Every now and then we meet some one who is devoting their life to making a Huge Difference to the future of our planet
Leandra Coffey is just this person. Leandra has a product that has the potential to make a major difference to how we use single use plastic bags.
Every day hundreds of thousands of single use plastic bags go into landfill and many find themselves in the waterways and into our oceans.
Leandra has created Fruity Sacks as a solution. Leandra shares her inspiring Business StartUp story.
If you want to buy some Fruity Sacks right now, head over to www.fruitysacks.com.au
To listen right here on the Healthy Numbers website click here
To listen to my interview with Leandra on:
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Are you thinking about starting a business? Want to find out more about what it takes to get started? Then head over to www.healthynumbers.com.au/bsrq/ and take the Business StartUp Readiness Quiz
You can read the entire transcript of Leandra’s interview here.
My guess is that you are here because you are curious about what it might be like to start a business?
Perhaps you’ve been wondering if you have what it takes? If your idea will work or even how much it actually costs to build a successful business?
I’ve written a book that can answer pretty much all your questions “So You Want to Start a Business” and you can download the first 20 pages at www.thestartupsteps.com
15 years of experience working with start up businesses are condensed into this book.
It’s your step by step guide to launch your business smarter and faster and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you and can’t wait to hear about your progress.
Are you ready to grab your excerpt? Click here www.thestartupsteps.com
Happy reading! Now here is the full transcript of the podcast.
INGRID: Good morning Leandra and welcome.
LEANDRA: Good morning Ingrid.
INGRID: Let’s just start with what is your business? What is the business that you are in?
LEANDRA: My business is Fruity Sacks. And Fruity Sacks are reusable shopping bags for fruit and vegetable shopping.
INGRID: When did you start your business?
LEANDRA: I started the business about 4 years ago, but I got the idea many years before that.
INGRID: Where did the idea come from?
LEANDRA: We were living on the north coast and I felt like we were going slightly green, and yet, when I did my shopping, I’d end up with a handful of plastic bags. So I was using reusable shopping bags for the groceries, but at the fruit and vegetable section it was still a case of putting things into plastic, or have them roll around loose in the trolley and get bruised etc. I wanted something environmentally sound and there seemed to be this great big gap and nothing to fill it.
INGRID: That’s fantastic. So apart from you wanting the bags yourself, why did you then start that as a business?
LEANDRA: Well, one, I thought if I see it as a glaring need and it fills or resolves a problem for me, then its likely to do the same for many other people. So many people are shoppers and there are a lot of people who absolutely care about the environment and there are many people doing more then I managed to do for the environment, so I knew they’d need something like this.
INGRID: You already mentioned that if you were looking for an alterative to plastic, there probably would be other people. How did you know that, did you do market research? How did you test your hypothesis?
LEANDRA: Well the truth is that when I got the idea for the Fruity Sacks I did think I was the only person in the world that had that idea, so I was quite secretive about it, so it was quite tricky to work out if other people needed them, except that it seemed like a no brainer to me. We couldn’t possibly be heading down the path of being more environmentally responsible, yet continuing to use 1000s and 1000s of single use plastic bags. I knew from that angle once I got the product and started doing some markets, that was a great way to do some market research and get feedback.
INGRID: What sort of market did you go to?
LEANDRA: I did key farmer’s markets. Which didn’t work out financially, but the best thing that came out of that was talking to people and getting feedback.
INGRID: What sort of things did people say and what did you learn from that?
LEANDRA: A lot of people thought they were fantastic, and I learnt that women would buy them and not men, which was very interesting. A few men, older women particularly, and people who had some income or money or cash to spare were buying them. Because at the moment even tho 10,000 seemed like a huge quantity, until I get the numbers up, I can’t get the price down. But I did learn about price and what people felt comfortable with. I learned a lot of things. The biggest piece of feedback I got was that quite a large number of people wanted a drawstring. I didn’t originally make them with a drawstring, I got the idea in a little bubble and I designed them based on plastic bags. In some ways plastic bags are great, a good size, its got a gusset on the bottom to catch FV so they don’t roll out. The main thing – the only thing really – that I didn’t like was the fact we throw it away and then it becomes a problem for the environment, for animals and for landfill etc.
INGRID: The markets are a fantastic one-on-one customer.
LEANDRA: They are.
INGRID: And the farmer’s market was the ideal customer.
INGRID: So it helped give you a real sense of who the ideal customer was?
