Lesley Gillespie: Founder Director of Bakers Delight

In a revealing interview, Lesley Gillespie, Founder and Director of Bakers Delight, discusses the challenges and accomplishments she faced while building an international bakery empire. The journey of this successful businesswoman offers insights into leadership, and the perseverance needed to turn a modest bakery into a global phenomenon.

Throughout your career, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

Lesley identifies managing people as the most significant and ongoing challenge. Whether managing a single bakery or hundreds, the key lies in getting the right people to do the right job at the right time. She believes this fact is critical although always a challenge to achieve.

Another challenge which is common for all retailers, is how to move with the times and modernise without losing the key ingredients of what makes a business successful.

‘I believe we have managed the balance well. Our key point of difference is that we bake our bread from scratch each and every day; our retail outlet is our bakery. Our bakeries have moved with the times, our point of sale is 21st century as is our front of house design, however there were and still remain, ovens, dough dividers and mixers which were there in the 1980s. Bakers Delight has not diversified we are bakers who aim to delight.’


Can you share a moment where your resolve was tested?

‘Our entry into Canada certainly tested my resolve. There are many similarities between Australia and Canada but there are also differences, and these differences were not recognised early in our time there. To put in bluntly, mistakes were made in hiring of people, in selection of sites and in expansion plans. Fortunately, these mistakes were recognised in the first few years and the plan implemented to rectify them.  This was no easy task, but perseverance, belief and team effort certainly enabled us to reach our current position which is a flourishing franchise network of 170 bakeries across most provinces.’

‘Looking back over our 10 year history in Canada I am proud of our extended team and what has been achieved.’

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Lesley takes immense pride in the success of franchisees.

‘Bakers Delight has a wide range of individuals who become franchisees. They come from all walks of life; some left formal education early to do their baking apprenticeship, some are migrants looking for a better life in Australia, but all are attracted to what a Bakers Delight franchise can offer.

What distinguishes a successful franchisee is their hunger of success. These franchisees are embedded into their community and support community events, they follow our operational system, and they are committed to their staff development.

Many of our current franchisees were once employed by a franchisee. Our network is built on developing people and developing teams.

What are your future aspirations for Bakers Delight?

Lesley indicated that there are growth opportunities in all areas of their business.

‘Bakers Delight and COBS Bread (the name we operate under in Canada and the US) provide a staple food product – bread, and where people are eating bread there will always be opportunity.

My aspiration is for our business to continue its growth by providing more bread to more people more often.  

Lesley’s journey with Bakers Delight is an inspiring story of determination, strategic planning, and adaptability. Her insights into team management, handling international expansion complexities, and empowering others through entrepreneurial efforts make her a role model for aspiring business leaders.