In our latest ‘What’s Cooking’, we hear from Helen Tricarico, founder H.O.T.I. Kombucha. Helen is a real small business success story. She quit her day job and is now working full time in her handcrafted Kombucha business. Within the past 12 months, Helen’s business has grown from home delivery to a regular at markets to a co-manufacturing space, to being an integral part of her region’s biggest food festival, exposing her brand to over 10,000 people per day, to being included in local food tour stops and being stocked by the local wholefood outlet.
Your business name: H.O.T.I. Healthy On The Inside
How would you describe the business you are in?
I am a small handcrafted beverage manufacturer producing ancient Kombucha with a modern twist using a range of beautiful teas and botanical herbs.
What do you love about your work?
I’ve always loved cooking and being in the kitchen. Creating a product that enables me to share with others and seeing customers come back week after week for my Kombucha brings me so much joy and love for what I do. I relish in the knowledge that I can bring this boutique brand to my community.
I also love hearing stories of health and healing that customers have found since they started including Kombucha into their daily life.
What part of your job would you gladly give away?
That’s easy. The Accounting and Book Keeping tasks. I recognised early on that spending my time trying to tackle a task that is not one of my strengths was just madness, so I outsourced that particular area of business. I do make sure I can manage the basics and am across numbers each week. I’d like to think I’m getting better at this task.
If you were starting out in business again today, what piece of advice would you give your younger you?
The scariest thing when you first decide that you want your own food and drinks business is getting started. Timing is critical and ensuring that your product is exactly what the market is looking for and is new and unique is extremely important. I think I was lucky enough to get it right as Gut Health had only just started to gain more attention and importance and Kombucha is still relatively new in Australia, I also identified a gap in the local market.
Women start businesses 41% of the time to solve a problem. Sometimes this means we have a great vision but don’t have enough resources to sustain our business for the long term. Tell us what resources you started your business with eg. money saved, business premises, business partner, and how long before you started paying yourself?
I started out in my own kitchen and my full time wage which is not an ideal way to start a business, but I knew that I had to solve a problem and that I had customers waiting for me to launch. I also knew that if I didn’t I might be too late (there’s that timing thing again) so decided to at least start with what I had. My start-up costs were pretty minimal so I was able to keep re-investing back into the business to grow slowly and authentically.
I’m now working on finding a commercial space and have outsourced some tasks, all the while slowly scaling up the business to meet market demands. I’m also now working full time in the business, which was always a goal of mine.
As you know we are passionate about women #backingthemselves. So tell us about a time in the last twelve months that you’re really proud of.
In the past 12 months I’ve really grown so much. The development of my new labelling, moving from a home delivery business to regular markets and now to a shared space with another business, being part of our region’s biggest food festival and exposed to over 10,000 people in one day, to now being included in a local food tours stop and also having my product in a local whole foods retail outlet. I’m just amazed at how quickly I’ve grown and really proud of the hard work I have put in.
As we are always growing and learning, what is the one thing you would like to take time to learn more about?
Definitely how to grow and upscale a food and drinks based business. Something I did not fully understand is how to price my product for up scaling and for retail or distribution and taking into account these costs. I’d also like to learn more about future growth and how to find financial partners or investors.
The world is changing so fast and technology enables us to do so much more. We’re interested in which app you could not live without and why?
I love my mobile banking apps, and my Quick Book app. They allow me to quickly see what’s going on with my numbers. From a marketing perspective I love Snapseed to edit my photos, Canva for creating my templates and posts and of course Facebook and Instagram. It’s so important to take the time to ensure you develop your skills in these areas.
Why did you decide to become a member of Females in Food®
That’s easy, being part of Females in Food has been a game changer for me. In the beginning I had been subscribed to a different business portal which was terrific but Females In Food was so much more relevant for my business. Supportive, Empowering, Enabling and Confidence Building are how I would describe being part of this group. From the support I have received from other members to the valuable business information provided by Chelsea, being a part of this group ensures I’m giving my business the best opportunity to grow and succeed.
We love to celebrate the successes. Can you give us an example of how joining the Foodpreneurs Formula™ has positively impacted your business?
I was able to find a wonderful food technologist who assisted with my labelling and ingredients list, I also have connected with other Kombucha Brewers and beverage artisans which has been empowering for us all as the more we can work together to bring more knowledge about our product the more we can sell. I’ve also loved being able to ask questions regarding packaging and ingredient sourcing. Often these can take hours and days to do, so having a group that understands and is willing to share has been invaluable. My membership has been one of the best business decisions I have made.
Thank you Helen.
Want to read more about another successful member? Check out our ‘What’s Cooking’ interview with pastry marketer and business woman, Christine Apostoles.