“I was working for a wine company about 15 kilometres from the city and doing long hours, struggling to cook at home so eating out a lot or ordering in,” recounts the Melbourne founder of Feastively.
“My wife and I love food, but organising weeknight dinners was a pain in the backside chore. “I would much rather spend my time watching Netflix.”
Enter the penny-drop moment.
Commuting home and watching his favourite chef, Gaggan Anand, it dawned on him that “the secret to cooking like a pro” would be getting home and finding all ingredients prepped and ready for cooking.
“It was the moment the idea for my fresh meal-box delivery business was born,” he says.
“There were other food delivery services out there but nothing that did the prep work for you, for the home-cooked fine dining experience.”
He registered a business name in February 2017 and, with “a five-figure sum” of start-up capital invested from “all his savings” and some from him family, he began a period of intense learning.
The business began operations last year and Feastively forecasts $95,000 turnover in its full year of trade.
The home delivered pre-prepared pre-cooked “family package” meals retail for $10.50 each with a minimum order of three.
“It took about a year to learn how to source, prepare, package and deliver gourmet meals, how to plan and continually evolve our menus, and use data to work out what cuisines works with modern Australian households,” he says.
“We are sending out roughly 140 meals per week today and pending (more) investment capital would like to be in Sydney this year; it is just about finding the right logistics partners.
“I am a stickler for efficiency and automation.”
Simon Kobler, whose work life demands touring the world with Hillsong United and often to 20,000-capacity stadiums, couldn’t shake fears for the safety of his touring gear, especially on long-haul flights.
But it is this gnawing concern that the professional drummer today credits as muse of his specialty equipment covers’ business, Basal.
Unable to find high quality protective covers for his tour gear, and “after waiting years for someone else to create solutions to all the touring issues I was having” he realised he would “just have to tackle it myself head-on”.
The Sydneysider needed “high quality, aesthetically sound” covers for his instruments, electrical gear and a coffee brewer he loved to take on world tours.
In November, 2017, Basal launched in Paris, funded with $80,000 of Kobler’s savings, offering 12 soft and hard cases he designed himself. Turnover for his micro business in its first 12 months was $26,000, with an average sale value of about $60. He has three more designs in the pipeline for 2019 and distributes via Shopify, Amazon, specialty retailers (coffee brewing equipment cases only) and the brand’s own web site.
He manufactures bulk quantities of stock, which he stores and distributes from China.
“(As a professional drummer) there are countless hours of setting up and packing down gear,” explains the accomplished musician, when asked about his unusual detour into goods design and commerce.
“You are travelling with a lot of electronics and it troubled me that a lot did not have a safe place to live when travelling, so when I found myself out of my ‘side job’ with time on my hands I decided I would invest some into investigating how to do this.”
He taught himself how to use Sketch Up “to draw some sample products”.
It took two years to get ready to launch “and a lot of sleepless nights”.
“I had skills in the music industry but zero in design and manufacturing; there has been a lot of learning.”
Novice entrepreneurs, Kobler and Sekhon are two of a growing cohort of new faces in the small business sector.
Most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data show the number of actively trading businesses in FY16-17 grew for the fourth year running to 22.4 million actively trading businesses, an increase of 3.1 per cent from June 2016 with the growth driven by non-employing businesses. Solo traders represented 61.2 per cent of all ventures.
Shocked by the lack of products
Jessica England was so shocked by the lack of products for babies with hip dysplasia that she started a specialty sleeping bag and clothing business called Hipsleepers.
Her daughter, Mackenzie, was diagnosed with the condition as an eight-week-old in 2015.
According to Healthy Hips Australia, as many as one in 50 infants were being treated for the condition in 2017.
Mackenzie wore a hip harness while her hip socket corrected itself but “none of her usual baby clothes or sleeping bags fit and I couldn’t find any that fit in shops,” recounts England.
“Concerns about the risk of SIDS are very top of mind.”
England found “little handmade businesses” but the former law firm partner couldn’t find anything warm enough for Melbourne conditions.
In the end, she decided to quit her job because she “didn’t want to miss out” on raising her children and, in March, launched her specialty goods line.
She partnered with her mother, who is “an experienced sewer”, with each chipping-in about $15,000 to buy a first stock patch of 400 items, which arrived in September.
To date gross revenue is “approaching $30,000” turnover, England reports.
“I got my mum to join in on it and asked her to make a prototype while I got busy learning about graphic design, importing and garment manufacturing and standards,” England says.
“I knew we could save capital on legal advice and I could learn how to build a web site.”
The bags sell online for $70. The brand’s specialty stock range includes sleeping bags, bean seats and specialty swaddles.
“We missed the winter season this year but next year should be good,” England says.
“First-to-market in Australia, if not globally, we are now really working out how to get the word out.
“If we had more capital, I can tell you from experience, we could sell the bags in a flash.”