How I recovered from losing $1 million in merchandise in the Queensland floods
Dwayne Martens didn’t care about working in a particular industry, only focusing on how he could be the most successful at whatever he ended up doing. It’s no surprise then that Martens’ business Amazonia, which imports a particular berry from South America, has flourished, with revenue of $2.8 million in just a few years.
The company sells the nutritious Acai berry to food producers, supermarkets and other retailers. But it ran into a massive delay earlier this year when $1 million worth of merchandise was hit by the Queensland floods – and insurance wouldn’t cover it.
How did Amazonia begin?
I met a Brazilian guy in Western Australia, and I wanted to get into something business-related. He was selling a few different things, and one was Acai. He sold me the business for three grand, so I took the Acai, did a bit of research, and found that it was incredibly nutritious. So I decided to go straight to the source.
What exactly is the Acai berry?
It’s a very functional food and incredibly nutritious, and it’s really taken off in the health food sector as a supplement. We market it as more of a multivitamin.
It’s all certified fair trade, so not only have we had big success in the business but we’ve also been able to do it using sustainable practices. We think it’s a great business move.
In the Amazon, it’s one of the most abundant foods there. We’re linked to this local community in South America. We work with companies over there, and there is more money over there. It’s a great incentive to keep the forest standing than it is to log it. We provide an alternative financial incentive.
Where did you start selling?
For awhile I even sold the berries in nightclubs. They were my biggest earner.
I was making a few grand in different markets, and I found the demand was growing. So I looked at other opportunities like juice bars and supplements, and from there it’s just grown. We had over 400% growth in 2009, and 400% in the past 24 months as well.
So what happened in the floods?
We had a warehouse in the flood affected areas. All of our product was on the ground, and half the warehouse flooded.
What happened was that it turned the warehouse into an indoor sauna, and what that does is affect the rest of our product which was on the upper levels. All of our product went off very quickly, and not only did we have it go off, but it went off without us knowing so we had to recall it.
And your insurance didn’t cover anything?
With the floods, it has to come through the roof for it to be classified as a flood, whereas this came through the floor, therefore it doesn’t classify.
That must have been incredibly frustrating
I was a little devastated, yes. But it’s not the be all and end all for me. We love what we do, we know we were going to have setbacks, and we just work through it.
What was the first plan of action?
We obviously had to get the stock out very quickly to check what had gone off. And luckily, we had a great supply relationship with the contract manufacturer, and we were able to get them to make up a number of units for us very quickly. Our key products got out very quickly, because the last thing you want on top of all of this is a loss of sales.
So maintaining a good relationship with your suppliers was key here
That was key. We stuck with them and really worked with them, they’re a small business too, and so we were obviously one of their bigger clients. When they were starting up we looked after them, and obviously that favour was repaid very quickly.
We were all really young, have a tight knit business, and it’s all built on relationships. So we know what we’re good at, and we keep our friends close. And we think it shows.
How did your manage your money?
We had pretty tight cashflow. But the good thing was we didn’t really have any commitments with regard to advertising. We just controlled our costs really well, and we were able to survive. But it was tough, we had to make sure everything was being done right.
So after all that, what’s next for you?
We’re going mainstream at the moment, and it’s way easier said than done. We’ve got a number of large contracts pending with juice bar chains, with restaurants, and we’ve got some growth in our smoothie packs as well. We’ve gone through little growth in the past eight months, as we’ve been consolidating and getting everything ready. Now we’re creeping back in.