Josh’s Rainbow Eggs
It all began in 2009, when I was nine. I had been looking after our small flock of hens and Mom said to me, “Why don’t you do all the work and then you can have all the money from the eggs.” Forty hens didn’t seem much work, so I gladly agreed. Little did I know what was to come!
When I was 11, a small shop in Yarraville, Plump, became our first shop. We started off selling 30 dozen a week there and now sell over 100 dozen a week. When I got to 800 hens, Dad suggested the local Foodworks. The manager already knew us from the market and was very keen to have my eggs in her store. As I added hens, we added more independent supermarkets. In 2012, we began to employ people to help with the chores as now we had over 1200 hens. I no longer received all the money, I filled out a timesheet and was paid based on the work I did on the farm and at the markets. The big break came when I met with the National Category Manager at Coles. He was very supportive and didn’t hesitate when we asked about Coles selling our eggs. Now, we are at eight Coles stores and three Woolworths stores.
In 2013, we were faced with planning issues for the business. We realised we were unable to grow the business on our farm and so were faced with a very difficult decision. Do we give up or do we find a way to continue growing? We knew we would persevere, so we approached some friends who were farmers and asked if they wanted to have a flock of our hens. This fundamentally changed our business model as we had partners and we could add more hens. It allowed us to scale up.
What’s been your proudest moment in business?
I felt very proud when I received the Platinum Junior Achiever Award from the International Customer Service Professionals. I am also very proud of being a finalist in the Coles Supplier Rising Star award.
What mistake have you learned most from?
One of the mistakes we made was to scale up before we where efficient in our production and processing systems. As we grew, our labour costs grew even more and this made it impossible to make any money.
What would you say is the recipe for success in your sector?
I think customers want to be able to trust egg farmers. At the moment there is so much confusion about what free range means and who really is free range. We are proud to say our hens get to express their true chickeness. Also I believe customers want to know the story behind their food. They want to know where their food comes from, who grew it and how the animals were treated.
What have you learned about yourself?
I like talking to people about what I am passionate about, like how hens should be treated and what makes hens happy. I really enjoy salesmanship.
What has been your biggest sacrifice for the business?
I think getting up really early every Saturday to go to farmers markets. I like it when I am there, but all my friends don’t work Saturdays so sometimes I miss out on things.
Given what you know now, what would you do differently?
I would go to supermarkets sooner, and only start growing the business once we had strong systems in place.
Who would you most like to employ in your business – famous or otherwise?
Richard Branson, I think he would innovate and help my business grow.
Best piece of advice to other business owners?
Spend time with your customers, one of the good things about having a business is having customers and getting feedback.