Q&A: Softly, softly approach leads to a tasty business

This week’s Q&A is with Justin Fischer, founder of Brullen, a manufacturer and distributor of soft serve ice cream and frozen yoghurt machines.

ISB: Why did you initially decide on creating a business in the field of soft serve ice cream?

JF: I started one of my first companies servicing and maintaining soft serve and frozen yoghurt machines. I built this business over 20 years and during this time I flew to every exhibition in every corner of the globe looking for a quality soft serve machine to import into Australia. Unable to find any brands I was satisfied with, I took what I had learnt about what goes wrong the machines and what makes them good, and founded my own brand with my brother.

ISB: Manufacturing invariably a costly undertaking – how did you fund the setting up of the business and its early phase of operations?

JF: I self-funded the entire set up and operations of Brullen by using the cash-at-hand and savings from one of my other companies. I didn’t borrow one cent from the banks.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge in getting the business off the ground, and how were you able to overcome it?

JF: The biggest challenge we had was getting the brand to market and proving to customers around the world that we really have engineered the best and most reliable soft serve and frozen yoghurt. We had to offer numerous free trials at a great cost and let the equipment do the talking. It didn’t take long for the market to start talking and for Brullen to really take off.

ISB: Innovation has been key to your success – could you tell us a little bit about Brullen’s point of difference and the reason you do things the way you do?

JF: Our main two competitors around the world have been in the industry for 100 years and I guess “old fashioned” could be a way of describing their businesses. Brullen is a young and very dynamic team with lots of fresh new ideas. We innovative by manufacturing the machines in any colour the client wants, and branding them. Traditionally all commercial hospitality equipment is stainless steel – we think this is boring and have customers ordering colours from pink, green, black, blue, white and hot pink! There’s no reason you can’t have some fun with it.

Many soft serve machines these days are over engineered and have high maintenance costs as a lot can go wrong. Customers want a simple reliable machine that works when they need it to. Our equipment is high quality using European components, but is still simple to use and produces an amazing product with any ingredient. Our machines are engineered to keep up with changing food trends and can be used with Coconut Whip Soft Serve, Acai Soft Serve, Custard, Yoghurt, Soft Serve and almost anything the customer wants to try.

ISB: Where do you see the soft serve industry in general, and Brullen specifically, developing in the next few years?

JF: Soft Serve is the next big boom for the hospitality and restaurant industry worldwide. It is something that can be added to any restaurant menu and increase sales. Many restaurants have a very poor dessert menu that represents as low as five per cent of their total sales; meaning only one in 20 customers are ordering dessert. Testament to this is the many businesses around the world who have dessert-only businesses – they feed off people who dine at a restaurant and then leave to go and get dessert elsewhere. The restaurants with poor dessert menus are losing sales to speciality dessert places. Our goal is for Brullen to be the number one Soft Serve and Frozen Yoghurt Equipment manufacturer on the planet – we are currently sitting in the top four.

ISB: And what lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur that you would share with those with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?

JF: Never ever give up, always believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to make decisions and don’t listen to the naysayers.

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