One of my favourite past times is talking to food businesses. While I do it now to share their stories and insights and hopefully help budding food businesses; I would happily do it as a hobby. I have spoken to and shared a number of food business stories; at the bottom of this post I share links to those other stories. But today I wanted to introduce you to Tanya who has set up the Raw Cane, a business selling raw sugarcane juice in Melbourne and now further afield.
I had a fabulous time talking to Tanya and the one thing that shone through is her enthusiasm and love for her product. If you want to find out more about sugarcane juice and its health benefits then you need to head on over to the Raw Cane Facebook page and start shooting your questions to Tanya.
Working her way towards her business
While some people just leap in to starting a business – often because of a major change in circumstances, for many of us, it is a much slower process. It starts off slowly with an idea, then fears and concerns get in the way until you finally manage to push those fears down and take the leap.
That is certainly Tanya’s story. Tanya found sugarcane juice at her local market and fell in love with it. But she struggled to find many places to buy it and thought it must be a complicated difficult juice to make. Tanya finally found another supplier and started to take an interest in the way it was made. At the time her husband suggested she look at setting up her own business creating sugarcane juice.
After a rocky period in her twenties, Tanya was working on regaining confidence and wasn’t quite ready to set up her own business. But the idea never quite disappeared and in March 2015, Tanya started to investigate setting up the business, contact the local council.
Now I know for lots of people just the idea of having to deal with the local council and the regulations puts them off starting their food business. For Tanya it was a pivotal moment. A lovely woman called Susan answered the phone and when Tanya asked for advice Susan not only put her in contact with the right people but told Tanya to be confident and that she was a smart business woman. Susan gave Tanya just the boost she needed at that point in time. Never underestimate the power you have to support another business owner through the right words.
And Tanya has found that level of support has continued with so many people willing to help her. I think there is a general perception that all business is cut throat and unfriendly but as Tanya and certainly I have experienced (at least in the small business world), there are so many people who want to see you succeed and are willing to help. The scary part is often asking for that help. Even though she is still fairly new in terms of her business, Tanya is already taking the opportunity to repay some of the help she has received by sharing information with others.
Tanya is now seeing her business take off with wholesalers placing their orders. But as Tanya herself says, that doesn’t mean the fears have gone completely. Being in business still scares the hell out of her and at times she wants to back out. Her goal of creating a business that supports her family keeps her going when those fear monsters pop up.
I am always interested in finding out of small business owners have a family history of business ownership or not. Tanya has some family history of business ownership with her father being a panel beater before becoming a teacher to gain a more stable income stream for his family. Tanya’s sister and husband own a successful business and Tanya has been able to tap into their business knowledge to set up her business.
While her family history isn’t steeped in small business, there is an element of it and Tanya further built her skills whilst working as a dental technician, managing dental surgeries. Business skills can come from all sorts of experiences.
Sugarcane Juice Love
As I mentioned above, one thing that stands out about Tanya is her love of sugarcane juice and its health benefits. It is a cold press juice that is bottled and immediately frozen to maintain the enzymes that contain the goodness in the juice.
While sugarcane juice is a popular product in places like India and Brazil, it is a relatively unknown product in Australia. Tanya has taken on an educational role with her product to introduce it to potential customers. She shares recipes on her website, researches and promotes the health benefits and is showing people how to use the sugarcane juice just not as a drink or in smoothies but as an ingredient in cakes, pasta sauces and banana bread. A great example for anyone looking to introduce something new to potential customers.
Why a food product?
One question that popped up in our conversation about the health benefits of sugarcane juice was why Tanya had created a product rather than becoming say a nutritionist. Tanya clearly has an interest in nutrition but it is very much a personal interest. From a business perspective, Tanya wanted to create something tangible that she could deliver to someone. Tanya loves doing her deliveries and seeing the reactions of people.
That is not to say there is anything wrong with service businesses but I do think it shows a level of self awareness about what aspects of business Tanya loves. A lesson everyone can take to heart. When I interviewed Jo from the Dandelion Bakery, her business model was in part based on the lifestyle she wanted to create for herself. Understanding what you want to achieve from your business and what you enjoy will just make it so much easier for you to maintain your love for your business, especially when it isn’t always sunshine and roses.
Goals for her business
When I asked Tanya what her big goal was for her business, Tanya initially said she didn’t have one. But like most business owners I chat to there were certainly ideas bubbling away. Her short term focus is to get more people to know the Raw Cane exists. In the longer term she is thinking about take-home or frozen meals using sugarcane juice; expanding her business lines while still focusing on her core product.
Big supermarkets are not part of her plans (at least for now) small supermarkets and cafes are definitely on the radar, with her first deliveries to some small supermarkets in development once she sorts out her labelling.
Outsourcing things like labels is also part of Tanya’s business plans and she is keen to support local businesses where possible. Plus as part of her desire to give back to others Tanya would love to be part of something to support other women starting businesses.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing and for Tanya the biggest challenge has been delivery. It has been hard to find reliable services, critical for a product that is frozen. Deliveries have gone missing or not been delivered in time and Tanya has had to refund customers without getting full compensation from the delivery company.
Not only did Tanya feel she had let her customer down but being a non confrontational person also found it hard to confront the delivery company about their mistake. Tanya has learnt from the delivery problems though and knows not to send things just before the weekend. And she is working on her assertiveness!
The other more lighthearted problem was when sending her husband to pick up her first sugarcane delivery, he misjudged the size of the order and only picked up half the order. Luckily the second half of the order was retrieved, but when first starting out these sorts of mistakes are perhaps not surprisingly quite common. I like to think that learning quickly when losses are smaller is a great way to view these hiccups.
Like many small businesses, money is what has keeps Tanya awake and sacrifices have been made to set up the business not the least the push pull relationship between being a Mum and making money. Tanya has used these tensions to motivate her to be smart with her business and to be smart about how she spends money on her business.
One piece of advice
I always like to finish interviews by asking what one piece of advice would Tanya give to someone looking to start a food business. Tanya’s advice is to find someone to bounce questions off. It doesn’t have to be someone who knows everything about the business but someone to share with.
Plus as everyone else I have interviewed has said, Tanya said to go for it!
A big thank you to Tanya for chatting to me and sharing her experiences. If you would like to order some of her fabulous sugarcane juice, you can order on her website.
To check out my other interviews with food businesses, click here.