Caroline Khoo is literally one of the sweetest women in Melbourne. The clever founder of Nectar & Stone whips up delicious sweet treats from delicate cupcakes to pastel coloured chocolates to fluffy meringues and makes them look almost too beautiful to eat. Shes spent many hours in her kitchen mastering the art of dessert and her hard work is paying off. Khoo now has over 200K followers on Instagram (@nectarandstone) where she declares: I’m just here for dessert. Keep it simple.
It was after the birth of her boys (Isaiah, 5, and Dimitri, 3) that she made the decision to stay at home and watch them grow up. It was during this time, dealing with a fussy eater, that she began to cook. “Isaiah has always been a fussy eater, so while I took some time off from working, I started being creative with his food,” she recalls. ”This soon developed into making fun and healthy treats for him, which then turned into pretty desserts for me and my family.” Two years after Dimitri was born, Nectar & Stone officially began.
These days, shes often booked out working on events for brands such as Furla and Country Road or creating colourful treats such as Belgium couverture white chocolate with cookies and cream. We were lucky enough to visit Khoo at home and spend some time in her kitchen (and leave with a box of delicious desserts which admittedly didn’t last long)
What has motherhood taught you?
That your gut instinct is always right. And that everyone’s experience and story to motherhood will be different, there is no set way of doing things.
What advice would you give to your own children on finding their career path?
Every project, every commitment, every task started should always be completed. And never doubt your abilities and capabilities.
What’s the best advice youve ever been given about motherhood?
You will not always know the answers to everything and that is ok. I’ve made many mistakes and not always known if I am doing the right thing, but as a mother you also have to trust yourself.
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to launch Nectar & Stone?
I studied a Bachelor of Arts before entering into the footwear and handbag industry. I made a career change and worked in the medical field before I had my two sons.
What do you love most about what you do?
The freedom to create without limitations that is artistry to me and it’s a very beautiful experience.
What inspires your work?
The things that most inspire me include colour, fashion, homewares and flowers. I love taking photos of day-to-day travels as well, often something in the photo will trigger an idea.
Why is Nectar and Stone so unique in the market?
I dont follow rules or re-create other peoples work. I want my work to standalone, my work has its own story to tell and that is what makes it so different and unique.
What has been a career highlight for you?
Having such a large and beautiful community support and follow my work.
Did your career change after the birth of your children?
Nectar & Stone was born from my decision to stay home and see the milestones of my children. So yes, it did change. I don’t regret that decision at all. I made the most of being at home with my children and at the same time, refining and developing my skills so that whatever I chose to do later, I would have something to showcase.
What are your tips for achieving balance?
I am not sure if there really is a right formula for balance. But I think the best tip I have is that you need to be happy with your circumstances and sacrifices. In the past, I would work late evenings to make up for lost time during the day that I have spent with my children. I was ok with this because I felt that it was the right balance for me. It’s ok to try different things to find that balance as well.
How do you juggle your work commitments with being a mother?
I am a fairly structured and organised person. I do work hard and am very committed to anything I put my mind to. You have to be realistic with your goal setting, prioritise what needs to be done first, know when to ask for help and when to delegate. My children have responsibilities at home as well. They clean their rooms, wipe down the tables, help sweep the floors and they are rewarded at the end of the week for it. It teaches them about responsibility and achievement and they really enjoy it. So I think finding ways to make life easier will make a difference.
What kind of work do you need to do in a day?
It varies from dessert work, emails, photography, meetings, styling to social media work. No single day is the same.
How do you procrastinate?
Have a coffee and clean the house.
And how do you focus?
Usually each morning I start with a small paint session to get my creative energy working.
What’s the most challenging part of running your own business?
The hours especially when starting and having children. You have to be willing to make some sacrifices and work hard. You also need to know when to say no and take a break.
What are your tips on how to run a successful business?
Plan, Plan, Plan. A good business plan is vital. Know the direction you want to take your business in 1, 2 and 5 years time. Understand your market and what you are offering.
What do you love about raising children in Melbourne?
I love that my family all live very close to me. I love that Melbourne has beautiful restaurants, coffee shops and lots of parks that give the balance for parents and kids.
What makes a great Instagram image?
Consistency, understanding what value your image brings and the purpose of it all makes for a great picture. I think my readers love that my work is always evolving, developing and progressing. My readers are great in that they comment and engage with my work - it’s a great feeling.
Can you tell us about your handbag collection
Having previously worked in the industry, I have a good understanding of design and construction of handbags. The love for handbags goes so much further than it being a brand, it’s about craftsmanship, materials used and the story of the brand. My black clutch Louisa by Louis Vuitton is by far my most favourite. It’s a beautifully constructed clutch that can be dressed up or dressed down with denim. I also have a Celine Trapeze and a Chloe saddle which is my everyday bag.
So far what’s the hardest and best part of being a mum?
The hardest part of being a mum is seeing your kids sick or cry. The best part of being a mum is seeing their milestones, achievements and all the love, kisses and hugs they spoil me with each and every day.
Whats your favourite part of the day?
I have many: first thing in the morning when I get my hugs from my boys and the evening before the go to sleep and they kiss me. I always pinch myself for being so lucky to have them in my life.
Photography: Julie Adams Words: Georgie Abay