Champion cheese shop named Small Business of the Year

23 August 2023

The world’s first cheese shop that showcases all-Australian artisanal produce has taken out top spot in this year’s Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards.

Located at Queen Victoria Market, RIPE Cheese is a treasure trove for cheese connoisseurs, offering everything from prosciutto-wrapped treats from Bruny Island to gooey truffle toasties.

Hakim Halim is the “big cheese” behind this award-winning business. But he is quick to deflect all the glory to the cheesemakers themselves.

“I am most passionate about sharing the stories and produce of all the Australian artisanal cheesemakers to everyone,” Hakim said.

“Without them, RIPE will just be like any other generic cheese shop, deli and supermarket. They have done all the hard work in creating the best dairy products, and so credit goes to all our Australian producers.”

Hakim started his life in Melbourne as an international student 13 years ago.

He worked his way through various companies and experienced many hardships, including racial discrimination, before building his successful business.

“I thought being part of the corporate rat race was what I wanted. But once I started building a business with a purpose bigger than myself, everything made sense and I found joy,” Hakim said.

“That joy has pushed and motivated me to overcome any obstacles that we face, and work tirelessly to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves.

“It’s incredible to be recognised in the Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards, and I’m so humbled because I never could have imagined to be in this position when I first got here.”

Over his time in business, Hakim has seen the Australian cheese industry blossom. And he’s right there at the forefront of this growth, showcasing and advocating for local cheesemakers on the world stage.

“We see ourselves as the catalyst that brings Australian produce to the world. Last year, for example, we brought our cheese masterclasses to Singapore – who knows where to next!” Hakim said.

“We want to showcase Australian cheese and its producers through more advocacy, outreach, education and government lobbying. At the same time, creating more opportunities for future cheese experts through mentorship and scholarship programs.”

Hakim’s top tips for doing business in Melbourne

Are you planning to start or grow a business in Melbourne? Hakim has this advice for your onward journey.

“Melbourne has a very competitive business market with lots of different concepts and brands, and discerning customers,” Hakim said.

“It is of the utmost importance to have a clear and genuine unique selling proposition that can be understood and appreciated for many years to come. Melburnians hate gimmicks!”

About the Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards

Independent small businesses, and the dedicated Melburnians who run them, are the soul of our city.

Each year we say thank you to those making a significant contribution to the city’s culture, prosperity and liveability through the Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards.

Alongside the overall winner, we also recognise Melbourne’s most innovative businesses. This year, Docklands-based startup Gaia Project Australia took out the Small Business Innovation Award.

While sending lettuce to space might sound like sci-fi, the Gaia team is planning for interplanetary growth, while changing the face of local agriculture to address climate change and food security.

To read more about this great work, read How to grow leafy greens on Mars.

Celebrating long-standing businesses

As part of the Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards, we also celebrate businesses that have reached impressive milestones of 10+, 20+ and 40+ years.

Among this year’s list was American Doughnut Kitchen, which has been serving up hot jam doughnuts at Queen Victoria Market for more than 70 years. Stop by the vintage van on market days to support this three-generation family business.

American Doughnut Kitchen has been in business for more than 70 years

To browse more beloved businesses in your neighbourhood, visit Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards.

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