Melbourne-based food entrepreneur Kate Weiss has shared her key start-up secrets after winning the business category at the InStyle and Audi Women of Style Awards earlier this week.
Weiss, who runs creative foods business Table of Plenty, beat the respective founders of Lorna Jane and Fernwood to take out the business category at the awards.
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After her daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder in 2000, Weiss gave up her marketing career to spend more time at home.
Determined to give herself a creative outlet, and connect with other mums, Weiss launched Table of Plenty in 2006.
The company’s product range now features muesli, snacks and spice blends, with a focus on healthy eating, particularly among children, and women’s wellbeing.
Table of Plenty is stocked in more than 1,000 outlets, including Woolworths and Coles, and in six countries. It is aiming to turn over more than $10 million within the next 12 months.
“We’ve had phenomenal growth – over 50% a year. It really is that start-up phase where you grow very quickly,” Weiss says.
Weiss identifies her three key tips for start-up success:
1. Use emotion as a motivator
“I call myself an accidental entrepreneur. I come from a very creative background, and that’s really my passion for creative food and flavours,” Weiss says.
“That’s what made me get into this business – that passion for creating things.”
“You need to do something you’re interested in and passionate about because you need that energy to get you through what it takes to start up.”
According to Weiss, the other thing that will give you the strength to build something from nothing is having a motivation bigger than yourself. For Weiss, it’s her daughter Amy.
“I have forged partnerships with various disability organisations around Australia… For me, it’s very important to give something back to the community,” she says.
2. Be unreasonable
“When Table of Plenty started, my husband came on board as well, and we went straight to the supermarkets,” Weiss says.
“As a newcomer, I had never talked to Coles and Woolworths, but I picked up the phone and talked to them. You have to put yourself out there and be unreasonable. The worst thing that can happen is someone says no.”
She says a conversation with Woolworths led to an opportunity for its dukkah spice range – one of Table of Plenty’s signature products – to be stocked by the supermarket.
“You never know when the opportunity is going to be there. You never know if you’re talking to somebody who might know somebody, who might know somebody,” Weiss says.
3. Pick your partners well
Weiss admits the exporting market has been challenging as a result of the high Australian dollar, but says it shouldn’t be enough to deter export-ready businesses.
“As an Australian company, you need to look abroad as well, because 20 million people is not huge in terms of an economy,” she says.
Table of Plenty sells its products to countries including Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. According to Weiss, good partnerships are crucial.
“Pick your partners in the country well. Find a good importer or distributor and build a relationship with them,” she says.
“Getting your products on the shelf is one thing. Keeping them there is another. Work in partnership with your distributor or importer of choice [to ensure this happens].”
She says it’s important to choose a distributor or importer that will target the right market.
“I wouldn’t want to put a niche product in a company doing low-end cafeterias. Also, make sure they don’t have too many products in their portfolio competing with yours,” she says.