INGRID: Fantastic. 10,000 sounds like a lot but how did you fund your business? Without being too personal, where does the money come from?
LEANDRA: I funded it from what would have been a deposit on a house. So gradually over time I’ve just used savings and money from doing other work. And that’s still the case for the moment even though the business has been going for quite a while.
INGRID: That’s very brave Leandra, and you would have elicited quite a bit of support from your family to do that.
LEANDRA: Yes yes. I am really lucky that my partner Brendan just….I think he believes in me knowing what I’m doing, and he also thinks they are a great product and a great idea. And he is the kind of person who would never, it wouldn’t cross his radar to say to me, to stop doing something that I am really passionate about.
INGRID: That’s fabulous. That’s so important when you are starting your own business.
LEANDRA: I must say I love the fact that my daughters are so supportive and they are the next generation of people that will be using these sorts of products. And they are so committed to the environment and have an understanding of how to make a difference.
INGRID: So there’s a sense of intergenerational education going on?
INGRID: Fantastic. So how do you find customers now, you said you went to the markets and you don’t go to them anymore?
LEANDRA: At the same time I was also going to stores, and I am still doing that. I do have a distributor and need more, but I think a lot of it will be going to stores and showing the product and using social media. I’m doing social media. They are the main things. Yeah.
INGRID: Do you know who they are? That idea of an ideal customer. Is it very clear to you?
LEANDRA: It’s perhaps not as clear as I would like it to be, but the ideal customer does certainly seem to be women in their 40s and 50s and beyond at the moment, who have some disposable income to make these sorts of purchases. Even though it’s not expensive in the long run, and essentially it saves money, but also there’s a younger cohort of men and women in their 20s I would say, who also think it’s a fantastic product and who want it.
INGRID: Fantastic – you just need to get some role models from that age group perhaps?
LEANDRA: Yes, that would be a good idea.
INGRID: So pricing. How did you work out how much to charge for them? You got some feedback from the markets on that price?
LEANDRA: Id already done quite a lot of research. The way in which I’d work out price was to go online and do some research and find out how it’s recommended that you price a product. And in the back of my mind, I always thought they should be under $10. When I originally came up with the idea, and was looking at the reusable bags you can buy at the checkout, they were around about a dollar. So I assumed I’d sell mine around the same price, like $4 or $5 dollars. At the moment, they are much more expensive, but again, those bags were double the price when they first came out too. So I need to get the volume up to get the price down, but I didn’t really want to go over $10 retail.
INGRID: So that was your threshold?
LEANDRA: Yes, it just felt wrong. Mmmm.
INGRID: You were talking about early days and the fact that you are still on the journey, do you have an exit strategy?
LEANDRA: I thought about that, and it’s an interesting question. And…I guess far down the track, if it becomes too much to do this, it just makes sense to sell the business. But I haven’t thought too much about it because I love the product. The business is a bit like a child now, and I wouldn’t give away any of my children, so….and I can’t contemplate it till I’ve really seen this through. I really feel that it’s at the beginning stage and it has so much potential. And I want to see what I can do with it.
INGRID: So Fruity Sacks for all.
LEANDRA: Absolutely, I’d like to see them in every house.
INGRID: In every handbag and every pocket.
LEANDRA: And I’ve tried to make it absolutely the best product I can. They are lightweight, they are see-through, they go on the scales, they last for years, so…if they are the best and I market them appropriately, potentially they can be everywhere.
INGRID: You mentioned the draw string earlier, is that something you have taken on board?
LEANDRA: Yes, I have some good advisors and they said ’you must listen to your customers’ so I quite like the bags without the drawstring, you can tie them easily etc, but feedback is important. So I did a little survey and about 70% of people said they wanted a drawstring. It does make them more versatile and these days when we buy a bag we usually have a handle or a drawstring or something. They won’t be strong enough with a handle, so the next shipment I get will have a drawstring. I am really happy about that. I think the new design of the bag has definitely taken it to the next level.
INGRID: Fantastic. We look forward to seeing those. If you think back to the early days, what is one thing you really wish you had done differently from the beginning?
LEANDRA: Hmmm, I think I probably could have purchased a number of things much later then what I did. So I registered the business very early on and I formed a company very early on, well before I had any stock in the country, because I just didn’t realise just how long things take. So I could have saved myself quite a lot of money if I’d slowed up and waited to do certain things.
INGRID: Did you think about being a sole trader and then move to a company, or were you keen to start as a company right from the beginning.
