Small Business


From the kitchen to the factory, how far can you go?

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When Cinzia Cozzolino started making smoothie boosters in her kitchen, it was more to ensure her daughters were having something nutritious than with an eye to starting a business.

"It wasn't until much later that I realised there was a demand for this kind of product," says Cozzolino, founder of Smoothie Bombs.

Cozzolino is one of several entrepreneurs who started off making their products in their kitchens, only to realise that there is a market whose appetite cannot be sated with home-based production.

Starting from a kitchen bench

So, starting a business from your kitchen, how far can you really go?

Cozzolino has not only moved the production of boosters out of her kitchen to a commercial space, she says the company's turnover in the last financial year was "just shy of $600,000".

"We're on track to hit the $1 million mark with a lot of the growth coming from the export market."


She says it is hard to believe the company's growth in the past year. "Having learnt to budget on below minimum wage with an annual income of just under $30,000, I am now almost doubling that per month."

While Smoothie Bombs came about in 2011, it was a year before she was supplying cafes around Melbourne.

"I had just completed my bachelor of health science in nutritional medicine and used the knowledge to develop a variety of flavours," she says.

Once she gained momentum, it was hard to maintain the production from her home. "We also needed to work in a registered kitchen to continue supplying cafes. Luckily for me, the St Kilda community came to my rescue."

She used the commercial kitchen of a local publican from 8am to 2pm before their staff came in for work. "Family and friends would come round to help roll the smoothie bombs by hand. Before long, we needed to expand again and that's when we moved to our factory in Port Melbourne."

Going from hand-made to machine-made is costly, she says. "We ran extensive trials to adapt my recipes so they would be suitable for packaged bulk batches."

Family and friends would come round to help roll the smoothie bombs by hand.

Cinzia Cozzolino

Cozzolino, who now runs the business with younger daughter Lana, says she started very small. "In fact, I was still on my sole parent pension at the start of it all."

'Massive limitations'

Healthy snacks were the driver for Melbourne mothers Tanya Duncan and Lisa Bourne, co-founders of food business Funch, which started in Duncan's home kitchen.

"We had our kitchen commercially certified. We were making the snacks and selling them online, but we quickly realised there were massive limitations to how you could get that out to masses of people.

"We worked on different concepts and eventually came up with this idea of a pre-mix for healthy snacks. At the time, it wasn't something that was available – there were cake mixes and cup cake mixes."

They first tested the products at one of the local school night markets. "That was really popular. But, very quickly, we needed to look for alternative options that we could use to create the product elsewhere."

She says they decided early on that after the $2000 they each put in from their family savings to kick-start the business, Funch needed to be self-sustaining.

"Always keeping our income higher than our expenses meant that the business sustained consistent organic growth. This enabled Funch to grow from the family kitchen to commercial operation, starting with two products and increasing to 12, and now having hundreds of stockists throughout Australia. 

"In 2014, when we started selling at a single stockist and opened our online store, we managed a turnover of $10,000."

The following year, as Funch moved from home to factory, sales shot up by 1231 per cent to just shy of $100,000, says Duncan.

In 2016 they saw consistent growth of 30 per cent. And the business is on track to boost sales this year by 40 per cent.

"To support ongoing growth and accelerate expansion into new markets, we will consider opportunities to seek investors," Duncan says.

For the current financial year, Funch is hoping to head towards the $500,000 mark.

Duncan is hoping revenue will top $1 million by the end of financial year 2018-19.

Online sales account for about 30 per cent of business, says Duncan. Another area it is growing into is the bulk supply of Funch products to cafes, she says. "We are also starting to focus on the school canteen market."

Paying the rent

Charlie de Haas says she ​started​ Clean​ ​Treats​ three​ ​years​ ​ago,​ ​"purely​ ​to​ ​pay​ ​my​ ​rent,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​always knew​ ​I​ ​would​ ​work​ ​for​ ​myself".​

She says she ​never​ ​realised​ ​she​ ​would​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​live​ ​her​ ​own​ ​dream​ from​ ​throwing​ ​together​ ​some​ ​ingredients​ ​and​ ​rolling​ ​balls.​ "​Now,​ ​I​ ​have built​ ​my​ ​own​ ​manufacturing​ ​room,​ ​cafe​ ​and​ ​event​ ​space​ ​in​ ​1400 square metres."  

Her Clean Treats business has grown ​from​ ​making​ ​the gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free balls ​in​ ​her​ ​kitchen to owning a space in Alexandria, in Sydney, in three years. At that time, she says, the invoices were ​$45​ ​for orders of 30 balls.​ ​"We​ ​see​ ​growth​ ​month​ ​after​ ​month​ ​and​ ​last​ ​year experienced​ ​a​ ​1000 per cent​ ​increase."  

When de Haas started the business in 2014, she was making $200 a week. "From​ ​doing​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​of​ ​hundred​ ​dollars​ ​per​ ​week,​ ​last​ ​year​ ​we​ ​were over​ ​$4.5​ ​million,​ ​with​ ​​​revenue​ expected to ​double​ ​this​ ​year."  

Now de Haas has ​a​ ​wholesale​ ​business and a cafe, and intends to open a restaurant​.  

"We​ ​are​ ​about​ ​to​ ​set​ ​up​ ​packaging​ ​machines​ ​to​ ​scale​ ​1000 per cent – this​ ​will allow​ ​us​ ​to​ ​contract​ ​manufacture​ ​efficiently.​ ​The​ ​cafe has​ ​just​ ​opened​ ​with​ ​expansion​ ​plans​ for​ ​a​ ​200​-seat​ plant-based restaurant​ ​and​ ​event​ ​space,​ ​with​ ​areas​ ​for​ ​corporate​ ​bookings​ ​and​ ​a secret​ ​garden."

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