This week’s Ambassador Feature is with Kylie Martin, GF Oats Australia
2019 AusMumpreneur Food & Beverage Business Excellence Award – Gold winner
After 10 years, she thinks she’s an Overnight Success.
Ten years ago, Kylie saw a unique opportunity to start something new in Australia, to be the first to import and produce Gluten Free Oats. As her ‘Why’ is leaving a legacy in the world, this fitted into her overall plan beautifully. What she did not realise however, was that the journey would in fact, take every bit of resilience, courage, tenacity, creativeness and guts she could muster to make her dream a reality.
Who knew, 12 years of boarding school would instill many of these traits she could now draw on, 30 years down the track.
Tell us the story behind why you love what you do and why you’re so passionate about sharing your message.
My name is Kylie Martin and 10 years ago I thought I’d take Australia by storm and be the first to import and distribute Gluten Free Oats. I bought in 1 pallet or 750kg pre-printed small 500g bags to present to the Australian Gluten Free Community at a trade show in Brisbane. The load had barely hit the port when the gluten free heavy hitters started calling me advising me about a small sub-clause in the Food Labelling standards that disallowed any product containing oats to be labelled gluten free, even if it was certified in other countries. It took me 12 months to sell this pallet. During this time, I dusted myself off, recommitted and devised a strategy to continue and think outside the square to communicate to our customers hungry for a nutritious alternative to the GMO corn, soy and sugar laden products available.
Today, we are on track to import over 100 tonnes in this financial year and in 2020 we are on track to fulfill my dream and have the first Aussie Gluten Free Oats hit the shelves.
Tell us a story about a challenging time you faced, how you overcame it and what lesson/lessons/wisdom this experience has taught you about life and business.
Over the last 10 years, like many businesses GF Oats have faced many challenges. The main one that comes to mind Kylie said, “was communicating a brand to a gluten free customer base when you could not make a ‘gluten free’ claim”. This led us to trialling a number of branding and labelling designs until around 2015, Kylie had what she calls her ‘shower download’. She came up with the concept of branding the product “Gloriously Free Oats”. A new logo incorporating this name into a logo using the term GF Oats, enabled her to trademark the name and give her the opportunity to start marketing and communicating to her customers, the benefits of this product.
Another major challenge was developing a product or range that would be popular enough to bridge the summer months, when sales dipped for the core product, oats. They had tried a couple of products which never quite took off, but in 2018 Kylie again came up with the idea of developing the first Gluten Free, Vegan, Organic ANZAC biscuit using the hero ‘GF Oats’. They worked with a food manufacturer, created a recipe, took samples to market and received an overwhelming response. They then developed packaging and a launch plan for ANZAC day 2019. Unfortunately, the manufacturer failed to be able to maintain a consistent quality to the biscuits once they went to commercial quantities to meet the demand. GF Oats had to walk away from the project, deciding it was better if it was going to fail, to fail fast. Opportunity however arose to work with a local manufacturer, Kylie redeveloped the recipe and production began again 2 months later. They pride themselves with only working with people who are honest, loyal and of good standing, this manufacturer was none of these. It is important to identify this early in the relationship with suppliers, if they don’t meet your morals and ethics. This was such a difficult situation; however, the new manufacturer has gone over and beyond to assist them with their project and we have now gone on to launch a new 2 pack chocolate chip biscuit into the convenience market.
Image credit: Alexandra Anderson, Jam on Your Collar
What are 3 pieces of advice you would give someone starting out in business?
If Kylie could give people 3 pieces of advice they would be:
1. Please take the time to put together a business plan that outlines your mission statement, goals, split it up into years and quarters, update this regularly as if it is a living document. It is extremely valuable, and when times are tough and you aren’t sure what you’re doing, go back and revisit this document to help you get focused.
2. Know your numbers and where your income is coming from. Focus on the 20% that will give you the most amount of income for the smaller amount of effort, this will assist with survival. Cost out everything, know your numbers.
3. Put a plan in place to work on yourself and your personal development ensuring that you continue to develop your strengths and work on your weaknesses, eg. Mindset. When I started to work on me, my whole world and outcomes changed forever.
What is your proudest business achievement? Why does this mean so much to you?
Kylie’s proudest achievement is actually yet to come, however is closer than she thought. For many years now Kylie has had on her goal card, that she reads daily, that she is the first and largest Gluten Free Oats supplier in Australia by 2020. She has continued to take action towards this, but frankly she admits that this was a big scary goal and she didn’t have any idea how it was really going to happen, she just kept focusing on it, believing in it and then in 2016 a group reached out to GF Oats sharing that they had gluten free oats and wanted to supply into her brand. At this stage they still needed to access or build a dedicated processing facility. This was going to cost approximately 1 million dollars. Over the next 3 years, the group setup a co-op group of investors and this mill is almost finished. So, Kylie have only just confirmed that they will have stock for her to take to the Australian marketplace for Winter 2020. Amazing!
What’s next for your business?
GF Oats are finishing the year strong for a solid start in 2020, they are about to pursue upgrading their Quality Assurance systems and processes to prepare s to work with the major supermarkets, export markets and Qantas. They have also just won the digital grant, so a new website and E-commerce platform is being built as we speak. Their new Gluten Friendly, Vegan, Organic , 2 pack Chocolate Chip biscuits are being presented to the food service and convenience market to be in a store near you.
If you could change the world, and money was no object, what would you do?
Kylie believes if she could change the world and money was not an object, she would put more resources into education.. Education empowers people, no matter what gender, nationality and age. I would actually start at home; I believe as a society we need to tailor school to support different styles of learning instead of the cookie cutter system that we currently have that enables so many children to fall through the system. For those that have fallen through the system, a program needs to be implemented to provide compulsory education upgrades to these individuals until they find employment that suits their skill sets.
Finally, what do you believe is the secret to success?
Kylie doesn’t think there is a secret to success as such. The journey in business is so personal for each and every participant and success is measured and different for each person, so therefore it is hard to develop a blueprint or formula. She does however agree you need to do some fundamental work on creating a plan for success, know where your income is coming from, learn your numbers or seek the support you need so you can focus on what you are great at.
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