By Rachel G
There’s a well-known saying that when you give birth to a baby, you give birth to guilt. My first experience of mummy guilt came with the immense difficulty I encountered in breastfeeding. Next, followed the worry and guilt of whether my daughter, Ava was getting enough sleep. Was she eating enough? Was she getting the right nutrients? Was her poop normal?! Was she happy?
The mummy guilt kicked into overdrive when Ava turned one and I returned to my corporate job full time… do I spend enough quality time with her? The answer I knew was no.
Returning to my banking career I’d worked so hard to build. I’d convinced myself that it would be possible to manage the demands of both, to be a “super-mum”. I felt guilty about being away from Ava during the day and would look forward to the precious time I would have with her in the evenings. I was bitterly disappointed with the reality of collecting a tired and hungry child from daycare; there was nothing precious about the 30 minute scream-fest as we commuted home, followed by 20-minutes of leg clinging and pining for attention as I tried to cook her dinner.
This all left me feeling rather cheated. I realised I wasn’t alone. Chatting to my friends from mothers group, we were all going through the same dinner-dash challenge. We all wanted more time to play. Their advice was batch cooking on weekends, stockpiling meals in the freezer to speed up the process during the weekdays. I tried this tactic for a while, but got frustrated that I was now spending my precious weekends cooking rather than playing with Ava.
Surely, there had to be a better way? I searched the supermarket fridges and shelves, looking for things that may be suitable as a quick dinner option and found nothing. I was astounded by the vast array of ready-meals for adults and pouches of baby food, but nothing in-between. Where were the kids’ meals? And it was from that moment it struck me; there was a gaping hole in the market. And so the idea for Little Bud was born.
I’d always wanted to start my own business but had never settled on an idea that I truly believed in until then. The philosophy was simple but valuable – let us do the cooking for you, so you have more time for the fun stuff. With the help of a friend who was a nutritionist and chef, I set about developing a range of kids ready-meals that mums would feel good about giving their kids; meals that were just like home-made.
To be true to this, it was important that our meals be fresh and only contain natural ingredients – the type you find in your own kitchen. Free from preservatives, our meals are nutritionally–balanced, low in salt and contain no added sugar. We also sneak hidden veggies into each dish to make sure fussy eaters are getting their daily quota.
We started off small, developing recipes and trying them out on my friend’s toddlers at mothers group. With some great feedback and the recipes perfected, I quit my job, rented a local restaurant kitchen one day a week and began selling our meals at the Bondi Beach Farmers Markets. Within a few weeks, we’d developed a good following of repeat customers and began approaching local grocery stores to stock our meals.
The stores took some convincing. Toddler meals were a new product category and given the short shelf life of just four days, they were skeptical. A few stores gave us a go and we held in-store tastings to quickly build awareness with shoppers. We also stopped trading at the markets to encourage our existing customers to go to their local store to buy our meals instead. It worked. Our business began growing organically through word-of-mouth and we were able to convince more and more stores to take us on.
I fell pregnant with Jack just two months after launching Little Bud and I knew I needed to build a strong team to grow the business to its full potential. To be successful in business requires hard work, tenacity and a little luck. My luck came in the form of two amazing women – Jess Killigrew and Katrina Hollis.
I met Jess, a Food Technologist, when she and her two children approached me in a local Bondi grocer to sample our meals. Her kids loved it and we got chatting and had a lot in common. We stayed in touch and three months later Jess joined Little Bud to manage Operations and Product Development. Jess very cleverly developed our meals and our packaging so they would stay fresher for longer without the need for preservatives. This was a huge step forward for us.
We placed a job ad on Seek for a chef to set up and manage our own kitchen, and couldn’t believe our luck when chef Katrina Hollis (ex-Icebergs and Rockpool!) applied. Katrina, who had two young kids, was looking for a role that wouldn’t involve unsociable restaurant hours so she could spend more time with her family. We were all on the same page!
We reached out for kitchen assistants on the Little Bud Facebook page and were overwhelmed by the number of local mums who applied. These mums were already fans of our products and shared a common passion of feeding our kids healthy and nutritious food. Soon, we had a team of mums lovingly preparing hundreds of Little Bud meals a day under the expert leadership of a top chef.
Fast-forward another three years and we’d grown our business across the independents to recently being ranged in 250+ Woolworths and Coles stores across Australia. There have been many challenges and setbacks along the way, so it was a very proud moment when I walked into my local Woolies and saw Little Bud meals on the shelf.
I could talk at length about the mistakes I’ve made along the way. Trying new things, testing and learning were an important part of the Little Bud DNA, preventing us from making mistakes on a mass scale. But as I reflect on the journey so far, it’s a beautiful sunny day outside and there are two gorgeous children beckoning me to come and play with them in the garden, so I really must go. I’m pretty happy that I’m not doing the cooking tonight. And I’m perfectly at ease knowing my kids are healthy, happy and loved – that’s what matters most to me.