Right from the beginning, Tess had the fun challenge of transitioning quite quickly from making treats in her own kitchen to supplying cafes all around town. “I remember making my first big wholesale order of produce and having it in our garage where I was living at the time. A good friend said to me, ‘You’re going to have to ramp up production. Otherwise this is all just going to sit here.’ For some reason when you placed your first order with this particular wholesaler you had to spend two thousand dollars. I was like ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do with all these nuts?!’”
Early on, as a new business owner, Tess was doing most things herself. Everything from marketing to production, sales, and deliveries. “I remember I didn't even have a delivery schedule back then. It was mad. I’d go to the city one day then race home and cook, then I'd sometimes have to go to the city the following day again. I quickly learned to manage this a bit better. I would cook and then drive and cook then drive.”
Deliveries were a big learning curve, but Tess winged it like any savvy small business owner. “I had quite a few customers in the city. As most Sydney-siders would know. You can’t part anywhere in the city if you’re not in a proper delivery van, it’s so hard. After driving several loops around Elizabeth Street in my tiny little car I just parked right on Martin Place and put my hazard lights on, then I would run to the café! I never got caught thankfully.”
The business quickly developed to the stage where she needed a commercial kitchen. Luckily one of her earliest customers was a chain of cafés which gave her the certainty of orders she needed to expand. Expanding comes with its own challenges, and one of the biggest ones has been sticking with her values and ethos. “A lot of the time you get asked to do products that you aren’t necessarily that happy to sell. I have always stuck to my guns about only producing products which I would be happy to consume myself”.
The market for healthy treats has grown a lot in the last few years. “When I first started out, Paleo had just started popping up as the new “in” diet, and my products just so happened to also fall into that category. At the moment we’ve seen a huge increase in the demand for vegan products, which we also tailor to, since all of our products are vegan”.
Whilst the market has grown, so has competition which doesn’t seem to worry Tess too much. “Look, I think competition is healthy. It keeps us on our toes and makes me want to continuously better our products. I also think you together help educate the market, which is a good thing!”.
Tess’ products are incredibly popular (we tried the Salt Water Tessy, a clean version of a traditional caramel slice, and the Tessero Rocher – a Nutella-esque hazelnut slice - we can definitely vouch for her products being delicious). Tess believes it’s customer service that really maintains her long term customer relationships. “We’re really nice to deal with. I wholeheartedly try to put customers first and be very good with customer service. I want my customers to remember me for that”. Tess has also tried to manage this while the business has grown. "As you grow, there's a limit to how many places you can be in at the one time, but we're very responsive and try to be very quick with turnaround and delivery times and all that sort of thing. But I also think that the products need to speak for themselves". Which they do.
The growth of Wellness by Tess meant she turned to Ordermentum to support operations. “We needed software that does exactly what Ordermentum does, which would help us with all the logistics and admin. Orders were coming in left right and centre in so many modes of communication, I just couldn’t keep up. Sometimes I would have in the back of my head ‘Oh that cafe has ordered but I don't know where the order is.’ It also makes it a lot easier not having to follow up with people and chase invoices. I too sometimes I forget to pay my bills. It’s the same with our customers and its one less hard conversation to have. Ordermentum simpli
Despite these days automating many orders, Tess and her team know the importance of maintaining contact with customers, and instead can focus on what they really want to talk about, rather than chasing invoices or going into details about Nutritional information panels.
As the business has grown, Tess has been able to keep doing all the parts of the business she loves. “The best part is that I've been able to do what I love which is being in front of people. I really enjoy getting out and talking to cafes, showing off my products that I'm really proud of. It definitely isn't a job where I feel like I'm selling insurance or something where people don’t want to give you the time. They're quite happy to sit down and chat with you and you form a lot of close relationships whether it be with staff or with customers. I just love what I do. It doesn't feel like work which I think is a really good thing.”
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