If you're under the impression that a biscuit is just a biscuit, there's a chance you haven't visited Butterboy in Sydney's Manly. James Sideris launched his small business – a cookie bakehouse producing cult combinations that include peach cobbler crumble and Golden Gaytime (the name says it all) – while he was at university. Halfway through a double degree, James started to wonder if he was on the right path. And while soul-searching he got distracted watching YouTube baking tutorials and perfecting a delicious base for creatively flavoured cookies.

From the start, James knew that his modern take on a classic comfort food had legs and he launched with cheeky branding and a crystal-clear message that cut through to customers. Simply put, he was making fresh-out-the-oven cookies in flavours that were both nostalgic and new. "It's about having the whole package," he says. "If you're creating all this hype with your branding, you have to follow through. At the end of the day, one thing I've learned is that product and service are more important than anything else."

Like most small business founders, an important step in the evolution of Butterboy has been finding the right people to grow the business. "At the end of the day I'm only one person so I quickly learned that I needed to bring people on the journey with me and trust them to help me grow and evolve the business." For James, quality-testing the cookies every week and coming up with new flavours for his loyal customers is paramount. "I never want to let that slip – I always have the customer experience front of mind."

As anyone with a small business – especially one in hospitality can attest – hiring and retaining staff takes work. "Your business is only as good as the people you have around you to run it," he says. However, while you'll always find great people, James suggests starting with the question: what is the role my business needs right now? "You need to find the right people for the roles you have in the business, rather than shaping roles around people."

James' ultimate lesson learned from his business

Finally, keep an open mind. For James, who has since opened Rollers Bakehouse and Norma's on the same block as Butterboy in Manly, the learning never stops. "Ask me in five or ten years about the most important lessons I've learned in business and they will be completely different from the ones I'm sharing today." And while he admits that running your own business means that it can be hard to switch off, he says that being able to stress eat the best cookies in town certainly helps. Pass the snickerdoodle (his favourite flavour).

If you're looking to start, run or grow your small business, learn more at the small business hub. You'll find tips on how to secure funding and attract customers, manage cash flow and track performance as you grow, and then unlock lending solutions that can help you take the next step with your small business.