Q&A: A dip into the food industry the recipe for success for a family business

This week we chat to Max Schofield, owner, alongsidse his wife Fiona, of Fresh Fodder – a family-owned and operated dip manufacturer based in Orange, New South Wales.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind the Fresh Fodder?

MS: As a child, one of my fondest memories is working in my father’s deli serving customers on a Saturday morning. In fact, the deli was in between a brothel and a pawn shop! I would have been about nine or 10 at the time, and I loved the interaction. We would take home stories from the deli and sit around the table at home eating and discussing business, new ideas and family and friends. Being included in these conversations and decisions inspired me to build my own business later in life. And of course, it had to be in food! The recipes we use at Fresh Fodder are those that my father created, some of which he wrote whilst running the deli.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

MS: There were many challenges for the business in the early days. We were constantly underfunded and each time we strove for growth we were spending cash we did not have. It was also difficult to get out there and drive growth as I was caught in the day-to-day operations of the business. We slowly overcame these challenges by constantly talking to people in and around the industry. Through asking lots of questions, we found government funding, and we partnered with consultants who helped us understand facets of the business we did not have experience in so that we could make informed decisions.

ISB: How do you ensure Fresh Fodder benefits the wider business community in Orange?

MS: We currently employ approximately 25 people in the local community, and we are always challenging our staff to go beyond their comfort zone to find better ways of doing business. This results in staff building their skill sets for future challenges, whether that be with us or the next opportunity in life. We also look to collaborate with other business whereby we can leverage each-other’s strengths whilst creating a bigger “splash” in terms of PR and sales for the region. Working with local organisations like Orange 360 helps to drive more awareness of the Orange area and in turn helps build our brand. We also donate to the local Food Care when we have surplus stocks of finished product and ingredients. Having said all the above, we want to give back more to our community, and we are currently brainstorming different ways to do this.

ISB: How did you manage to keep the business going through the “double whammy” of last summer’s bushfires followed by the COVID-19 pandemic?

MS: We used this time to delve deeply into the business and irradicate waste. Firstly, we looked at staff and how we could better secure their positions. It was decided that staff who were across all departments were more valuable to the business moving forward. We therefore trained our people across multiple departments so that we could redeploy people depending on the need. We then looked at product rationalisation. Which products in our range were adding value to the business and which were not. We discovered we had a very long tail that needed trimming. Finally, we looked at our suppliers, especially in terms of was looking after us and who was not. It is important for us to do business with those who have similar values and commitment to a quality, Australian-made product.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

MS: We have invested heavily in plant and equipment in 2020 and this has given us three times the capacity moving forward. Our vision for the next three years has not changed from the beginning: to become a household name in premium, authentic, mediterranean dips and spreads. Over the next couple of years we are working towards having our products stocked more widely and building stronger brand awareness.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business?

MS: Build a team of people around you who know more than you do and empower them to innovate to become a little bit better every day. It is the people who are committed around you that will be instrumental in you realising your dream.