning.
Kathy’s Deli & Cupcakery will be a the Spring Break at Luxexpo The Box at the chamber of commerce stand on 25 March with a cake decorating workshop for children.