From Rat Race to Happiness

Oliva (Liv) Phengrasmy is one seriously cool chick.  She is a mum, wifey and also runs her own catering business. Liv sits down with Amica to discuss how she went from public servant to business owner and became happier along the way.

Liv with her hubby Nam and son Riley.

Liv with her hubby Nam and son Riley.

Amica: Tell us a bit about Party with Peggy

Liv: Party with Peggy was a fun and interesting concept of mine, to create a pop-up business where we take the party to you. After realising the potential for good, healthy, home cooked food for children’s parties, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create something fun and amazing for everyone to enjoy. I bought a vintage caravan and fixed her up, named her Peggy-Sue and took her along to events. Hence the name  ‘Party with Peggy’. It was a fun and unique concept for Canberra, it was a lot of work and worth all the effort.

I have since parted ways with Peggy-Sue, but I am in the process of building an old school food van to take along to events. I cater to all parties, baby showers, corporate events and I learn from each one. I custom packages to suit each individual, as everyone has different tastes and preferences.

Amica: Where did you get the inspiration to start Party with Peggy?

Liv: I have a love of the outdoors and wanted to drag my kiddies off the computer and show them the way it used to be, the way I grew up (my oh my, that’s what my father used to say)….

Growing up we had a caravan and we always travelled, we fished, we used our imagination and we had a blast! I remember days of running through long grass to watch all the grasshoppers jump. Now that was cool!

My mission was to find a caravan that I could ‘Glamp up’ as I love all things nice. I can cook, I sew, I paint, I am creative! I have two boys and so ‘Peggy-Sue’ was my girly thing. During the process of it all, I felt like I should share her beauty with people. I visualized everyone laughing and enjoying themselves.

So my vision of a pop-up business was created. Party with Peggy was the beginning of my journey to share my love for vintage, creative, new, exciting and of course, enjoy some yummy food along the way whilst having fun.

Amica: You walked away from a comfortable public service position for a total career change. How did you gain the confidence to make the leap?

Liv: It was a decision definitely made by the heart and one I have never regret. After a long battle every morning with my youngest son Riley, crying and begging me to stay home, I would go to work and leave my heart with him. Work just started to be a burden, it wasn’t what I wanted. My child needed me, and I needed to be there for him. So one night, I did it. I wrote my resignation letter and that was that! A lot of people were shocked, mum was in despair, leaving a good job, my long service leave, benefits, but all that meant nothing to me, I needed to be home. I’ve always been a risk taker, I do what I want and never really bothered about others opinions. I’m good at making things work, so I knew that I would find a way.

Before my resignation I got offered an all expenses paid trip to Japan after the tsunami hit, and it changed the way I saw ‘what happiness truly was’. It changed me. Here in Australia, I had a good job, a big house, a 9-5. Hubby had a good job, he worked hard and we seemed to be ‘living the Australian dream’. Then I went to Japan and saw the way they lived. I saw humble people, simple, yet happy. Tiny homes, minimal furniture but so at peace with life. Those 10 days made me who I am today.

Today I am more carefree than ever. I take life as it comes, do what I love and enjoy each day with family and friends. I’ve learnt life is too short to run the daily rat race and I didn’t want to be a part of it. I make my own rules and I live it. It’s not always easy, but as long as my family is with me, I am happy.

Amica: What emerging trends are you seeing in catering?

Liv: Canberra is normally behind with trends but its café scene is growing and having a huge impact on Canberra as a whole. We are seeing new and funky places opening everywhere from the Lonsdale st traders to your New Acton precinct and it’s not stopping there. Kingston Foreshore is presenting some new places to eat and relax and it’s so exciting to see us grow and catch up with Sydney and Melbourne on trends.

It’s nice to know that we Canberrans now have ‘choices’ when it comes to good food, good service and a place to hang. I like it!

Amica: Any advice for other women wanting to start their own catering business?

Liv: Canberra is always a hard place to start. There are hurdles to get through with ACT Health and food regulations, there’s insurances and licences and the list goes on and on. It’s a scary thought, there are risks but if you happen to insist on jumping all the hurdles, it definitely can be worth your while. For me, a creative soul, I like it. Building my food van gives me the freedom to work when I want, where I want. I can design it to my heart’s desire and take it as far as I want to go.

I think in any business, if it’s in your heart and what you love, do it. If you fall, get back up and try again. Life is too short to sit back and watch the waves, you need to ride it 🙂

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