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Food scientist, Skye Blackburn, is trying to expose Australians to a new delicacy – edible bugs. She established her small business, the Edible Bug Shop in 2007 after visiting Thailand. Her passion for everything bug-related has taken her on a journey to become one of the world leaders in edible insect production.
Q. Why you start Edible Bug Shop?
I’ve always had a passion for bugs. After a visit to Thailand i knew I had the perfect combination of skills to make eating insects popular in Australia. I am a food scientist and and an entomologist. Edible insects are the key to a sustainable food future for our children. I feel the need to start educating consumers.
Q. What do you love the most about working in small business?
I love the fact that I get to make my own hours so that I get to spend as much time as possible with my young children. I’m constantly amazed with the fact that I created a business doing something that I am truly passionate about and I’m so lucky that I get to wake up everyday and share that passion with other people.
Skye thinks edible insects are the key to a sustainable future
Q. What are your biggest challenges?
Convincing consumers that eating insects is a good idea! We are very set in our diets and introducing a completely new ingredient into people’s shopping cart was always going to be a challenge, but I’m a big believer in education and that is a huge part of our business. By educating people as to the health, sustainability benefits of eating insects, we have helped create an industry in Australia where there previously wasn’t one.
Q. Do you have any tips to deal with chasing late payments?
We actually take pro forma payments from all new customers. We only offer a 7 day account after we have been doing business with someone for 12 months or more. This really helps with cash flow. Most customers are more than happy to pre pay for their order. We also have an automatic email reminder set up for all overdue invoices. We find that this helps save us time in chasing up the invoices and acts as a gentle reminder to customers that they have an outstanding invoice. We are also just starting to offer after-pay for wholesale customers, this allows them to put in larger orders and pay by instalments.
Q. What do you wish you knew before you began?
I wish I knew how much hard work it is! There’s been a lot of moments when I’m awake at 2am counting bugs in my head. I’m thinking about what I need to do the next day when I’ve been wondering if it has all been worth it. Although I could have never been prepared for the amount of work that is required when running your own small business, to share my passion with others is not something I would give up. When you start something, you need to be an accountant, marketing manager, production manager, customer service operator and much more! Having skills in all areas and being adaptable is the key to being successful.
Q. Do you outsource anything?
I have started using a virtual assistant and a design specialist. The VA helps process online orders and organises emails. This has been amazing because I didn’t realise how much time I was wasting doing these tasks myself. I now have time to focus on acquiring new customers and making improvements to help the business grow. The design specialist has redesigned our packaging so it looks fantastic.
“Sometimes I would be awake at 2am counting bugs in my head”
Q. What are you looking forward to next?
I’m looking forward to taking over the world with bugs! We are currently expanding our breeding and production facility to be able to export our products. This means you’ll soon be seeing our Australian farmed edible insects in more locations.
Q. Do you go on regular holidays?
Not at the moment. Since our business is quite small, I don’t feel I can take more than a couple of days off at a time. Although, I do take time off to spend with my kids at home (so I’m not too far away). Hopefully as our business grows, this will change.
Q. What do you do to take care of yourself and your relationships?
My daughter just started kindergarten this year and my two younger boys go to daycare three days a week. This helps me have large blocks of time to spend working on the business without distractions and gives them the chance to interact with other children. On one of those days, my husband and I would have a quick lunch out together. That way we get to eat our food together, talk about whatever we like without interruption and bounce ideas off each other.
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