Brand new ventures: two entrepreneurs share their top start-up tips

Feb 15, 2024

Start-ups have long been one of the most exciting features at Naturally Good with visitors keen to learn about new innovation first-hand. We talk to repeat exhibitors Blume and Wild Nectar on the secrets of their success after spotting gaps in the market.

Blooming into the drinks market with healthy prebiotics

Rachel Castelino’s journey into healthy beverages really started due to her own health issue with fibromyalgia. Generally causing pain and fatigue throughout the body, there is no cure for the condition.

So, she started researching into the healthy gut microbiome to help manage symptoms. “I’ve always been interested in emerging science about this,” Rachel says. “The best thing you can do, which has helped me, is consume prebiotics – diverse dietary plant fibre which feeds friendly bacteria in your gut.”

Raised in New Zealand and having lived in the US, Rachel says she was never short of healthy drinks in the States. “However, there’s not so many options in Australia that are fun, naturally sweet with functionality. I saw there was a gap here and decided to combine prebiotics into a beverage.”

In 2021 the social media specialist went searching for the most science-backed ingredients to create Blume – a prebiotic tonic made with acacia fibre, Jerusalem artichoke inulin and chicory root inulin, selected for their stellar biome-supporting benefits.

Once the product – available in Raspberry Lime and Mango flavours – was made, Rachel got the word out on social media. “One of the first reels I created got 10,000 views in the first week. It’s now passed the 100,000 mark.” She also pounded the pavement, getting the drinks into her local greengrocer and cafes. The feedback was hugely positive and Blume is now stocked in WH Smith and Harris Farms.

“It can be hard to get your product into stores initially, convincing store owners to take a gamble, but once you do, it can snowball,” she says. “You just need to make sure cash flow is healthy and seek out further investment. At Naturally Good 2024 I’ll be looking for more retailers and elevating brand recognition further.”

Cold-extracted honey’s wild ride

With Australia generating between 20,000 and 30,000 tonnes of honey annually, and now one of the top 10 honey producing countries in the world, you might wonder what’s left to innovate.

However, twqo years ago, Managing Director Joe Corrigan of Wild Nectar decided to take on a little-explored opportunity – producing cold-extracted Australian honey direct to consumers from the beekeeper.

Unlike commercially produced honey, cold-extracted honey remains unpasteurised after hive extraction, maintaining natural flavour and nutritional benefits eroded during pasturisation.

“We’ve been tending hives and selling wholesale for years, but felt there wasn’t enough raw, organic honey available with a known origin at scale,” explains Joe. “We wanted our honey to be unpasteurised, unfiltered and untouched at an affordable price.”

With bases in Temora and Nowra to be closest to hives located throughout NSW, Wild Nectar now has 25 employees and produces 700-800 tonnes of honey yearly.

However, success hasn’t come without challenges. “We’ve had to rescue hives a few times during bushfires and floods and taking a business from primary producers and wholesale to retail has also been interesting,” says Joe. “But we’re encouraged by the feedback and really proud of what we’ve.”

As people become more aware of benefits of raw and local foods versus processed products or heat-treated honey, Joe says a main goal over the next five years is to improve consumer knowledge. “We also want to increase retail listings on the East Coast and become more available in local stores which is something we’ll be focusing on at Naturally Good 2024.”

Having showcased at Naturally Good 2023 in the start-up zone, Rachel and Joe share their top tips for start-up success and event impact.

Blume start-up tips

In general: Be customer obsessed

Constantly aim to get feedback from customers online and at grass roots level such as sampling events. Ask them what they do and don’t like to understand the ins and outs of your product.

In general: Talk to as many industry people as possible

If I could go back in time, I’d talk to more people to get advice. At the start I was super new to Sydney, and didn’t have many networks, so I ended up making a few mistakes.

At the show: Invest in a good stand

Invest in the presentation of your stand – that’s how you’ll really set yourself apart from other brands. Also have the most extraverted, friendly staff manning it. You may be talking to potential distributors so first impressions are very important and it’s hard to bounce back from a bad look.

At the show: Do your research as to who’s going

I already knew some of the bigger and smaller retailers coming along and it’s a good idea to connect in advance to remind them who you are. I hadn’t met Harris Farm reps before the show, but they knew about my brand a bit. Their staff trialled my product on day one and on day two the buyer wanted to set up a meeting with me. Blume is now stocked with them which is fantastic.

Wild Nectar start-up tips

In general: Manage expectations

Starting in retail and getting our honey stocked widely has been the biggest challenge. Managing expectations is vital. We needed to do this while we were taking the risk that our investment into branding and packaging was going to lead to a successful retail brand.

In general: Keep refining your business model
Build a solid business model and keep refining and improving it as you go on.

At the show: Be clear about your messaging

Be clear prior to the event what you want to tell people as you meet so many retailers and industry professionals, who attend with the sole purpose of seeking new brands. Also make your stand design matches the tone of the business.

At the show: Listen to feedback

We had a great show experience with lots of positive discussions, feedback and leads. It’s important to then take feedback on board. You really need to understand what market experts value and are looking for.

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