Founders: Jacqueline Arias, 40
Head Office: New South Wales
Industry: Wholesale trade
On a trip back to her home country, Columbia, Jacqueline Arias could not find a single good cup of coffee.
“It was then that I realised just how little coffee farmers are paid if anything at all,” she says.
“When I returned to Australia I resigned from my career and started researching what I could do that was different in coffee in Australia: Fairtrade and Republica were the answer.”
Republica is a premium coffee brand sold through Australia's largest retailers, Coles and Woolworths.
“We are served on airlines, Virgin and Jetstar domestically and internationally,” says Arias.
“We have a strong and unique point of difference; Republica is the most ethical coffee brand on shelves: Every product is certified 100% Fairtrade, 100% organic and 100% carbon neutral.”
“We are pioneers in the category, and hold our leadership position through continuous innovation,” she says.
Over the next six months Republica will be launching products into new categories.
She says the most challenging aspect of starting the business was a lack of business nous, connections, and poor understanding of the challenges ahead.
However, she says not knowing what the limitations are served her well, as it gave her a ‘blue sky’ to do things that had never been done before.
“I've learned that there's an enormous amount of generosity amongst business leaders who are willing to share their knowledge or put you in contact with the right people,” she says.
“People often say to me that I'm lucky that I don't have a boss, my response is always, 'my business is the toughest boss I've ever had,” says Arias.
Arias says a business is always demanding more and more and never switches off.
“But I wouldn't want to be doing anything else, building Republica has been extremely rewarding, building Australia's most ethical business is a dream that inspires me every single day,” she says.
Arias says the company faced challenges in 2009, when Coles reduced the product range from five lines to one, wiping away 50% in turnover.
“There was no warning or communication, the orders for those product lines simply stopped coming through. This left us with a large amount of stock and materials that we could not sell in big volumes to anybody else,” she says.
Arias says the lesson from that was to ensure that their performance at Woolworths was rock solid to ensure the next year they would be back on Coles’ shelves.
“I also developed a range of new product lines including ethically sourced instant coffee and drinking chocolate which at the time no supermarket had on shelves,” she says.
Arias tells entrepreneurs to start only if they back their vision with 100% passion.
“Connect yourself with smart people who have done what you are trying to do. And don't be afraid to hire people smarter than you; you want to be challenged, not be surrounded by people who don't bring anything to the table,” she says.