How it all Began – The Inside Story!
Blend11 is the first product we ever had (it used to be called ‘goodMix’. It was our only product for a good 12 months or more (until we launched the original choccy protein BallBags Whey & Vegan).
It started out as ‘my version’ of breakfast cereal, there were a few similar types of blends coming into the healthfood store where I was working, but none of them were ‘nailing it’ completely…so I wanted to make my own. I did, & we put it into the bulk bins to trial it. Turned out quite a few others liked it too, so it stayed – & quickly became very popular, with many self-proclaimed ‘addicts’ telling us how much better they were feeling just eating this ‘birdseed’ each day. (The main feedback was dropping cholesterol, better energy, better skin and of course…the all important great poos)!
At the time I was very content with my work-life balance – although a little financially challenged as a single mum. But very happy working in the health shop for 4 days a week…when things started to get serious with my new boyfriend (Brad). He was quite the entrepreneur, & all for ‘working for yourself rather than just making money for the boss’, & very keen to get me out & running my own business (which seemed waaay too difficult / stressful for my liking)…so he very stealthily got me to ‘just start a little weekend market stall’ with him, selling this soggy-seed breakfast product I’d formulated…
One Sunday market together turned into Saturday-Sunday stalls together, then we decided to double our reach – we split & ran 2 each per weekend (I was getting up at 4am, setting up & running a market until 8.30am when our first staff member took over, & then I would go & work the health shop until close). It was not unusual to be getting 3 hours sleep in those days, as we were up late at night creating new solutions for mixing / bagging / marketing / point of sale…deciding on what we needed to make the stalls better, as well as creating an online ordering option through our little Facebook page. It was tough, but exciting as it seemed we were limited only by our manpower in how much of this stuff we could sell, & the stories that we were hearing kept us motivated (often people would call us to say thanks, or come back to stall & end up close to tears explaining how they had struggled with an issue like constipation for years – sometimes decades).
Around this time, a friend (who happened to have massive food industry experience), had been observing what was unfolding, & also experiencing the benefits of the birdseed himself, asked if he could get involved somehow. We jumped at the chance to have someone with his knowledge / experience helping us…& that’s when things really started to get full-on!! We found more staff, applied for more markets & started to order more stock, which required renovation of the current ‘production facility’ (or double garage). We (Brad, me & some staff) were running up to 13 markets each week, as well as starting to deliver quite a bit of product around the country through the clumsy online ordering system we had going. We had gotten help from a graphic designer (& great school friend of mine) with designing some pretty cool flyers to explain the product. We lovingly rubber-banded them onto the old style packaging at markets…which was held together also by rubber-bands!
Long story short – the product was going great, on a shoestring start-up budget. Brad’s vision, motivation, drive (& mouth!) got us to a point I never thought possible! I would have given up many times had it not been for his ability to convince me otherwise. There were many tears late at night mixing & packing the seemingly endless stock (after long days at work & very little sleep). I was exhausted, & unsure ‘if this was really gonna work’ or if Brad was just crazy – I know now that both are probably true. Anyway, Jonathan stepped in at the perfect time to help create some systems & structure, & guide us with making a plan to facilitate sustainable business growth. The ‘Patch’ model was conceived, & it was around this time also that we found Simon – our website guru (not to be confused with ‘The goodMix Guru’, Brad’s alter-ego, who also joined us around this time). The website was built (as thoroughly as we could manage whilst still running many stalls each week), & was a massive improvement. We felt almost like a proper business!
Leanne joined us in ……….. (our very first Patchie), & we fumbled our way through her ‘induction’ into the business, then just kept trying to improve the process each time a brave newbie came on board. We are continually evolving as a business, & there is still much room for improvement – but we are slowly ‘getting there’ with the help & patience of our current Patch family, who offer great insight, beautiful creativity & much-needed problem-solving from the market ‘trenches’ as Brad & I step back a little to try & build a solid foundation that can support each of them in growing a profitable & rewarding business they can run independently but with the HQ team support & ‘the power of the group’.
To be continued…