Desserts with a difference: how GingerSnap is giving visibility to workers with disability

13 December 2023

Brett Duncan is one of 1.1 million Victorians living with a disability. Born profoundly deaf, at the age of two, he was the 100th patient and youngest person in history to receive the cochlear implant. 

He’s also one half of Melbourne’s own brother-sister duo who offer spectacular, plant-based desserts. 

Together with his sister, Jess Colgan, Brett founded GingerSnap in 2022 – taking their combined 25 years of hospitality expertise and lifelong experience with disability to build the business. 

Traditionally a made-to-order style service, GingerSnap opened its doors to the public for the first time on 9 December in recognition of International Day of People with Disability, earlier this month.  

A person with a hearing aid holding a wooden board with desserts on top.
At age 2, Brett Duncan was the youngest person to ever receive a cochlear implant

A chef on the rise

Brett kicked off his career as a qualified baker. A fan of the work, but not of the early morning starts, he then spent some time as a kitchen steward before landing a job at Melbourne’s Crown Casino. 

Recognised for his tenacity and work ethic, Brett was invited to join CROWNability, Crown’s disability employment program, where he earned his stripes as a qualified pastry chef.  

During his stint at Crown, Brett celebrated his birthday with a vegan birthday cake from The Conservatory. Little did he know, this would plant the seeds for what would one day become GingerSnap.  

A tray of layered desserts
GingerSnap’s plant-based desserts not only taste delicious but are better for the planet

“My sister tried it and was blown away by how amazing it tasted without any animal products,” Brett said.  

“Having been vegan for many years, I wanted to show the world that plant-based foods can be just as delicious, whilst being a better option for both animals and the planet. 

“It set off the ideas in our minds. We have both worked in different roles in hospitality for most of our careers, so we knew there was a gap in the market for this product – especially when combined with our story and mission,” he said. 

On a sweet mission

Gingersnap’s mission began with Brett’s personal experience of being underestimated by people because of his deafness. 

“Brett wished that everyone would understand that he, and every person with disability, had limitless potential,” Jess said. 

“That’s where our mission started from – to celebrate the limitless potential of people with disability,” she said. 

Brett and Jess do this by forging deep connections with a community of like-minded people – including those living with a disability, the vegan community and the social impact world.  

Storytelling is also an important part of what they do. GingerSnap’s blog elevates the stories of people with disability. 

Here, they’re given a unique opportunity to share their own experiences, in their own words – applying a positive lens to stories often exclusively told from a medical perspective. 

“Stories about people with disability have always focused on what people can’t do because of their disability,” Jess said. 

“Inevitably, they always include elements of discrimination and frustration. But overwhelmingly, the stories are of goals, dreams, triumphs and successes in life that teach us what is possible.” 

The recipe for success

While Brett works his magic in the kitchen, Jess is a chartered accountant by trade, having had several roles in the place where hospitality and finance collide. 

Alongside her role as Co-Founder of GingerSnap, Jess is the CEO of All Things Equal – a hospitality social enterprise that exists to bridge the gap between people with disability and the wider community through training and award wage work in hospitality.  

“GingerSnap is the culmination of our personal and professional world,” Jess said. 

The duo take inspiration from customer requests, seasonal flavours and classic combos to create each menu drop. 

A tray of three coloured round desserts
GingerSnap’s Christmas selection includes a trio of baubles that can double as a table centrepiece as well as dessert

When it comes to the Christmas drop, Brett said, “look out cherries – we’re coming for you next!” 

GingerSnap’s festive menu will consist of three edible Christmas baubles – perfect accompaniments to your Christmas table. 

Inside the red bauble you’ll find a tangy compote centre, with a creamy white chocolate mousse and vanilla sponge, coated in a raspberry red chocolate and topped with whipped cream and gold glitter dust. 

The green bauble is has a salted caramel centre with mylk chocolate mousse, coated in green chocolate and topped with whipped cream and silver glitter dust. 

This Christmas, you’ll also be able to sink your teeth into the white bauble, with its zesty passionfruit and lemon curd centre and smooth passionfruit mousse – topped with a white chocolate coating, whipped cream and gold glitter dust. 

A round plant-based chocolate cake
GingerSnap’s festive menu includes this chocolate mousse cake

A delectable Cherry and Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake will also be available for Christmas orders – the perfect upgrade to your Christmas puddings and festive pavlovas.  

All Christmas desserts are gluten-free. Orders should be placed online at least two days in advance. Collections are available from the West End kitchen on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. 

Treats meet west

What began as a home-based business in 2022 has flourished in just over 12 months – with customer demand shifting production to a brand-new commercial kitchen. 

GingerSnap landed in West Melbourne thanks to an opportunity created by Trenerry Property Group – the West End Retail Kickstarter Grant Program, which provided funding to bring their vision for their first commercial kitchen to life and further financial support to build GingerSnap over its first 12 months. 

Neighbouring GingerSnap are an eclectic mix of West Melbourne retailers including pet store Bark Road and West End Art Space.  

Investing in Melbourne

The City of Melbourne has supported GingerSnap through its Invest Melbourne program – designed to guide businesses in growing their footprints and helping them take their aspirations to new heights. 

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said that Melbourne is an exciting place to do business. 

“The city is a melting pot of diverse talent, full of Melburnians with great business ideas and the entrepreneurial spirit to make their dreams a reality,” the Lord Mayor said.  

From one-on-one advice from an experienced Business Concierge team member, to making industry connections and sharing valuable city insights – Invest Melbourne provides an accessible and inclusive springboard to success for many small businesses like GingerSnap.   

“Working with the City of Melbourne as part of their Invest Melbourne program has helped us make a seamless transition into our new home in West Melbourne,” Jess said. 

“Business Concierge has been incredible from the beginning – consistently checking in on us throughout the construction phase to see how we were going, referring us to the lovely marketing team, and sharing relevant grant applications,” she said. 

Last financial year, the Business Concierge team supported almost 50 small businesses to start-up – making more than 14,000 contacts with them and halving the time for them to open up shop in the City of Melbourne. 

“We can’t wait to see GingerSnap flourish in their new West Melbourne digs and encourage budding businesses to lean on Invest Melbourne to take their business to new heights,” the Lord Mayor added. 

Two people standing side by side next to a white wall. One is dressed in chef's whites.
Brett and Jess have found the right recipe to celebrate the ability of people with a disability

Nothing about us, without us

At the core of GingerSnap is its motto, Jess said. 

“In essence, it means ensuring that when decisions are made about people with disability, that they must be included in that decision making process. This must occur from a grass roots level, through to the government. We need better representation everywhere,” she said. 

“For GingerSnap, it means creating businesses that celebrate people with disability, and have people with disability in decision making positions. As founders of businesses, as CEOs, and as board members.” 

“International Day of People with Disability is a moment for the community to really think hard about how they can be part of building a more inclusive society,” Brett said. 

“Through GingerSnap, we see every day as a moment to celebrate the limitless potential of people with disability … and really show the world what people with disability can achieve.” 

Got a big idea for a business? Contact the Business Concierge Service. Our case managers are here to support businesses as they start, grow and even go global.

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13 December 2023
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