HEALTH ENTREPRENEURS: IT'S CRUNCH TIME
31 July 2015, Written by Laura Daquino
PROVENANCE and seeing a person behind the business - these are the two things that self-made Carman's Fine Foods success story Carolyn Creswell, who ranks among Australia's wealthiest, perceives as the 'it' things currently taking business ideas from zero to hero.
Melbourne-based Creswell founded Carman's 22 years ago when she offered the flailing muesli business she was working in $1000 to take it over, fearing her job was in jeopardy.
"The initial challenge was actually an overriding macro challenge - muesli was a very out of fashion product," says Creswell, reflecting back to her 19-year-old self.
"My advice to people starting out is try and keep your other job and work on your new business at night and on weekends, otherwise financially, it will be an awful place to be."
The BRW Rich Lister and Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year jokes the overnight success of Carman's has taken two decades, a combination of 'getting into the groove of the business' and a favourable broader environment.
It may seem like Creswell went out of her way to champion a bubbling health and wellness trend all that time ago, and it has paid off, but her advice to budding entrepreneurs is quite contrary to this.
"I think sometimes people try too hard to not work with what's on trend - you need to keep it simple and assess the broad appeal of your product, go beyond just delivering something your friends want," says Creswell.
"The hardest thing though is assessing what's on trend but hasn't yet been done a million times over.
"Provenance, where things come from, is really on trend; a person behind the business is really on trend - you have to get your brand perception right.
"This industry survives on landing distribution with retailers and if you're aligned with the current health trend, rather than pushing triple chocolate fudge cakes, then you will have a far smoother journey - unless it's a raw cake!"
Coles and Woolworths are Carman's biggest money makers, making up about 80 per cent of the company's $50 million-plus annual sales.
The company also exports to more than 30 offshore markets, with a steady eye on China in particular.
"We have five different distributors over there, it's a huge opportunity for us and we think that it could be massive," says Creswell.
"It's not actually about the size of the Chinese market, it's more about desire for Australian products - the westernisation of their diet means there is a real thirst for what we are doing and we're just trying to maximise that opportunity."