LEANDRA: I was pretty keen, it did make sense to start it as a company, but I could have done more legwork on the design and got it finalised before I did those things.
INGRID: Just out of interest, when did you register domains and Facebook and Instagram because that is one of the critical things, to get that name Fruity Sacks.
LEANDRA: That’s true, and reminds me another large expense. I trademarked the product here, which was wise to do very early. Not the product so much, but the name, and the logo. But I did that for New Zealand too very early on. I just needed to be careful. But the domain name came in 2012 and Instagram and Facebook etc, I’ve only had those names for a year or so.
INGRID: But you’d been able to get them?
INGRID: Fantastic because a lot of people come up with a name and everything’s not available. That would have been very disappointing, especially if it had been in existence for a while. So this is a slightly different question, but what do you wish you’d known from the start? It’s a bit different from what you could have done differently. If someone had given you a really good piece of advice 5 or 6 years ago, what do you wish that was?
LEANDRA: Hmmm. I wish someone had told me how long certain things take. And that includes what a slow burner the Fruity Sacks are – and I wish I had known because it’s such a new product, but essentially it needs to come with an education campaign. And the way I packaged them, which was beautiful, they looked a little bit like a snack rather then Fruity Sacks and people couldn’t feel them. And people need to be able to feel them. I was worried about stock damage in stores, but in hindsight its much better they are hanging and loose so people can get a true sense of what they are.
INGRID: So that is something – a length of time thing, that you’d take away.
LEANDRA: Yes that’s right.
INGRID: Apart from yourself, who has been of the greatest assistance to you and your business, either in general terms about people or you can mention specific people?
LEANDRA: Specifically, the first person was a woman named Natasha Newman and she is my designer but she’s been much much more than that for me. She designed the bags and the packaging and does all the artwork for the manufacturers. But she loves the product so she’s incredibly supportive, she has a really god understanding of the industry and because I don’t come from a business background, although growing up I did, she’s been able to fill in a lot of gaps right down to how to word things in terms of working with people in China, and understanding culture etc. She’s been fantastic.
INGRID: That’s lovely.
LEANDRA: Yes, amazing. And another person, Denise Christie is a friend, but she’s also a business coach, and she helped me though a really difficult change the business had to make, and just showed me how to do it and walked me through it. I had to do it but she’s been amazing. And I also work with Sophie Robertson, and she does my social media. She’s amazing and also does so much more than that for me too. She comes up with ideas such as customising the bags and possible stores that might be interested and she’s suggested a number of things. And I think Sophie is great for me emotionally because business comes with its ups and downs and she’s very positive and understanding because she also has a small business. And hers is a product as well, which is great for me, and she has connections with a lot of people, and from a networking point of view, Sophie has been great.
INGRID: interesting you said earlier that a lot of people who start business are often service businesses – and there aren’t a lot of people starting product businesses.
LEANDRA: They do in a sense, there are so many restaurants and food product out there.
INGRID: And clothing I guess.
LEANDRA: Yes and clothing. Yes I think for me from a start-up point of view, one of the things I loved about my business, aside from the fact that it’s doing something positive for the environment, it was the kind of business you could start on a small amount of income. So many products need so much capital behind you.
INGRID: Especially restaurants, you need so much capital.
INGRID: Leandra, so who can give you good feedback?
LEANDRA: I was also going to mention in the people who have been very supporting and helpful, your group Ingrid, the Accountability Club, that has also made a massive difference. I’ve seen with other clubs with start-ups, sometimes we do get down, we do get knocks, maybe especially if it’s something you really believe in, it’s hard to not take it personally. I’ve always found every time I go to that group, if I walked in feeling like that, I never walk away still feeling that way. Because there is always discussion about the next step forward. You have to get yourself up and walk forward. It doesn’t have to be a formal group like that, but I think something along those lines, surrounding oneself with some positive people who have some sort of understanding of what you are doing.
INGRID: And what you are trying to achieve.
LEANDRA: Yes, for me certainly that’s been important.
INGRID: Yes you’ve got that right. Yes. So if someone came along to you and said, I’m thinking of starting a business, you’ve already mentioned a few things earlier, but what would you say to someone who is wanting to start a business? How would you counsel them, and what would you say?
LEANDRA: I think the first thing is to say that they can do it. You can do it. And you can do it on your own, with lots of people around to support you. Again, sometimes I think of it a bit like a child. Yes you are a parent, but it does take a village to raise a child, and it does take a village to get a business up and running. Having a product that you really believe in has made a huge difference to me. And being persistent. I remember, and I’ve read it a few times, and I’ve heard people say it, being prepared to get knocked down and get back up. Just get back up again. It may take you a little while, but just accept that it’s taken a while and do it again.
