Trudi Yip, the 275th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, has a surprising connection with potatoes.

Trudi is a third-generation family member in Yep Lum & Co, a wholesaler of potatoes (and other vegetables) that was founded in 1940 and is the longest-running tenant at Sydney Markets. She grew up around business, which is probably why, when she finished school, she decided she either wanted to be an accountant – or a fashion designer.

Trudi chose clothes over numbers – at least initially. When she was 22, she co-founded a fashion label for tween and teen girls, which was then an underserved market. Trudi was both the chief designer and the business leader, and she did those jobs so well that the label ended up gracing the shelves of department stores and retail outlets throughout Australia.

After 13 years, while meeting with a client, the man surprised Trudi by insisting he would buy her business. Trudi had never thought about selling, but eventually agreed to his proposal.

From there, Trudi took on several corporate finance roles, before, in 2006, she founded a bookkeeping business called Numeric Eight

Numeric Eight grew steadily over the years, in part because, unlike most bookkeepers, it offers clients five-day-a-week service, rather than a designated half-day or day.

In 2019, Numeric Eight went to the next level when it bought its biggest rival, in a seven-figure deal that remains the largest bookkeeping acquisition in Australian history.

Why has Trudi been so successful? Several reasons come to mind. She’s very smart, she works very hard, she has very high standards of customer service, she has very good people skills – and because of her childhood potato experiences. Business is in her blood.

A few years ago, Trudi published a book, Counting Potatoes, which tells the story of how, as a child, she used to count potatoes in the markets before dawn, and also shares the business lessons she’s learned in the decades since.