When Cairns student Jodie Mlikota received a university assignment to build a start-up company that would solve a problem, little did she know that five years later she would be CEO of a multinational company.
Ms. Mlikota grew up in and around the Freshwater sugar cane fields, attended Cairns State High School and studied at the Cairns campus of Central Queensland University (CQU). Her first job outside of university was working at the Taste Port Douglas Food and Drink Festival.
While studying at CQU, Ms. Mlikota received an assignment on entrepreneurship and thanks to her faculty’s encouragement, the Gathar app was born.
“The task was to create a scalable concept or to solve a problem that you had previously experienced,” she said.
“I always had this idea in my head that it’s easy to book a car and book accommodation, but getting someone to come and cook for you, there wasn’t an app for that, so that’s where the idea came from.
“My university lecturer said it was a really good idea and it might have legs, so that evening I went home and registered the business and the domain name.”
In early 2018, Ms Mlikota flew to Brisbane to attend a start-up workshop where she pitched the Gathar idea.
This weekend she won an award to present at a global women’s startup weekend in Paris.
The beginning of an idea
After her presentation in Paris, Ms Mlikota returned to Cairns, quit her job and dedicated herself to starting her business.
“I knew there were home chefs out there and there were chefs who wanted to cook for people in their own homes but didn’t have the money for marketing or the business skills to go out and start a business and find clients,” she said .
“So we created a community of great chefs and cooks and introduced them to people who want them to cater for their small events.”
The first chefs recruited were all from Cairns and Port Douglas.
“When we started in 2018, we only had a handful of chefs,” Ms Mlikota said.
“One of the requirements to join was that you had to have a passion for food.
“You don’t have to be a chef. We also wanted to empower passionate cooks, that’s what sets us apart.”
Cairns-based and French-trained chef Cat Lohues was one of the first to register at the Gathar and has catered for hundreds of events since joining.
“It’s like an Uber for chefs,” Ms. Lohues said.
“Anything I need to do with my business, they do for me, they find the customers, they do the billing, all I have to do is show up, cook and take care of the customer for the day. “
Since its launch, Gathar has served more than 25,000 meals at 32 locations across Australia and has now launched in America.
“We did a lot of research on overseas markets and found that nobody is doing what we are doing in the US,” Ms Mlikota said.
“We started in the US in June. We’re only live in California at this point as we didn’t want to launch in many locations at once.
“Once we learn how everything works, we can expand from there.”
Although Ms Mlikota is the CEO of a company that employs people around the world, she said she has no plans to leave Cairns.
“I love Cairns and I believe I can be the best leader from here,” she said.
“I’ve had a lot of support from the local business community and from my family and friends and I think it’s the best place in the world to live.”