Kate is a 27 year old lady on a mission. She recently quit her job to work full time on her brand new baby ‘Koja’. Koja is a real food alternative to supplements and Pills. Being extremely passionate about health, Kate created Koja to be a tasty and simple way to get loads of minerals and vitamins into our bodies everyday.
Kate is a real go getter and someone who simply ‘makes shit happen’. The kind of young gal we can all learn a lot from. She has answered some questions on starting a brand spanking new business.
When did the idea for Koja come about and how long was the planning of it?
Koja is very close to my heart. I believe health is the most important aspect of our lives, and the way we eat affects not only our physical health but our emotional health too. Earlier this year I was working at a sports nutrition company and part of my role was to assist with new product development. I learnt a lot about supplements and pills, how they’re made, what’s really in them and the negative side effects they have on our bodies. At the same time I had made a personal decision to start eating less meat and more plant based foods and was learning about all the amazing nutrition in nuts, seeds and superfoods. My ultimate question was to ask why would we take synthetic vitamins and pills manufactured and processed in laboratories when the real thing literally grows on trees? And it’s so much better for us.
I started making Koja for my own family, to see if they liked it and also to see how much nutrition I could deliver. Within a few weeks I had consolidated the idea and decided it was time to quit my job. From there the planning was really less than 2 months. Everything felt right. I wanted to get a product to market as quickly as possible so I started selling Koja Daily online and was able to see that customers really enjoyed it. Everything started to take off very quickly so the next step was actually to slow down a little, re-write the business plan, develop a range of products, set up manufacturing and suppliers, and design the packaging.
Being a brand new business what have you found the most challenging thing and the most rewarding thing so far?
It’s all a very new experience for me and I have to say the most challenging and most rewarding aspect is actually the same; building confidence in my own ability and trusting my instincts.
The unexpected challenge with this is that it changes every day. Some days I feel ready to ‘take over the world’ and then other days I feel like crawling away and I wonder what I’m doing! However, this is also the most rewarding aspect because when I do get things right or when I take a moment to look at the past few months I feel quite proud and sometimes I have to fight the urge to give myself a high-five.
Have you figured things out on your own or have you got a mentor or someone you rely on for business advice?
Although I’m the owner and founder of Koja, I can’t say that I’ve started the business by myself. It’s really been a group effort from a lot of different people around me. Often when you’re so close to the business and the idea, it’s the people around you who can assess where you’re at and give you a nudge in the right direction.
I’ve worked with a marketing consultant to help with the development of the brand, website and strategy. Adam Tregear from the Melbourne based marketing agency Flux has been instrumental in the development of Koja so far, in particular with marketing advice and listening to me rant about many crazy ideas!
I would love to have a business mentor as Koja continues to grow… so if you know anyone…
Finding a mentor feels a little like dating- always trying to find the right match, someone you can trust, admire and respect and then having to ask “would you like to be my mentor?” I’m still working on that.
1. Knowing how you’re different to your competitors.
This really defines your business and if you don’t know the answer to this question then I would seriously question why you’re starting a business! If you aren’t clear about this, you won’t be able to convince the market, your customers or potential investors that they should choose your product over another.
2. Aligning the business with your own personal values.
This one is very important for me. I strive to be very authentic and honest so I can remain passionate about my business. I source every ingredient with care and I know that Koja is aligned with my goals to encourage healthy eating.
3. Lastly finances.
I’ve had plenty of brilliant (ok not true) business ideas but at the end of the day if they’re not going to be financially viable then it’s not a business. Key questions I asked myself before starting Koja were: How much do I need to start it? What are my fixed costs and margins? How long will it take to breakeven? How will I pay my rent while the business is brand new?
Did you have any fears before starting Koja and if so how did you over come them?
I don’t think fear is the right word. It’s certainly daunting and sometimes overwhelming, especially as it’s such a small team at the moment. Mostly it’s exciting.
My attitude has always been ‘it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all.’ I tend to overthink a lot of things (I’m female after all!) and try to make everything perfect, which can be detrimental to success at in a start-up. I’m also a bit of a control freak so trying to let go of that has been hard. I focus on taking lots of small steps everyday and making sure I’m still heading in the right direction, rather than worrying about the big picture too often.
What are your hopes and dreams for Koja?
I would like to know that I’ve made a positive impact on the health of Australians. Ideally, I’d like to see more people asking questions about what’s in their food, how it was grown and made. It would be great to see more people learning simple food skills and cooking, in the hope that one-day fast food chains could disappear completely!
My dream is to see childhood obesity rates in Australia dropping. I would like to set up an education program that teaches kids and parents about real food, with basic nutrition knowledge and cooking skills. There are already some great programs that exist in Australia like the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and The Good Foundation by Jamie Oliver but there’s certainly a need for more programs like these. I believe we can change the health of Australians by learning what real food tastes like and experiencing how good we can feel when we’re eating well.
I’m keen for more people to be aware of the environmental and ethical consequences surrounding their food choices. In our day-to-day lives it’s far too easy to drink a ‘whey protein shake’ for example, without thinking about what’s in it, about the cow that provided the milk, about what else has been added to that product, or what that does in our bodies. I encourage people to learn more about what’s in their food and where it comes from. As a society I think we’ve lost our connection with real food.
Put simply, I hope that people will enjoy eating Koja everyday and appreciate the values it represents.