Adventures of a start-up part 5: building muscles, salutary stuff-ups, and the power of collaboration

The latest ups and downs of our intrepid coconut yogurt entrepreneurs

The last two weeks have passed in a whirlwind. Our social life has all but disappeared (unless you count social media interactions with our yoghurt peeps, who are super-cool!). Each day revolves around yoghurt – either making the yoghurt, boxing the yoghurt, invoicing for the yoghurt, taking yoghurt orders, organising yoghurt supplies, or responding to yoghurt enquiries.

We eat tons of coconut yoghurt (example – yesterday I had yoghurt on my breakfast, yoghurt in my smoothie for lunch, a serving of raw cake made with yoghurt for a snack, and then curry with yoghurt for dinner). We even dream about coconut yoghurt!

Weight-lifting

We’ve discovered making yoghurt is not for the faint of heart or weak of muscle. As we make bigger quantities each week, so the amount we have to lift goes up. I’m getting arm muscles that weren’t there before. We lift boxes filled with yoghurts, large pots, and pallet loads of jars in a precarious (read: dangerous) mission that involves wiggling 300kgs off a trailer into storage. We are currently investigating some type of forklift that will make this easier.  

Murphy’s law in action

You know those times when everything goes wrong all at once? The last couple of days have felt a bit like that. We found out there had been a mix-up with our commercial kitchen hire arrangement, which resulted in Mr Coconut and I having to brew yoghurt until 2am. Then the next day the shipping label printer had a meltdown so we had to handwrite some labels. In this confusion, one new customer got the wrong box! Mortifying! AND we had our first jar breakages on arrival of two deliveries … which was a good prompt to get custom-made shipping boxes which are thicker and stronger, and arrived yesterday – thank goodness.

Time for our own kitchen

The kitchen booking mix-up further solidified our desire to build our own commercial kitchen, and sooner rather than later. It’s been amazing being able to hire one to get us off the ground, but going forward we will need our own spot. We have started initial conversations with our bank about finance, and are finding they are less than supportive – extremely disappointing when (not naming names) they tout themselves as being all about supporting innovation and new business. Apparently we need a longer track record – ie a year’s worth of financial statements – before they’ll talk. Undeterred, we are asking around. If our current bank won’t play ball, we’ll find one that will.

Farro Fresh Tasting

This was really fun. We had our cute little plates of dairy-free tzatziki dip, coconut yoghurt raw cake and yoghurt with CleanPaleo muesli all lined up, our t-shirts on, and chatted with the people who stopped by for a sample. Highlights were the 12 year-old girl who wouldn’t stop eating the dip (like kept coming back for more while her Mum feigned mock-horror), the cute kids who shyly ate cake behind their parents, and the excited adults who exclaimed “Finally! I’ve been waiting for this forever!” and “This is the yummiest yoghurt I’ve ever tried!”.  The Farro peeps are a cool bunch – and the staff were pleased to help out with the leftover treats! We have two more tastings to do; the next one is on Wednesday at Farro Fresh Mairangi Bay.

New stockists and the power of collaboration

So last week we sent out first order down to Moore Wilson’s in Wellington! It’s been going really well and I think they’re a great fit for us. We’ve had a number of other new stockists come on board … there’s a new enquiry nearly every day, all a result of people talking about it on social media or directly telling shop owners ‘you need to stock this.’

We love collaborating with people, and the cool thing we’re realising about the healthy food space is that there are a lot of Kiwi innovators around the same age as us, with similar values, facing similar growth challenges. There are plenty of opportunities to team-up. Just imagine having to fly around the country and do taste testings at each store ourselves – we’d have no time to make yoghurt! Whereas if we help promote complementary products at tastings in our area, then other people can cover their areas.

This is already in action, the last Farro tasting we used CleanPaleo muesli (run by a cool crew of Kiwi guys) and at the next one we’ll be swirling in some yummy CHIA drink mixes from Chloe who is based down in Nelson. She’s taking some of our yoghurt to a tasting this weekend. Yay!

Finally – a website!

You’d think that people who run a digital agency would have been able to get a website up a bit sooner than this, but we found that squeezing in our own project among other client work and yoghurt madness was hard to do – the wait was worth it though. We’re really happy with how it has turned out and it’s already making life easier. Check it out here.

Learnings this week:

  1. Take breaks even when it seems there isn’t time to, or you’ll go nuts.
  2. Mistakes happen – don’t beat yourself up, accept it, fix it, and move on.
  3. You don’t have to do everything alone – look for mutually beneficial ways to share the load with others.

See previous adventures for the Raglan Coconut Yoghurt start-up here