Q&A with Tahlia Mandie
Tahlia is the founder of Kakadu Plum Co., a social enterprise that celebrates Indigenous culture through food. After observing one too many matcha lattes being served, she found herself asking if Australia had its own native superfood. Knowing instinctively about bush tucker, she came across the Kakadu Plum, launched Kakadu Plum Co. and is making it her mission to put Kakadu Plum and Australian bush foods on the plates of everyday Australians and the world.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I am originally trained as a psychotherapist and family counselor. I live in Melbourne Australia and have a strong connection to our land and culture.
What inspired you to start your business?
It was just before summer of 2016 when I observed everyday Australian’s opting for international superfood varieties to meet their health needs. It was the time that Matcha and Acai was being overly popular. I asked myself if Australia had its own native bush superfood and soon discovered the Kakadu Plum, a native Australian bush fruit that is wild harvested by Indigenous Australians and known to have the highest source of vitamin C of any plant in the world. The questions I had were 1. Why had we not known about this? And 2. Why are we not celebrating this? After aligned myself with Indigenous communities in The Kimberley region of Western Australia, I began my mission of celebrating Indigenous culture through food and encouraging all Australians to buy local.
Where is your business based?
I am based out of Melbourne Australia, but our Kakadu Plums come from Western Australia, along with our Jilungin Bush Tea. We source other products from around the country.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I learnt the startup lean methods from my previous tech company. Start small, don’t over capitalise and test the market first. I started with one product, Kakadu Plum Powder and only brought out our second product 12 months later. I remember those days of packing the powder on my mums kitchen bench – which she hated! It was only after some initial traction that I began to outsource this to another local company. The early days were very lean on a tight budget with minimal spend.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Instagram has been incredibly beneficial for us. It gave me the initial platform to raise awareness, share my story and product on a zero dollar budget. Through Instagram I built, and still do today, incredible ambassadors, friends and supporters who have been behind my story and brand from the beginning. Instagram also gave me the platform to connect with other brands and cafes to collaborate with.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The space I am in can be quite challenging at times because I am not an Indigenous Australian. From day one I have stayed true to my mission, my passion and belief that I am making a difference to Indigenous communities and people on a larger scale. But it was the blessing, connection and guidance first hand from Traditional Owner, Bruno Dann, that inspired me to believe in myself and not worry about what other people think. His words gave me the permission to block out the ‘noise’ from others and focus on my goal, mission and impact.
How do you stay focused?
Knowing the impact I am making to Aboriginal people by supporting them, their culture and changing perceptions one product at a time. Seeing Kakadu Plum on the menu alongside wattleseed lattes. The change is happening and I am excited to see where it goes.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Out story and connection to Indigenous communities. Our customers know the impact they are making with their purchase. They are brought into our journey and movement. They become part of the story.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Still to this day I have had very little marketing budget. I still focus strongly on Instagram to build collaborations and brand awareness
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Stay true to yourself and what you believe in. When someone tells you that you can’t do something, use it as an invitation to keep on going. Be passionate with everything you do.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
I am using VSCO everyday so at the moment this is my favourite. I am loving Tim Ferirss Blog, and his podcasts. My all time favourite book is Tuesdays With Morrie. It is a book that is so incredibly grounding and inspirational. It simply is just a very powerful book.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Podcasts. There is such a wealth of inspiration and information through Podcasts. From learning different social media techniques, to business strategy to simple stories from CEO’s and founders. The latest podcast I have listened to is Tim Ferriss interviewing Joe Gebbia, Co Founder of Air BnB. It is 2 hours of stories, lessons, inspiration and wisdom.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I don’t want to pinpoint to one role model as I am inspired by so many different people in different ways. Different people bring different values and insights. The people that stand out to me however are Steve Jobs, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Flynn
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Keep going, keep hustling and continue to share my story and products. I have something that is currently under development that further relates to my social impact cause and mission… but can’t reveal this one just yet. J
How can our readers connect with you?