To be honest, I consider myself a reluctant entrepreneur. I say this because I never really wanted to run my own business.
While growing up, I watched my migrant parents make a life for themselves by working extremely long hours running a small milk bar business. The shop was opened seven days a week and it seemed like I virtually spent my childhood in those four walls.
It was indoctrinated in me that I didn’t need much being a girl, I’d find a rich man to take care of me (the norm in the late 60s) and all I needed to know was how to cook and clean. My brother was sent to a private school and I was sent to the local school for convenience.
Listen: Shark Tank’s Naomi Simson shares the reality of starting a small business from home.
I remember making a decision as an eight-year-old that I wanted to travel and never work that hard. But then life happens, doesn’t it?
Fast forward 26 years and there I was at the end of a destructive marriage with two daughters under the age of seven, and I had to look at life differently.
Fortunately, I have an innate ability to be resourceful. Nowadays we know it as ‘hustling’, but when you’re a single parent, it’s called survival. I left the relationship with only a carload of clothes and the girls and I moved from Melbourne to the Victorian coast for a sea change and cheaper rent.
I look back at those days fondly living across from Victoria’s Jan Juc beach in a holiday shack near Torquay for $160 per week. My daughters and I formed an unbreakable bond. We created our simple life with love on a shoestring budget. We spent four amazing years there where I juggled a number of small jobs including working in retail, running knitting workshops and cleaning the local pub at 6am to get back home in time to drop the girls off at school.
Before long the small town life became claustrophobic and when my eldest won a scholarship to a Melbourne private school, we packed our bags and returned to the city.
It was then that I decide that I needed to gain some skills to be able to support my family. I went back to school at age 42 to study nutrition. It was a massive challenge for someone who had never written an academic assignment let alone sat an exam.
I’m proud to say that I got through it and it was during that period studying to be a nutritionist that I had my first light bulb moment for a business idea.
My youngest daughter, Lana, at 13 was going through a stage of very fussy eating. She skipped breakfast regularly and hardly ate lunch. By the time she got home from school, she was exhausted and cranky. I recognised the signs of malnutrition from my studies and knew I had to do something about it.
I started making ‘bliss bombs’ with all the bits of superfoods and good stuff I had in my pantry, but rather than have her just eat them, I got her to pop one in the blender, add a piece of fruit (usually a banana) and milk. My reasoning was that she would get a more balanced meal. It was also a busy time for us all, I was in my final year of my degree, my eldest Nina was gearing up to her final years of high school and none of us had much time in the morning.
Luckily for me, the plan worked. Soon we were all popping ‘bombs’ in the blender and having smoothies to save time.
It changed Lana’s eating habits almost immediately and helped get her back on track. I started to make batches for family and friends and then after graduating university sold them to clients in my clinic.
Initially, my big plan was to supply cafes with the Smoothie Bombs as it would solve a problem faced by so many store owners in terms of cost, space and consistency. But as it grew, I realise lots of mums just like me would really benefit so I looked for ways to make it a consumer product and in early 2016 I registered the company and we launched our full range of products.
So now seven years after making my first 'bliss bombs' I am a business owner running a company that turned over more than $600,000 last year and is on track to grow to $1 million this year. If you had told me this was where I would be in my 50s, I would never have believed it.
Business is challenging, it has many moments where you just want to throw in the towel, curl up in a foetal position and cry. You need to have thick skin, trust your inner voice and above all persevere. But all this is worth it for the highs you also have.
I have managed to get the Smoothie Bomb product range in over 800 stores Australia wide and it’s growing every day. I have a thriving online store and am available in Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, New Zealand and negotiation underway with many more countries to come.
Have I struggled through all the difficulties? Yes, I have. Did I learn my lessons? More than ever. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Did you start your own business? What was the most important lesson you learned?