‘There’s no shame in asking for help’ - Business SA Encore program participant Cocina Comida says

Last updated 14 July, 2022

Business SA’s Encore Program is a workshop and mentoring program for South Australians aged 35 or above, looking to either establish a new business or grow an existing one. Participants attend monthly workshops delivered by industry experts about how to develop a comprehensive business plan and a sustainable business model. Subjects include law for startups, marketing and brand, media, human resources, and leadership in Entrepreneurial thinking. AEDA speaks to participant Reuben Williamson, of Cocina Comida, about his experiences.

From Mexico, to Queensland, to Adelaide’s East End.

A Mexican food truck soaking up the Whitsundays sun was supposed to be temporary business venture for hospitality operator Reuben Williamson.

After traveling from Mexico to Queensland for his sister’s wedding in 2019, Mr Williamson started the truck with the intention of eventually returning to North America, however, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and he was forced to change plans.

“So I packed up my food truck and drove it across to Adelaide (because I couldn’t return to Mexico) … I’m from here and I had not been back in 10 years,” Mr Williamson said.

“The Whitsundays is a massive party town so I just felt so out of place there, so Adelaide felt like the right place for me to go.”

Fast forward to 2022, Mr Williamson now owns and operates successful plant-based Mexican eatery, Cocina Comida, in Ebenezer Place.

It is an experience is so far described as “rewarding”

Producing vegan meats was a passion of Mr Williamson and he drew on this skill to develop a business plan for Cocina Comida, which he opened last year.

His entire menu is plant-based, which he admits has cut out some of his business, but more people are jumping on board the vegan, sustainable and healthy living lifestyle.

“I get a lot of people that are not vegan come in and they say that they love our food – the fact we are vegan has now become an afterthought,” Mr Williamson said.

He has now expanded his business model to include cooking classes off the back of success at Tasting Australia.

Mr Williamson teaches students how to make mock meats at home to limit their wastage to landfill, reduce additives and preservatives in food, and promote a healthy lifestyle.

“I’m now really pushing the sustainability idea.”

The first 18 months

Customers flocked to Cocina Comida as soon as it opened its doors, however, business ownership came with challenges as he navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am a chef, I do food, so opening up a bricks and mortar restaurant was a massive learning experience for me,” Mr Williamson said.

“I’ve done it before in London, but that was on somebody else’s money, so there was minimal risk for me.”

Mr Williamson taught himself the ropes of business ownership, but turned to Business SA’s Encore Program to learn even more about entrepreneurship.

“I’ve learnt to do everything myself in the past year and a half and I think I have gone as far as a can with promotional things and stuff,” Mr Williamson said.

“There's nothing wrong in getting as much information, advice and help as you can.”

Turning to Business SA’s Encore Program

The Encore Program is a workshop and mentoring program for South Australians aged 35 or above, looking to either establish or expand a business.

Participants work with a dedicated mentor who nurtures and guides them through the program during one-on-one sessions.

The Encore Program delves into areas including business modelling, law, customer service, marketing, brand, finance, human resources, and digital engagement

“It has been interesting going to Business SA to find out what I should do,” Mr Williamson said.

He said everything he does is “for the love of it” but a refined business model was important.

“Having people that actually helped me identify things that I can push on with or delve a bit further into,” Mr Williamson said.

“The sessions have so far been very validating and have given me a direction of how I want to define my business.”

Business SA’s Encore Program is a valuable tool for all business owners in the CBD and North Adelaide.

To find out more and register your interest, click here.

AEDA sponsored 10 positions in the Encore program. 

Cocina Comida

16 Ebenezer Place

Adelaide SA 5000