New Farm Confectionery founder and director Jodie Neilson shares three pieces of advice for navigating the rocky road to success in business.
Known for its handcrafted, gourmet sweet treats for grown-ups – from chocolate bars and barks to nougat, marshmallow and honeycomb – New Farm Confectionery is a manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer based in Newstead.
“I was inspired to start New Farm Confectionery by my travels to France,” Jodie says. “French people have such love and reverence for food, including confectionery and chocolate. They take it seriously, and they handcraft all of their goods. They use the very best ingredients and they treat it as an event, not just a quick splurge of something sweet.
“We didn’t have that in Australia. Our confectionery was always aimed at children. So I wanted to be able to bring that love for quality, well-made confectionery back from France to Brisbane. That was the major inspiration for New Farm Confectionery – well, that and the fact that I’m completely addicted to sugar and everything sweet.”
Jodie started New Farm Confectionery by making sweet treats in her kitchen at home, and has gradually expanded her business to multiple locations, including a store at Brisbane Airport. She employs 25 staff members and supplies more than 200 wholesale stockists around Australia.
It’s been quite the journey – and there are three big lessons she’s learned along the way.
Don’t be afraid to think big
In the early days of your business, it’s natural to start with fairly modest goals. But Jodie says it’s important to be thinking about the logistics of scaling up from the outset.
“Dream big right from the very start,” she says, “even if you don’t think you’re going to be big. One of the things I wish had known before I started New Farm Confectionery is that you should be thinking about wholesaling your products from the start, and you should build that into your pricing strategy as you grow your business.
“I didn’t realise that. I thought it was just going to be me making products and selling them at the markets forever, and occasionally making enough profit to buy a pair of shoes. But it became a lot more than that very quickly, and my business model wasn’t built for that at first. So you need to get your pricing strategy right from the beginning – know exactly how much each of your products costs you to make, and what your profit margin is, and make sure you’re selling them at the right price. You can never do this too early.”
Get yourself a mentor
It’s easy to labour under the misapprehension that you know everything about your business, and it can be hard to admit when you don’t. But Jodie says it’s crucial to reach out for help early on.
“I wish that I had a mentor who knew more than me early on,” she says. “I thought I could do everything myself. I still tend to think that sometimes. But I’ve learned that having somebody who has more experience than you, somebody who can really help you, and even somebody that you can just bounce ideas off of, is priceless. They can point you in a direction that you would never even have thought of.
Don’t put all your Easter eggs in one basket
Whether you see yourself as a bricks-and-mortar retailer or an eCommerce specialist, Jodie says you need to be open to new opportunities when they present themselves, and be willing to fish where the fish are.
“You can grow your business rapidly by having multiple sales channels,” she says. “You don’t have to be just a bricks-and-mortar retailer – you can sell your products online, you can sell your products at markets, you can do pop-up stores.
“We have bricks-and-mortar stores, but we also sell to wholesale stockists. We run a cooking school. We do ‘white label’ manufacturing. There’s so much you can do – you don’t have to be stuck with one sales channel. So I say you should diversify as much as possible, and have as many sales channels as you can.”
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