Meet the journalist now selling pizza roadside

Sonia Lear left behind a career as an international journalist to sell pizza from a retro caravan.

Sonia Lear was living in Mumbai working as a journalist; a career most can only dream about.

With a communications degree and also a Masters in International Relations and Politics under her belt, her days were spent shooting for a handful of programs for the ABC, including the 7.30pm report and ABC News. “It was my lifelong goal to work as a journalist, and I was loving it” Sonia says.

But her partner Remi Pham, who is an aeronautical engineer, tried to convince her that they should start a pizza business from a retro caravan, deciding life was too short to work in an office every day.

Now in Melbourne, Sonia wasn’t convinced until the untimely death of a friend, which helped her let go of the fear of change and agree to give it a shot.

“Once I made the decision to get on board, things just flowed. Realising you’re afraid, and that fear is what’s holding you back gives you massive opportunities for growth,” Sonia says.

“Take baby steps. And try not to have too many expectations of the outcome. The journey is by far the most important part.”

A new beginning

Happy Camper Pizza launched four years ago. At the time, Sonia already had a baby and was pregnant with twins. Remi continues to work as an aeronautical engineer to this day.

Keen to make their mark on the flourishing Melbourne food truck market, they imported a 1960s Airstream caravan from the US and plunged $200,000 of borrowed money to transform the caravan into one of the city’s most iconic food vans. “We had to move in with my Mum to make it happen.”

They initially relied on street trade, but they have since diversified into private catering, including weddings, and attending some of the country’s biggest festivals. Recent corporate clients include Qantas and Ray White Real Estate.

Mitigating the risks

Adequate insurance cover has of course played an important part in the business, with the couple taking out policies that cover commercial motor vehicle insurance, public liability insurance and workers’ compensation. Being an unconventional business, having these insurances is an important part of their business plan, providing security to not only their business but also the couple's family.

“I would have never expected to be a mother of three and be working in a pizza truck, and would have thought it was completely beneath me. I was going to become a diplomat or film maker for the United Nations.”

But the ambition for that pace of life dissipated once she had children. “A meaningful life is now what’s important to me – being present for my family and having time to work on projects I’m passionate about.”

Making the leap

More than four decades of our lives are spent in employment, so it’s hardly surprising that so many people consider a career change at some point in their life.

McCrindle research reveals that the workforce has undergone a significant transformation in the past three decades, and currently the average Australian stays with their employer just three years and four months. If this continues throughout their lifetime, it means a person will have 17 separate employers in their lifetime.

However launching a small business isn’t for the faint hearted. Make sure your team consists of a Steadfast insurance broker for the inevitable bumps in the road. Just as accountants can save you thousands of dollars through their deep knowledge of taxation law, a Steadfast insurance broker can get to you know your business, and have the knowledge to cut through the confusion and complexity of insurance to negotiate the best cover at the best possible price for their clients.

Geared up for growth

For Sonia, bookings have been strong, prompting her to purchase a 1962 Chevrolet and transform it into a second pizza truck at a cost of $150,000. They’ve mastered authentic pizza and employ eight staff across the two trucks.

Sonia admits the leap has taught her a lot, but added that her journalistic skills come in handy for marketing and promoting the business. However, change is scary. “I think we all have an internal voice that gets muffled by society’s expectations of us. It’s not until you can turn your back on what everyone else thinks, you can start taking the steps to a more meaningful life.”

You’ll know when you’re ready to leap, Sonia says. “Take baby steps. And try not to have too many expectations of the outcome. The journey is by far the most important part.”

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