Running a family business requires great dedication and vision to endure the length of time. Innovation and passion are essential and no one knows that better than Jasmin Robertson who took over her mother’s sauce business Roza’s Gourmet.
Her mother Roza Robertson began selling jars of homemade sauce by setting up a table at the end of her driveway in Brisbane. That table was the first of many and 25 years later the table has grown to include retail outlets around the country and customers have become dedicated fans.
Now celebrating 25 years as a business, Roza’s Gourmet has expanded from a hobby to a range of 40 unique products from pestos to chutneys and even vegan mayo. With an annual turnover upward of $4 million the company has secured a deal with meal delivery service giant HelloFresh, supplying the sauces for their millions of meals a month.
Carrying on a family tradition
Roza always said “the right sauce can turn any meal into a feast”, and it seems the right sauce began with Roza’s philosophy to make wholesome, home cooked, gluten free sauces. For a family business it’s doing incredibly well – Roza unfortunately passed away unexpectedly in 2001 but Jasmin choose to continue on with the family business.
“The business was founded by my mum, the late Roza Roberston, so I always had a hand in it, whether it was selling the sauces with her at the end of the driveway, working at markets on the weekends, or labelling the jars,” said Jasmin.
“I did a business degree at university and had a brief stint working in the corporate world after graduating. Quickly dissatisfied with this path, I chose to pursue my passion in acting and so returned to studying. It was not until my father, who had been running Roza’s, wanted to retire that I chose to take on the business. Six years ago I officially took the reins as owner and director.”
It’s hard to keep a business going, let alone in such a competitive market ruled by supermarket giants and behemoth brands like Leggos, Dolmio and Barilla. But Jasmin says that their success comes down to sticking to her mother’s recipes and using the freshest natural ingredients.
“The flavours are simple but exquisite. In addition to the product quality, I’d credit our success to the unique passion and story behind the Roza’s Gourmet brand. I have spent so much time travelling around the country personally meeting stockists and customers, sharing our story and products because I truly believe in what we create.”
“Roza’s used to be a culinary secret in Brisbane that grew nationally, so I believe that our success is largely attributed to word of mouth and the loyal customers that have been supporting us for years.”
The speed of the business’ growth is inspiring. The business has grown 600 percent since 2011, achieved 50 percent growth year-on-year, has 20 staff and is beginning to be stocked internationally.
“I didn’t expect such tremendous growth but it was, and still is, very exciting,” said Jasmin.
Despite this the brand has stayed true to it’s origins and maintains its core values, which Jasmin is very proud of.
“Since mum first made and sold the sauces, we’ve taken a personal approach to everything we do, from stockists to sourcing suppliers and most importantly, making everything with love! Our values are inherently about staying true to mum’s recipes and ethos, which encompasses making fabulous products with all natural ingredients, supporting small businesses, and operating with integrity.”
The business has had it’s fair share of challenges and Jasmin has learnt a lot along the way.
“The toughest challenge was when I first started – we only had two staff and had been outsourcing our production. I decided to take a 20K overdraft, bring production in-house (literally, to our kitchen!) and reshape the company. It was incredibly tough, especially because I often felt alone and didn’t have any peers to talk with.”
Through it all though, Jasmin says that it is important to remain optimistic and focussed – even when things don’t go your way.
“I have never looked at mistakes in a negative light, I always believed that they were opportunities to learn. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot!”
Future proofing your business
The longevity of a business comes down to anticipating and planning for change. It’s crucial to have a plan in place and be looking ahead for opportunities.
For Roza’s Gourmet, Jasmin explained, “Trying to be something we’re not, or moving into completely unknown territory too quickly leaves a company vulnerable, so I make sure we’re conscious of what each activity, association or step means for the company. I also try not to plan too far in advance, or with a fixed mindset of the future. It has been exceptionally important to stay agile as a small business and adjust to industry, competitive, or social changes and adapt the business plan or strategy accordingly.”
“We haven’t spent time worrying about competitors or ‘competing’. We’re a company that’s deliberate in making our products with love, the best ingredients and local suppliers. The moment we choose to compete with bigger brands is when we start to lose our values.”
“Consistency is key. Know what your brand strengths are, and don’t compromise!”
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