Ben and Sally Milbourne: The Cultivate Group
Ben and Sally are cultivating community pride and entrepreneurship in North West Tasmania with giant strides
The Cultivate Group is a fitting name for the multi-platform company created by husband and wife team and former school teachers, Ben and Sally Milbourne. By the end of 2018, the young couple will have hired 30 to 35 full-time staff in North West Tasmania. Their mission is to educate, collaborate with locals and celebrate life in their coastal community.
It was a successful run on the television cooking show Masterchef Series 4 in 2010 that propelled Ben, a former school teacher from Devonport, onto the national stage and into a career in food. Ben’s Menu on the Channel Ten network followed, as did guest appearances, brand ambassadorships, cook books, more television shows and celebrity chef gigs. Through being a part of the TV show, he also became interested in content production.
After Masterchef Ben returned to teaching but he couldn’t keep up with the additional opportunities beyond the classroom. The Milbournes made a concerted effort to say yes to everything and their sink or swim mentality has delivered grand rewards and opportunities for regional youths.
But it wasn’t just about beaming into households nationwide. The Spreyton-based parents of two young children wanted to continue educating and have a powerful impact on their local community. Through their production company and Ben’s new 48-seat Devonport restaurant, the duo have reshaped employment opportunities across the food and production industries in regional Tasmania.
“We have two network TV shows in pre-production and a number of corporate productions underway,” explains Ben. “Our restaurant in Providore Place opens in late July, and we’re working on the $2 million expansion of a former church in Steel Street where our food production will take place. We’ll also produce around 100 episodes of national network TV this year for Channel 9 and SBS.”
The Milbournes are particular when it comes to hiring staff. They choose local and provide full training across their food and television production industries. Of their current 14 staff, only three had prior industry experience, the rest have been trained in-house.
“By the end of 2018 we will have invested $2 million in the city, in an industry that didn’t exist previously in Devonport,” explains Ben. “The fact a 23-year-old ex-nursing student is now one of our most experienced lead producers is amazing. We have this ethos of encouraging our staff to say yes to everything. We figure out the ‘how to’ later.”
“Of all the people I have cooked for across the country and all the shows we have produced, I’m most proud when we have a staff event and I look at what everyone has achieved. These are young Tasmanians from a small region that are doing things that no one expected they could do” concluded Ben.
Providore Place is a community hub where the city connects with farms and where people can enjoy the best produce that Tasmania’s North West Coast has to offer. “When I got involved in Providore Place, I believed it must be a centre of pride. We’ve been producing world-class produce here for generations. We can be a beacon of agriculture for the country and Providore Place is where you come to eat and enjoy. I want my kids to say with pride that they’re from Devonport and that it’s a really awesome food town where great chefs come to visit,” says Ben.
When Ben’s not investing time in the business, he gets back out on the water. “I still love fishing and getting out on or in the water. The thing I miss the most is fishing with my dad or ab diving. I remember at about 16 or 17, my friends and I enjoyed about a week out at Hawley by the beach. We spent about $8 on hot chips for the whole week. The rest of our menu was what we caught: oysters, abalone, whiting, flathead, crays and more. I look forward to creating memories with my kids too.”
For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.