“I felt like I was always searching for myself,” says Lilly. “I was looking for my happiness and my fulfillment. One day I told my husband, ‘I’m going to start a food business!’ and here we are today.”

– Lilly Wright

When embarking on a new endeavour or passion project, many of us are quick to come up with excuses before taking the plunge. We don’t have the skills! We haven’t done the course! We don’t have enough hours in the day! And for those of us becoming experts in procrastination, Lilly Wright has a response. “Put your chin up, get on with it, go out and make the best of your life! Dreaming is for free.”

But let’s be clear: that firm message is delivered with the most captivating of smiles, not to mention the personal experience to back it up. As the owner of Lilly Loves Cakes, Lilly has carved out a very full life as a baker, cook, entrepreneur, artist and photographer. And for Lilly, it’s all come down to hustle and grit. 

“I knew I wanted to bake, so I taught myself,” she says. “I set myself up on Google, I started out with brownies, and developed from there.” As for her other endeavours? They’ve all followed a very similar path. Perhaps most entertainingly was the development of Lilly’s now-renowned Flying Chilli Oil. 

“That Flying Chilli Oil got its name in a dramatic way,” Lilly laughs. “Growing up in Malaysia, I was always cooking and always surrounded by food. As the youngest of 9 siblings, with most of my family in the food industry, meals played a very big role in my life. Some would say that food is in my blood. But I obviously hadn’t made Chilli Oil myself before, because I decided to make it at home as an experiment during lockdown, using my mortar and pestle. The chillies went flying, straight up into my eye. I called out to my husband, I screamed, I thought I was dying! After an hour of ice on my eyes, I learned a very good lesson – never use a mortar and pestle with chillies – and I launched a product!”

Today, that Chilli Oil is part of Lilly’s incredible suite of products, from hazelnut praline and dark chocolate spread, to greeting cards and so much more. It’s a few steps away from Lilly’s first career as a banking customer relationship manager, which began when she arrived in Australia in 2014. 

“When I arrived in Australia, I just knew the country was for me,” says Lilly. “I felt like I was my best self here. But of course it’s hard to make connections and friends. You just need to get out there, set up coffee dates, and take a risk. It is worth it.”

A risk taker she is. Having initially studied photography and then working in banking, in Australia – neither of which fulfilled her – Lilly knew she needed to discover her passion. Which is how food came into play. “I felt like I was always searching for myself,” says Lilly. “I was looking for my happiness and my fulfillment. One day I told my husband, ‘I’m going to start a food business!’ and here we are today.”

With a job in a kitchen and her own entrepreneurial endeavours, Lilly’s days are packed to the brim. “Time management is definitely an issue,” she says. “But I love what I am doing. So I will wake up early to bake. I will steal a few hours here and there to work on my business. I just make it happen. This is particularly important for me in my painting, because that’s where I find I am most relaxed. It’s so good for my mental health, so I prioritise it.”

With so much on the go, we were keen to ask Lilly about her tips for aspiring entrepreneurs (other than to emulate her tenacity and resilience). “Make everything low-risk,” she says. “So you can try new things, see what works, and move on quickly if you need to.”

Lilly is also showing no signs of slowing down. “People enjoy using my products, and that gives me so much meaning,” she says. “So now, I don’t just want my own line of food in cafes, but I want my own cafe. With fusion food featuring the Malaysian flavours that my mum taught me to make, using local produce from Ballarat. I can’t wait.”

Neither can we!

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer