PEOPLE: Dan the scientist, baker and glitter lover

Dan is a nutritionist and medical scientist by day, and a baker by night. Recently, he had the opportunity to share his passion on a grand scale as he participated and became a finalist in the 2019 Australian Bake Off.

Along with the joys of cooking and wanting to share this with the world, Dan is a new business owner whose business was severely impacted by COVID-19, and a LGBTQI+ community member who believes strongly in the need for change in how the TV and media industries represent LGBTQI+ experiences and stories.

In this interview, self-professed “glitter lover” Dan shares his views on representation in media, his experiences during COVID-19, and how he’s nurturing his passion for baking.

  • What opportunities do you think the TV and media industries are overlooking or completely missing when it comes to educating the community about important issues, such as LGBTQI+ rights?

We didn’t talk much about the LGBTQI+ because the main focus of the show was baking. I think the media industry is still far too scared to show an honest view of our communities in mainstream TV especially. And when there is a rare glimpse of something honest and maybe surprising to the mainstream, it’s unfortunately met with some negativity from a small few.

  • When you say an ‘honest view of our communities’, what does this mean to you?

When you even have a lesbian kiss (which is only touching the surface of our community) on Home and Away causing uproar in certain pockets of society, there are definitely problems. Mainstream media seldom features an in-depth look at the real problems that our communities face in terms of challenges in relationships, the workplace, and the fact that the fight for equality didn’t stop when the “yes” vote went through.

  • How can TV stations reflect this accurately?

Stop making the gay characters the side piece to main story lines. Start showing a more in-depth view at the real and detailed lifestyles we lead.

  • What drove you to audition for The Great Australian Bake Off last year?

I love challenges and I wanted to experience something new and exciting to do with baking.

  • What were the best and worst parts of that experience?

The whole experience was the best part of my life. I met so many beautiful people (friends for life), I worked with amazing producers, I baked so many things that I’ve never thought I was able to do. I think the worst part was on the last day was when we had to say goodbye and leave the shed where we were filming.

  • How has your passion for baking evolved since being on the show?

Since the show I have been busy baking for my Instagram and I launched my baking business called Dan’s Bake Lab.

  • Have there been any challenges with starting your own baking business?

It was a challenge starting a new business especially because you have to gain a great volume of clientele and there is a lot of competition out there. I think you have to create something unique and amazing flavours to stand out, but still that isn’t enough. You really have to learn how to use social media to your advantage and leverage positive word of mouth.

  • Have you had to make any changes to Dan’s Bake Lab since COVID-19?

Just a month before COVID-19 I moved from Brisbane to Melbourne and I was planning to start my business here in Victoria. As soon as I started working here to gain a new clientele, the lockdown started and I had to pause what I was doing. Since the isolation I have been working on new flavours and recipes and once everything is over, I can start selling my sweet treats to the Melbournians.

  • What are your thoughts on the recent spike in interest in baking since the coronavirus pandemic?

I love the fact that people are baking a lot at home and they are making so many delicious goodies. Baking is so relaxing and I feel like in this stressful time we all need some baking therapy!

About the expert

Dan is a medical scientist by day and baker by night. He is the creator of Dan’s Bake Lab. Dan is a self-taught, Melbourne-based baker with a passion for creating edible works of art which are truly one of a kind. Originally from Italy, Dan grew up baking with his mamma and nonna who taught him the traditional ways of making delicious dolci Italiani (Italian sweets). These days, he enjoys blending the old with the new and throwing in something that hasn’t been imagined yet, all to create something truly show-stopping.


PEOPLE: Turning a hobby into a full-scale charity

Brittany Bloomer’s entrepreneurial journey started from seeing a problem – one that impacted the lives of thousands of animals – and a relentless dedication to solving it. Her charity, Pound Paws, helps to re-home pets in pounds and rescue centres. It operates an online search engine which fast tracks the adoption process, by allowing users to search by breed, age, size, and more.

After learning about how many pets were being euthanized each year and the lack of awareness among potential adopters, Brittany focused on raising awareness for these animals by taking photographs and sharing them on an online blog and to social media. This later evolved into a charity, and social media has become one of their strongest weapons in raising awareness of pets needing new homes.

  • What made you want to start Pound Paws? How have your ambitions with the organisation changed over time?

Pound Paws is something that began as a hobby as a teen, after immersing myself in the Animal Welfare space, volunteering in shelters. I was shocked to discover the devastating statistics back in 2009, of over 250,000 healthy and happy pets getting euthanized in Australian shelters each year.

  • What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting and growing Pound Paws?

The biggest challenge for me was selecting key members for the charity board, as they are your backbone and support! I am really grateful for my board members who all contribute amazing skills to help drive Pound Paws.

  • What have been your most difficult learnings from this experience? How have you changed the way you work and operate because of them?

I am constantly learning new things, as well as being challenged through Pound Paws. As any Founder is aware, you are required to take on lots of different job roles. As a way to continue raising awareness for the charity, I took a risk at hosting an event, with no event management experience. Luckily, it turned out super successful and we are now hosting these events monthly around Australia! I learnt through that experience, that on the opposite side of fear, is bliss!

  • What have you found to be a common misconception of working in or for a charity?

It is not like any other job where you can just switch off. You are emotionally invested in it, which means it is something that you are always working on, thinking about or emotionally attached to.

  • Would you recommend others to consider starting their own charity? Why or why not?

Yes of course, if your passion is strong enough to drive the mission then go for it! Otherwise, there are a lot of amazing charities that are always looking for volunteers, this is just as fulfilling and helpful. Pound Paws is something that originally began as a hobby and because of that strong passion, it has lasted to date and continued to be so successful in re-homing and raising awareness for rescue pets.

About the expert

Brittany Bloomer is the Founder of Pound Paws, an Australian based charity on a mission to raise awareness for pets in Australian pounds and rescue centres. The charity operates an online search engine, which live streams pets available for adoption, whilst also hosting monthly dog adoption events around Australia. 

ADVICE: How to build, sustain and grow a blog from scratch

Blogging has become a part of everyday life for many around the world, with 409 million people viewing more than 20 billion pages, and 70 million WordPress articles posted every month. While blogging is a highly effective way of telling others about your story, product, or advice, it’s far from simple to build and consistently maintain a high-quality blog.

In this interview, Chloe Tear, an award-winning disability blogger, shares why she first got into blogging, how she keeps up a routine of blogging personally and writing professionally, and her advice to other novice bloggers starting out.

  • What do you love most and least about blogging?

Blogging has become such a passion due to the way I am able to express myself and share my experiences. It is incredibly powerful to have someone say, “I can relate to that, you’ve made me not feel alone”. Also, exploring different aspects of my life have enabled me to view things differently as well as challenge stereotypes.

I dislike the perceived pressure to constantly write amazing posts and imposter syndrome about not being good enough. Yes I am an established writer, yet I still can hesitate to hit that publish button. There is no pressure to do anything – you do you!

  • How do you come up with the content calendar for your blog? Is it a strict schedule?

I’ve never had a strict schedule when blogging. This mainly is due to always blogging alongside education or working full-time. Also, blogging started as a hobby for myself. When I truly fell in love with content creation and blogging, I wanted to post once a month. On the whole I was successful, but missing the odd one due to assignments or exams wasn’t a major concern.

Currently, I aim to produce two pieces a month for my own blog, with other content often written for a freelance publication or website. I’m not going to lie, it’s a challenge at times. Similarly, I’m a strong believer in not posting for the sake of it. If you have no ideas or time to produce content then don’t force it!

In terms of the things I write about, this can be really varied and has no structure as such. I have a list of blog ideas which I add to whenever something comes to mind. Quite often something will happen that triggers an idea or I’m reacting to the current situation. As a result, I rarely have content sitting in my drafts for very long. Yet I do have a rough idea of topics, which tend to be a few months in advance.

  • What’s your advice to others considering starting their own blog? How do they start with a blank screen?

When starting a blog, be clear about your aims. What are you wanting to achieve? Who is your audience and what topics will you write about?

I would advise building up a few pieces of writing before you publish and promote your site. This will mean that readers have a few things to look at and are more likely to stick around and know what your topic areas are.

Start with your site. Using WordPress or Blogger is the best for blogs, but a lot of websites allow you to have blog elements. Research what is out there. The main pages you might see are home (your blog), about me and contact. However, it’s all about trial and error. Don’t worry about getting things perfect – it’s your content you want to focus on. It can take so long for your layout to be exactly as you want it. I migrated my blog a year ago when I rebranded and I still have things I want to change!