INGRID: Thanks Leandra. What 3 characteristics do you think you have that makes you successful in your business? You just mentioned resilience. Is that one of them, or do you think you have 3 others?
LEANDRA: Absolutely resilience. I think it might be resilience, passion, resilience, and sometimes again using your metaphors or assimile, I’m a little bit like a terrier with a bone in this case. I’m not going to let it go. And I think that’s probably a great attribute to have. Possibly being personable too. I guess if you are a person who thought that socially you’d find it incredibly difficult to push your own product, then you need to be someone willing to get the skills so you don’t have to fill that gap.
INGRID: Yes. It’s interesting your comment about being passionate and believing in the product, because as you mentioned earlier, that’s what makes you take it so personally when somebody else can’t see what you can see. How do you deal with that? Is that where your resilience comes in – and you have to be even more resilient.
LEANDRA: Sometimes when people can’t see what I can see, I simply feel a little bit shocked. Sometimes (laughs). But other times….. what was your question again?
INGRID: Just that double edge thing when you are in a business where you feel enormously passionate about it, but you mentioned earlier, about taking it personally when people don’t see what you do. Or when you take those knocks and you sometimes take that personally.
LEANDRA: Its probably also about a balance and sometimes its just where I’m at in a day, and sometimes if there’ve been a few knocks previously, that can make it more difficult. Whereas if you are coming off the back of really positive feedback, it’s obviously much easier to take a knock back.
INGRID: And having that passion for it means you just keep going anyway.
LEANDRA: That’s right. Again I guess a little bit of research, and being surrounded by people who’ve been through these things before and understanding. I think you might have said Ingrid, that overnight success is often 10 years in the making.
INGRID: And sometimes longer.
LEANDRA: And it’s great to know that and keep it in the back of my mind.
INGRID: So you are half way there. (laughs)
LEANDRA: That’s right. (laughs).
INGRID: So if resilience, passion, and resilience are the characteristics you have, what would you say a potential start-up needs? Would it be those characteristics, or would it be something else a start-up might need?
LEANDRA: I guess I would say they would be the main things that you would need but you probably do need to see a gap in the market. There has to be a need for your product. If not a need, an urgent desire.
INGRID: Thank you. Just as we finish Leandra is there anything else you’ve observed or learned in your business? Because the audience in this pod cast are people who are thinking about starting a business or people who are fairly new to business, is there any question I haven’t asked or anything else you’d like to add?
LEANDRA: Well Tash has always said to me, you do need to listen to your customers, and be aware that you get a lot of feedback so you have to crucially analyse that feedback too. If you take everything on, you’ll be changing your product left, right, and centre and you will be changing it back again. The drawstring is a good case in point. I know that 70% of people want a drawstring but I also know that about 20% love not having a drawstring and love the simplicity of it, and that has set my product apart from some of the others out there. But again I need to weigh that up and 70% versus 20%, I know who I need to listen to.
INGRID: That’s the fine line to listen to the customers but not go too much to every whim they have.
LEANDRA: Not every whim, but certainly working out what I’m hearing consistently and what am I not hearing. Unless prompted people don’t usually talk about a lack of a drawstring, but unprompted they talk about wanting a draw string.
INGRID: Your impact on the world is going to be astounding Leandra.
LEANDRA: Thanks Ingrid, I’d love to think it would be.
INGRID: But that single use plastic bag is something we are not going to live with forever.
LEANDRA: No, and that biodegradable plastic bag, again that doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of putting a lot of resources into something that disintegrates on the way home from the supermarkets, they are often not very strong. It doesn’t make sense to me either but having something we use again and again hundreds of times, makes perfect sense.
INGRID: And they can be used for things other then fruit and vegies.
LEANDRA: That’s the other thing. And especially with the drawstring, people use them to cover their fruit and vegies and protect them from fruit fly. My sister uses them as an organiser and puts her children’s socks in them, and a lot of people said that’s the kind of thing they would use for travelling.
INGRID: You can see them for travelling.
LEANDRA: And other people use them as a laundry bag, or a lingerie bag.
INGRID: Thanks very much Leandra for your time this morning. And all the very best.
LEANDRA: Thank you Ingrid, thank you.
Every now and then we meet some one who is devoting their life to making a Huge Difference to the future of our planet