FROM CRAIG OLIVER: BUILDING BETTER BUSINESS
Fiddling around with a recipe until it tastes delicious as well as getting the thumbs up from nutritionists could be an act of serendipity. And ‘praps it is lucky to fall upon flavours and textures which agree with the fussiest eater.
But when those flavours are combined as ingredients to create a healthy convenience food perfect for ‘conscious consumers’ then we realise there’s more artful design than luck at play here.
Our guest today is Christine Westbury whose journey into developing commercial superfood products started with a passion to create easy, guilt-free snack foods for her kids. In a slightly scarily short time, that passion has led to a new business which aims to satisfy refined sugar, dairy and gluten free lifestyles.
It’s called Clean Mixes www.cleanmixes.co and has been ticking the ‘this is yummy but healthy’ box since 2017 with some amazing results in the pre-prepared baking mix category … but the sweet path forward took a bit of negotiating – as with all new ventures!
Tweaking bliss balls, muesli bars, slices, muffins and cake mixes till they taste exquisitely naughty (but aren’t), saw Christine in a hired commercial kitchen where she spent nine hours throwing a bunch of ingredients together.
If she ate the whole baked batch, then she knew she was on to a winning recipe.
And when it seemed that recipe had the potential to fill a niche market in the natural food industry, nationwide and possibly internationally, Christine reckoned she could be well be exploring exciting new territory – and possibly a very good enterprise - in more ways than one.
She forged ahead. The pre-prepared mix needed to be super simple, clean and with only a few ingredients so that:
“when that sweet tooth hits, and you feel like something that’s not so good for you … the idea is to make it taste like it is naughty, but it isn’t.”
But when her husband got a bit over lending out his ute for her to move half a ton of product around once the kids were in bed (he also kinda wanted his office space back) she figured it was time to go more professional.
Enter LEAN stage right.
The Lean business model for Clean Mixes meant Christine could contract out pretty much everything - except herself. Once launched on social media (more about that later) Christine became the face of www.cleanmixes.co and now that she’s out of the kitchen, her CEO role also includes sales and face to face schmoozing.
Using contractors for manufacturing, packing and dispatching freed up Christine to focus on product development and placement. Getting out there and talking to supermarkets, attending shows like https://www.healthylivingshow.co.nz/ and https://www.gogreenexpo.co.nz/ means Clean Mixes has a physical presence no longer reliant solely on digital.
Why is this a good thing? One day, Facebook removed Clean Mixes’ advertising account due to policy constraints. Losing 70% of online sales was "kind of a big deal" and one which taught Christine to spread and divert her audience towards email and face to face engagement.
Gen Y and Z fear picking up the phone and talking to people, but in business, it’s a reluctance well worth overcoming. And shaking the right person’s hand can lead to relatable connections and great relationships. Ask questions, be humble – even use Christine’s patter:
“Look, I’m new to this. If you don’t mind me asking, would it be possible for you to let me know how I should be doing this?” and as Christine says, it only takes one Yes to get back on the horse.
However, ‘’there have definitely been moments when it hasn’t worked’’.
Lean streamlined Clean Mixes’ processes to allow rapid scalability; but fast gains are not always positive. Before systems were in place to cope, Christine was pushing hard, pushing limits …
“really really hard for lots of wins and I was getting those wins, but I was like, where’s the next win, where’s the next win, just gotta go forward, gotta keep pushing …”
Frenetic and massive business growth broke her.
It reminded her why she started the business in the first place: to provide a sustainable, healthy, easy snack food for her children. In the fray of her drive to achieve that goal, focus on family went by the wayside. She’s mortified to call it Proximity Abandonment.
“There’s definitely been times when I’ve been on the ground crying and thinking what the heck am I doing with this, what have I done?”
That turning point brought an about-face in priorities. Rediscovering the original motivation behind Clean Mixes www.cleanmixes.co now fosters her ‘ruthless' focus on personal wellbeing. All time out is scheduled (Christine and husband are diary geeks) and family is at the forefront once again.
“I’m a better wife, better mum, better friend, better family member when I take that time.”
Staying true to those values and other key hashtags such as #cleantreats, healthyeatinghabits, nzmadesustainability, foodismedicine, glutenfree, dairyfree, refinedsugarfree, consciouseating, is how Clean Mixes will welcome the next few years.
Future expansion is on the cards and with more consumers choosing to take a conscious approach to life (living with mindfulness and intent) Clean Mixes offer another respectable component to the mix.
Christine has three pieces of advice to savour with your guilt-free cake as you indulge your sweet tooth:
- 80% right is OK. You don’t have to have a perfect business model, a perfect marketing strategy right then and there. It will evolve over time and with experience
- ‘Just Do It!’ Pick up the phone, have a go, make some calls, be humble, ask for help
- Look after yourself; “if our cup is full, we can fill others’ cups as well”.
And if you need more help in moving your business from chaos to control visit Craig Oliver at https://www.projecthq.co.nz/
So many insights, tips and ideas to be had! Just sit back, listen or read and learn.