Jacican Gippsland

Jaci Hicken and Ernst Lenselink are Mirboo North locals and founders of Jacican, a successful food studio and cooking school based in South Gippsland, and have regularly attended Small Business Festival events since 2009.


As someone heavily involved in the local community, Jaci credits one particular event they attended with helping their business grow. “We attended an event with Dan Gregory back in 2016 about employee and employer relationships and have continued to implement his advice since,” she said. “Because of where we’re based, access to public transport for our staff is an issue, so you have to factor in the cost of staff being able to get to your employment.”


“It’s meant we’ve ended up with very junior staff that we’ve had to train from the beginning; often it’s their first job. Dan’s advice has equipped us with the right skills to mentor these young locals and grow as a business.”


In fact, Jaci and Ernst are so passionate and believe so strongly in the Small Business Fesvtial that they send apprentices, interns and junior staff along to as many events as they can get to. “Once we even paid for a staff member to catch the train to Melbourne to attend a few Melbourne based events,” said Jaci. “This not only helps build knowledge within our business, but also provides our young staff with information, skills and tools they need to build their own careers and benefit their own future,” she said.


The idea for Jacican was born when Jaci and her husband Ernst moved to South Gippsland ten years ago. Their vision was of growing their own vegetables and cooking for people. Jacican has rapidly expanded, beginning in 2009 as a home business before receiving official business certification and obtaining a liquor license in 2016.


“We were a home business and got too popular! We’re now open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for meals and cooking classes. We also cater special events, for example we’re soon holding a dinner of six courses of local wild game meat,” Jaci said. Most produce is sourced locally in Gippsland, including the wine, meat and most of the vegetables, so everything cooked is seasonal.


Jaci sources products from little local boutique farms that sell to supermarkets and takes great pride in telling you where everything on your plate has come from. “We grow as much as we can, we make preserves and other things that can be purchased at the business but most of the fruit and vegetables are used in the meals we create.”


After starting out as a television engineer and teaching media studies at RMIT, Jaci is passionate about creating content and hosts a monthly segment on ABC Gippsland Radio and writes for Country Life Magazine in her spare time. Jaci said the Small Business Festival provides a great opportunity to network with other business owners, and benefit from their knowledge.


“Many of the events are sponsored by councils so it’s a great way to meet and talk with your local council members and economic development representatives and know more about how you can work in with your local council. They are there to help you develop your small business and make sure it’s sustainable going forward,” Jaci said.


This year Jaci and Ernst are looking forward to attending the feature event Adapt for the Competitive Edge presented by Lonely Planet’s Gus Balbaton.

For more information about events being held in the Gippsland area click here.