Going coconuts – adventures of a startup in Raglan

Building a company from scratch is tricky business. Latesha Randall finds out first-hand why having an amazing product doesn't necessarily get you past first base.

Seven weeks ago, we were just Seb & Tesh. Now, we’re Mr & Mrs Coconut. How did this happen? I had been playing around with coconut yoghurt recipes for awhile. Mr Coconut (Seb) has a nose that does very funky things when he consumes dairy, which was spoiling our morning fruit + muesli + yoghurt ritual, so I decided to play around with an alternative. At first they were too runny. Then sometimes too thick. And occasionally, had a weird taste. But over time, it started to turn out super yummy, to the point where our morning breakfast had this tropical explosion factor going on that we thought was the business.

Being an evangelical type who likes other people to share in awesome new things, I thought I’d put a casual post on our Raglan Noticeboard Facebook page (which everyone in Raglan uses to share news, sell stuff, and bitch about out-of-towners hogging the roads/waves). I offered 3 jars of yoghurt, first in first served.

The thread went mental. Turned out, most of Raglan was sitting at home secretly craving coconut yoghurt. In a day or two I had a waiting list of 60 people all keen for a large 700ml jar of coconut goodness.

Our friend Tim fortunately happened to have a bunch of the right size jars stashed away, and Seb designed up a basic logo (which we printed on paper, painstakingly cut out and stuck on all the lids). Raglan Coconut Yoghurt was in business! We had Raglaners traipsing in and out of our garage the next week, bringing cash for their white magic. Our neighbours thought we were running some sort of weed racket.

Seb and Tesh: Neighbours were hungry for a jar of  their "white magic"

Outgrowing the home kitchen

It quickly became apparent that our house wasn’t easy enough to find, we didn’t have sufficient parking, and there was a risk that Food Standards people might not view the garage operation as kosher. Many of the original yoghurt purchasers wanted to reorder, and by now their friends had heard about it too, so we found a commercial kitchen to rent and started retailing the yoghurts at our favourite local organic food shop, Whaingaroa Organic Kai.

From the start of January to now, this thing has been snowballing pretty fast. We had to find a jar supplier as the local recycle centres couldn’t keep up with demand (not to mention that scrubbing the things a hundred times and removing nasty sticky labels – damn you Leggo’s pasta – was growing old!), and we got 1,000 of them shipped to us from Wellington. Next mission was a proper front/top label (thank you Virtual Print!), and setting up a Facebook page. Hamilton News heard about it and did a feature on us, which saw a rush of stockist enquiries. Now, we’re stocked in Hamilton and Auckland, and being used in a few cafe menus too.

Making it after first base

With our computer-based backgrounds in web, marketing, and finance, this is a whole new world for us. We now understand first-hand how so many new businesses never make it past first base – even if you have an amazing product, it’s expensive, it’s stressful, and it’s plain hard work to get it out there. Idealog have invited us to share our journey and learnings with you, so hopefully we can save you making the same mistakes, or help you feel less alone with your new business.

Thanks for coming along for the ride with us!