Mia McCarthy, 25, is from Sydney Australia. She started her food business, Yummia Pty Ltd, in 2011. Yummia specialises in providing a range of ready to go bircher muesli products to both the retail and food service trade. Yummia is completely Australian made and owned.
Starting the Business
Q: Where did the idea for your business come from? Where were you in your life and career?
A: I started Yummia during my final year of a BA Dip Ed (primary) at Macquarie University in 2011. I was 22 when Yummia started. At the time I was in the middle of a rowing season so looking for some healthy after training breakfast products.
I developed a love of bircher muesli and wondered why it was not readily available in a pre-made format in the current retail environment.
Yummia grew quite organically; I initially started testing the product on family and friends. Once I saw people connecting with the product and continually purchasing I then set about testing it on the commercial market in my local area.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting out?
A: One of the biggest challenges has been the creation of a new category in the breakfast market. When people think of muesli they think dry cereal aisle in the supermarket. Our products come pre-made so trying to divert customers towards the fridge to look for a muesli product can be a bit challenging, trying to change consumers’ habits.
When you are a small business, customers are not aware of the product and do not look for it on shops shelves. We are trying to create brand and product awareness at the same time. Initially we did not have the luxury of piggy-backing off an established category or recognizable brand.
Also being a refrigerated product, cold supply chain logistics are always extremely complicated, especially when breaking into new interstate markets.
Q: What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started the business?
A: I think if I knew just how hard it was going to be at the beginning I may have stuck to teaching, so it’s probably a good thing I did not know everything that was involved. Lessons are learnt through mistakes made along the way which can be frustrating, time consuming and costly although it is these lessons that make for a better brand and consumer product at the end of the day.
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt has been through the commercial manufacturing stage of Yummia. The importance of scalability when growing a brand and also the extreme caution and standards that need to be met and maintained when producing a food product. Luckily I now have some great business partners on board who have helped me through this process.
Q: What would you consider your first big success in the business?
A: No sale is ever quite as exciting as your first sale! Although the first time I really felt I was onto a good product that had potential for huge growth was in August 2012 when I was picked up by a buyer for Woolworths’ small format stores. To have the interest from a big leader in supermarket retailer such as Woolworths was extremely exciting.
Although, this meant we had to completely re-work the product to a commercial standard and expand manufacturing capabilities. So by far the hardest stage of my business was after the ‘big success’ moment when the opportunity was there, however we needed to really lift the bar in terms of product consistency, quality, shelf life, brand awareness etc to be a viable product in big business.
Q: What is the toughest thing about getting to the top / staying on top in your industry specifically?
A: I’m a small player coming up against big competition. I don’t have big teams and deep pockets backing Yummia. The FMCG (fast moving consumer good) industry is exactly that – ‘fast moving’. I find that I need to try to stay a few steps ahead in my planning stage so we always have something to work towards and achieve. I try never to sit back and look at what has been achieved. You always need to be on the front foot planning for the future.
In terms on getting to the top, I don’t really ever want to be in a position where we have reached the ‘top’, because where can you go from there? I like the excitement of constantly working towards achieving little goals along the way but never want to reach the top.
Q: Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5 years?
A: The ready to go food industry is in the process of huge transformation in Australia. Consumers are now demanding fresh, healthy, quality ready-made food solutions and the market is providing accordingly.
The change towards a more on-the-go food offerings can already be seen through the expansion of home delivery services and the venture into fresh, convenience-based shopping by the leading supermarkets.
Based on my experience I see this category continually growing over the next 5 years.
Q: What do you plan on doing / changing in order to keep growing in this time period?
A: Listen to our customers and retailers to work with them and produce a product that consumers need to buy, therefore retailers want to stock.
We will be working to expand our product foot-print and become a readily available FMCG with a brand recognition in the market.
Q: What does ultimate success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
A: I try not to look at success as an ultimate goal, rather setting little goals along the way help the business growth incrementally. I’m definitely my biggest critic so don’t really ever see a time when I can feel like I have achieved success, rather will always be working to the next step.
Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs in the near future?
A: Big companies are banding together to form conglomerates that can squeeze little business out of the market, it can be hard to make a move into large markets coming up against the competition from large multi-nationals.
Also, the rising cost of manufacturing in Australia is hard. Retailers want low RRP as consumers demand cheaper prices, however manufacturing costs are increasing, making the margin for the manufacturer tighter.
Although, having said that, the development of social media and its outreach is really exciting for entrepreneurs. You can reach your target market and expand brand awareness for no cost at all which is very exciting.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in your industry and wanting to make it to the top?
A: Be flexible – you need to be open to new ideas and opportunities constantly. The market is fast changing and if you are innovative there can be lots of exciting opportunities.