When Shelley Grainger was forced to step back and diversify her business, not only did it herald the start of a significant growth period, but put her in a much better position to trade throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since starting with a small market stall in 2013, Nourishing Bites has established a loyal following of foodies thanks to their wholefoods treats and signature Heavenly Hazel spread.
Prior to the 2019 Townsville flood event, they were predominately focused on serving the North Queensland market with their products available at selected health food stores and cafes throughout Townsville, and at their café, The Nook, which adjoins their commercial kitchen on Ingham Road.
“Resilience and diversification are essential in business,” says Shelley.
“Sales on our Heavenly Hazel spread were steadily building up, but it was not enough to cover the shortfall of wholesale business post flooding.
“We were forced to step back and find other ways to sustain our business and diversify, so we spent a lot of time figuring out how to send our treats chilled anywhere in Australia, and ramped up our online presence.”
The online sales enabled Nourishing Bites to grow their customer base beyond Townsville, with 40% of their 2019 Christmas sales outside the region. Shelley says going online was a big breakthrough for their business and put them in a much better position to manage throughout COVID-19.
“Once COVID hit, our wholesale orders to cafes, which is the bones of our business, dropped off,” she says.
“We sent our treats all over as far as Western Australia and Tasmania for Easter and Mother’s Day this year.
“It was a huge logistical challenge, and a massive achievement that made a huge difference to our ability to survive COVID.”
Having recently created a range of make at home mixes that were available for sale online, Shelley quickly capitalised on the trend of isolation baking.
“We understood that there were so many people who were at home with the time and inclination to bake, but had a shortage of ingredients or were not sure what to bake,” says Shelley.
“We added another four pre-mixes to our range to offer a variety of treats such as brownies and gluten and dairy free bread.
“Our customers trust our brand, and it’s hard to find a good recipe online for gluten and dairy free bread that doesn’t crumble.”
Shelley and her husband, Daniel, embarked on their wholefoods journey after experiencing fertility issues. Shelley used to experiment with recipes and take her treats to the office to share with colleagues.
In late 2012, they left their corporate careers in Sydney and moved to Townsville in search of better lifestyle and to live in a more relaxed, connected community. With over 20 years of experience in business advisory and management, Shelley took the opportunity to turn her passion into a career.
“I always wanted to have my own business in something I felt connected to and passionate about,” she says.
“Baking wholefood treats ignited a real passion in me, so it made sense when I came here and there wasn’t anything like this in existence here, that this would be great area to start my business in.”
Not only did their business grow, but so too did their family with the welcome arrival of their son, Pacey-James, in 2016.
Nourishing Bites is a business that the whole family enjoy working in together. Although Daniel has a full time job as a lecturer and researcher at James Cook University, he has a hands-on role in the family business.
“Daniel is the company secretary and financier, and works with me to set the strategy for the business,” says Shelley.
“And, he was my first chief bliss ball roller!”
“Pacey-James is learning to serve customers at the Nook, and our regulars love seeing him. He tells everyone he’s the boss!”
Shelley is passionate about supporting other people as they transition to a wholefoods diet, which has been a driving force many of her products and services, including her newly launched online baking workshops.
“The reason we started our health journey was to conceive our son, so it’s very personal to us,” she explains.
“Our online baking workshops provide easy and convenient access to people all over the world who are health conscious, or just starting out in their health journey and may need to transition to a gluten and dairy free diet.
“We give them our five best tried and tested recipes to get started, ongoing support through a private Facebook group, and reference material and tools to help them substitute traditional ingredients for healthier options.”
As a proudly Indigenous owned business, Nourishing Bites will begin to incorporate native superfoods into their products within the next year.
“Introducing native superfoods not only gives a unique and delicious flavour that will help differentiate our food products, but their nutritional value rivals that of international superfoods,” Shelley says.
“It’s an opportunity for us to support Australian agriculture, especially Indigenous agriculture.”
The business now employs three part time staff, two of whom are undertaking their apprenticeships in hospitality, and they employ an additional three casuals for deliveries and shifts in The Nook café. Although much of her time is spent in the kitchen, Shelley relishes the chance to connect with her customers and has extended the opening hours at The Nook.
“Now that we have a team who can help run that part of business, we can start opening during the week,” says Shelley.
“We’re about to launch an app so customers can order when it’s convenient for them and collect from the Nook when it’s ready.”
Shelley says the process of developing the app was very straightforward and cost effective with a range of ready-made apps available to customise.
“We’re really fortunate to be in a time where developers have thought of everything and there are a number of apps available to choose from,” she says.
“We just had to work out which one best met our needs, and go through a simple process of setting up our menu and parameters so it is ready for use.
“It has a simple user interface so you select what you need and off you go, which is great for small businesses with limited budgets.”
The Graingers’ passion for wholefoods, combined with their business acumen and ongoing product development, has put them at the forefront of an industry that is set for continued growth.
“Global food and drink trends identified in 2019 predict there will be further growth in the next five years of consciousness in what people are eating, sustainability, quality, and supporting health and wellness needs,” Shelley says.
“That’s exactly the market we deal with.
“We couldn’t be happier that we took the chance to follow our passion, and we will keep looking for opportunities to grow our business so we can reach more people and show them how delicious and nourishing a wholefoods diet can be.”
By Julie Johnston for BDmag