Finding a starting point can be hard. My advice would be to get stuck in and see what happens. Write and write, even if it’s not posted or you hate it. Words on a page can spark ideas. If you know a topic you want to write about, break it down in the main components or even a list. These can later become your subheadings which makes things easier for your readers.

If I’m staring at half a paragraph and have no idea how to end it I move on. Leave a gap and start a new paragraph. I often have a lot of half finished posts which I tend to not look at for at least a few days. When I go back, I normally find it easier to then make it flow better as a piece.

  • Lots of people start a blog, but struggle to keep it going long-term. What’s your approach to this?

Write for yourself. If you aren’t doing it for yourself then what’s the point? It’s hard to be motivated when you don’t have the passion and desire to write. Is that goal to share your life? You might want to educate others?

Don’t have strict guidelines but do make time, even if it’s once a week, to think about ideas or make plans. You will start to come up with ideas in the shower or at 3am when you’re laid in bed. Having a place to capture these can really help you going long-term. I simply have a note on my phone full of random titles or paragraphs.

If you need a break from writing, take a break. It’s not going anywhere and forced content or work can only diminish your passion and will be felt by readers. My blog is my biggest achievement and something I am immensely proud of. All it took was a small idea that I worked on. Keep pressing publish and who knows where you’ll end up!

About the expert

Chloe Tear is an award-winning disability blogger and freelance writer. She has been writing for 7 years and is particularly interested in challenging negative attitudes and assumptions around disability. She works for Scope on their online community and within content creation. 

ADVICE: How to balance a passion project alongside work and everything else life throws at you

Work-life balance is increasingly important to professionals and yet seems increasingly impossible to achieve. Instead, terms like ‘informal workplace flexibility‘, which may involve being allowed to take personal calls at work, and ‘work-life fulfillment‘, which may involve empowering employees through greater choice in their work environments, are becoming more mainstream.

Whether you’re juggling parenthood, a relationship, dating, socialising, or a side hustle, finding a balance is hard. We spoke with Amy Nhan, an employment lawyer by day and Founder and CEO of Art by Ames outside of her day-job. In this interview, Amy shared her experiences and advice for others looking to balance their job among the many distractions and responsibilities that life naturally brings.

  • How do you balance and prioritise your career and your passions? 

I don’t do it perfectly and it’s evolved over the years but I like the analogy of putting the big rocks (your top priorities such as physical/mental/spiritual health, relationships, job, downtime) in first and then pouring the sand in between (hobbies and passions around that). 

If you are finding you don’t even have time to look after yourself by exercising and sleeping well, something has gotta give. I learnt this the hard way last year when I caught an infection that knocked me out for a few days = huge wake up call. I had to recalibrate everything and reassess what was most important, do those first and then fill in the rest afterwards.

  • When you’ve got multiple interests, how do you know which one to monetise and which one to do for fun?

My advice is to consider the following:

  1. What do you keep being asked about (you’ve become the go to person in your circle for “X”)?
  2. Have other people been able to turn it into a business? This is actually a good thing because that means there is a demand.
  3. Once you know the answer to 1 and the answer to 2 is YES, then spend time to upskill in that space (e.g. attend some online classes, read up on it)
  4. Brainstorm a few different ways you could make money from your interest and test them out to see which one you like and what is a profitable exchange of your time and effort.
  • Did you ever consider making calligraphy your full-time gig? Why or why not? 

When I started, I did have dreams of maybe one day doing art full time however, I am still in love with the law and want to help people through it so for now, I’m content having it just as a side business for now. You never know what the future will hold! 

  • What’s the biggest challenge with balancing your career and your personal passions? What’s your advice for others experiencing this challenge? 

My biggest challenge has and I think will always be time management. We all have 24 hours in a day so it’s really about working out how to use what we have wisely and efficiently and that might change day-to-day, week-to-week etc.

A few techniques I’ve found helpful in tackling this challenge is:

  • Choosing your top three priorities for each day and focusing on getting those done and celebrate when you’ve done just those three things (anything else is a bonus)
  • Time blocking i.e. setting aside a block of time to complete a task and putting away your phone or closing outlook while you are doing the task to not get distracted
  • Schedule rest and downtime: I used to be a huge productivity junkie that did not know how to rest but now I’ve “seen the light” and realise that without rest, you will eventually burn out and productivity drops after a certain point anyway