A passion for quality bircher muesli – and a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit – inspired Mia McCarthy to launch Yummia in 2011. The then 21-year-old’s healthy breakfast snacks proved to be instant success and were recently picked up by supermarket giant Woolworths.
What makes the budding entrepreneur’s story even more remarkable is that she started the business in her own kitchen while completing the final year of a BA (Dip Ed) at university.
“I was inspired to start[the business because I was constantly making bircher muesli for my family and friends and got a bit sick of the whole process. I wondered why nobody had thought to sell a quality bircher muesli ready made,” she explains.
“I started to test the product on family and friends. It was never really a dream of mine to go into business but once I saw the product working in the market place, I decided to give it a go.”
Then came the task of launching a business while completing her education.
“The last 6 months of uni were a big juggling act between starting a company and finishing off a degree in two completely different spheres. I started making the product from home and then moved onto a share kitchen. We now operate out of our own production facility in Sydney.”
From those humble beginnings Yummia soon gathered momentum.
“A Woolworths buyer saw me at a trade show in late 2012 and approached me after. It was a big shock to have such a key market player approach me so early on in the process. We only had three bircher flavours at the time and I was still putting stickers on all of the containers!” McCarthy confides.
“Working with such a large organisation can be a bit daunting but I think I work best under a bit of pressure, so having this deal looming really got me into gear to take the products and branding to the next level. Woolworths have also been really great in helping me out as a small supplier.”
The Woolworths distribution deal was an early milestone for the business but there’s still a long road ahead for Yummia.
“Getting the deal was a bit of a fist pump moment but now the real work will begins. Trying to successfully launch my products to such a large marketplace, whilst still keeping our branding and products close to our core values is daunting,” she says.
It’s not the only hurdle McCarthy has had to overcome.
“Shelf life is definitely a bit of a challenge. Being a fresh product we have to have a seamless supply chain from production to shop shelves and it has to be refrigerated the whole way.”
“We are looking into more advanced packaging technologies that will work to preserve freshness for longer,” she continues.
“Logistics and delivery is always a bit of a headache. We outsource all of this, because I do not have the funds or expertise to set up a delivery company as well. It is a matter of finding the right partner who can work with Yummia to create a smooth transition to supermarket shelves.”
Relying on other parties is a leap of faith many new businesses face.
“Being a start-up I am dependent on the expertise and skill set of lots of other industry professionals through outsourcing, so in essence they become a part of the brand as well. It’s hard when others don’t deliver on what is expected of them and it affects your business,” McCarthy says.
“I’m lucky that I’ve had positive business relationships with people so far, although it’s a bit scary how much a contractor can affect your business if they don’t do their job correctly.”
Not that the breakfast connoisseur will let that stop her. She has big plans for 2013 and beyond.
“2013 will hopefully see Yummia available at a national level across Australia. I would also like to expand the product range by introducing more products under the Yummia brand.”
“As far as expansion goes, I’m a bit of a big thinker so I would also be looking to launch the products in overseas market places, where there is already an established ready meal presence. This may involve exporting, which I have looked into, or setting up relationships with contract manufacturers overseas to produce the product locally,” McCarthy continues.
“I would also love an airline contract. Although while this is all possible, it still needs to be based on a solid business that is able to support the sustained growth.”
“You have to crawl before you can walk,” she adds.
What advice would she give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Just have a go. Not everything goes according to plan and it is much harder than I first thought but as long as you enjoy what you do it can be a crazy ride.”
“I would also say make your business what you do, not who you are. I try really hard to maintain a distinction between my business and personal life, because at the end of the day it is the personal support network that will always be there,” McCarthy advises.
“I see a lot of people get very caught up in the running of a business and it takes over their life. It’s easy to do.”