Emily McWaters has gone from being a uni dropout who couldn’t afford a bed to a dream $40m deal with food doyen Maggie Beer.
Emily McWaters has gone from being a uni dropout who couldn’t afford a bed to a dream $40m deal with food doyen Maggie Beer.

From uni dropout to $40m gift and hamper queen

When many people were in their early 20s were dodging university classes and hanging out at the local pub, Emily McWaters was buying her first cafe, aged just 22. Now decades later, she's later bankrolled the success that first business brought her into the $40 million sale of her hampers and gift giving business.

Indeed she didn't have much time to skip uni because Ms McWaters dropped out of a law degree at the Gold Coast's Bond University Gold Coast and moved to Sydney with an almost empty bank account. In an interview years later she revealed that at the time she didn't even have enough to buy a bed, her parents having cut her off financially when she dropped out of university.

Emily McWaters and husband Enzo Di Lalla recently purchased in the suburb with their children Rocco and Lucy in 2017. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Emily McWaters and husband Enzo Di Lalla recently purchased in the suburb with their children Rocco and Lucy in 2017. Picture: Jonathan Ng

By the age of 31 however she already had brought a string of businesses to life, including the cafe in Sydney's Rose Bay that she invested almost her entire life savings of $10,000 in, and then sold for a six-figure profit just one year later.

She even had the foresight to turn down an early approach and large cheque from a venture capital firm who wanted to buy her biggest business yet, Hampers & Gifts Australia.

But she has now decided to team with celebrity TV cook Maggie Beer and the company that owns her eponymous gourmet brand, which it announced it had bought her business in a $40m sale on Tuesday.

That $10,000 investment in cafe has now bloomed into a $40m hampers and gift giving business which has more than 200,000 customers across Australia and has become a key "go to" for people organising romantic picnics, celebrations, days out with friends or farewell gifts to departing work colleagues. Products go from affordable up to $899 luxury gifts.

The ASX-listed Maggie Beer Holdings, which owns the food brands linked to the popular TV cook, says it's excited about the prospect of ramping up the food and gift business.

The hampers combine a range of gourmet products.
The hampers combine a range of gourmet products.

What looks to have set Ms McWaters apart from the pack was the disruption she brought to the rather stale and staid hampers industry.

Ms McWaters, who partly directs her hamper and gift empire from her home on Kangaroo Island, said she noticed that gift hampers in Australia were stuck in a phase of wicker baskets and low quality produce and so she launched The Hamper Emporium website in 2010.

The hampers business has caught the eye of Maggie Beer. Picture by Matt Turner.
The hampers business has caught the eye of Maggie Beer. Picture by Matt Turner.

Now it has caught the eye of Maggie Beer Holdings with Ms McWaters business providing premium quality hampers at an affordable price, using a combination of own brand and high margin third party brands and products. Customers include corporates and consumers, who typically arrive at the website with the intent of purchasing a hamper and hence there is a high conversion of visitors to buyers. It sold more than 125,000 hampers sold in 2020 and is on track to sell more than 250,000 in 2021.

"I am so pleased to continue in my role in the business as it moves into its next exciting phase of growth with Maggie Beer Holdings," said Ms McWaters on Tuesday.

Emily McWaters with some of her products at her Regent’s Park business in Sydney in 2014. Picture: Melvyn Knipe
Emily McWaters with some of her products at her Regent’s Park business in Sydney in 2014. Picture: Melvyn Knipe

 

"There is significant mutual benefit across the two businesses, and we look forward to working with (Maggie Beer Holdings CEO) Chantale and the team to create an even better customer experience. Maggie Beer is a premium iconic Australian gourmet brand that will only further enhance our offering of affordable luxury. I grew up in South Australia and live on Kangaroo Island, and so a partnership with an iconic South Australian brand such as Maggie Beer could not be more perfect."

Originally published as From uni dropout to $40m gift and hamper queen



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