Melissa Edyvean (and her partner, Martin Buggy) discovered chai latte while visiting New York for the new millennium celebrations in Times Square, signalling the start of the entrepreneurial journey.
As a long-time PR and marketing consultant, Melissa recognised that the achieving their ideal lifestyle would require a stripped down business model that didn’t operate on ‘hours-for-dollars’ and they molded their new chai latte venture around those principles.
After an inauspicious start – selling just 17 kilograms of a two tonne production run in their first month – now someone somewhere in the world enjoys a Bondi Chai Latte every two seconds.
- Tell us about the journey that led you to start your own business.
Well, Bondi Chai wasn’t actually our first business. We were in a PR and Marketing consultancy before that which was great, we had great customers and we were making a good living, but it was really tied to the number of hours in a day that we could put in. So we were looking for something that gave us more of a lifestyle, gave us a bit more flexibility and so we started looking for a product based business and it was all about selling product while we were asleep. So it wasn’t just tied to us being involved hands on.
- What was your original mission for your business? And how has it changed?
Originally we wanted to build a business that was a saleable asset, so something we could retire on. So we knew that we wanted to do it in about five years so we had a timeline, so that really helped us set up a structure. So we knew we needed a really good quality product because we wanted to sell it once and make it stick. We wanted something that was probably niche, so a new idea where there wasn’t going to be a lot of competition, especially from the big players, the corporates that had lots of money because we didn’t have any and so it has worked. We actually put a lot of thought into the amount of time and the amount of effort that would be needed from us, the saleability and so it sort of went to plan because this is 10 years plus and we’re still here! But everything that we set out to do we have certainly achieved and you get a bit addicted I think, and we love what we’re doing and we have become aware of so many more opportunities and so we are chasing them down now.
- Did you always know you want to be an entrepreneur?
Not really, and I think you read about entrepreneurs and my mind goes straight away to people like Richard Branson who has done awesome stuff, and gone out on a limb and risked it all and so it is almost like it is scary to be an entrepreneur and you’ve got to be sort of special and have some special skills. So we just thought we had a good idea that might work and so we mortgaged the house and I guess that was a bit risky and then we just set small goals. We had no idea what we were doing, we knew where we were headed so we just went out and tried things. We were sort of lucky that we were a partnership so my partner and I, if one was up the other one was down, you could sort of balance it out but in the end we knew we had each other, we had our backs, and if it didn’t work we could have fun. So it was just day to day stuff. Probably stepped outside our comfort zone but we didn’t see it as a real entrepreneurial adventure because it was just a bit of fun trying something new.
- What do you attribute your success to?
I think that we started with the end in mind so we actually spent days on our couch, weeks probably, trying to think about the sort of lifestyle we wanted and the sort of business we wanted. So we knew we wanted to travel, we knew we wanted to spend time together, we knew we didn’t want to be stuck in the one spot, so we didn’t want a factory, we didn’t want staff. So for us outsourcing, well ten years ago no one was outsourcing, it was a new idea so we managed to do that which gave us amazing flexibility and so when it was busy we could ramp up and when it wasn’t we didn’t have overheads. So the structure and the way we managed to do that really made it really easy to grow the business and we didn’t need a lot of cash flow.
- What local entrepreneur do you find inspiring?
It is a great question because as you know I’m not a local, I’ve only been in the Hunter area eight years so I don’t think I qualify quite yet as a local but coming from Tasmania I had a lot of experience with people down there. But last year we were at the Telstra awards and Layne Beachley was actually the keynote speaker and obviously I had heard of Laine and I had seen her successes in the surfing world, but I had no idea that she was such a talented speaker. She had the audience in her hands, she just had such a skill to connect and I think when you’re at that level in sport it really is reflected to what you need to know and understand in business and they are very similar traits. I found her amazing and I think she is a great example for women either in sport or in business.