John Akkary turned a culinary mishap into a thriving small business. Here’s how he did it…
Family gatherings and celebrations around food played a large role in John Akkary’s life. With his mother a chef and his grandmother a fabulous cook, he tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB) he always had a desire to be in the kitchen.
“I learnt the art of bread making from an early age watching Mum and my grandmother baking at home with their own recipes.”
In fact, one of his earliest memories is learning to bake traditional Lebanese flatbread with his grandmother.
Still, a career in the food business wasn’t always on the cards, but Akkary explains he naturally fell into it.
“I wanted to follow my passion and my family tradition and ties to heritage,” he says.
His signature food product Finz Crisps actually eventuated as a part of a happy accident.
While experimenting with some home-made dough, Akkary baked some flatbread that broke into pieces after it was cooked. Instead of discarding them he decided to season them and serve them to his family as a snack.
The wafer thins crispbreads were a success and the first inkling of an idea for Finz Crisps was born.
Over time, John perfected the recipe, experimenting with different seasonings which led to him commercialising the product.
“I wanted to develop a name for myself in the food industry. I also wanted to innovate and develop the ideas I had learnt in my mother’s kitchen. That’s where Finz Crisps came from. They are a healthier alternative to crisps and chips, therefore, offering other snack options to consumers,” he explains.
Of course, starting up any new business can be both an exhilarating and daunting journey and Akkary says he really struggled initially.
He advises anyone hoping to start their own small business to do their homework and approach it as a side hustle, to begin with.
“Work part time till you get it right and have a positive cash flow in the business. Once it’s right, hustle ‘til the product is out and make it grow. Never give up,” he adds.
“Having a plan and a good financial snapshot of what you want to do and where you want to be in twelve months can also be immensely helpful,” he says.
“Forecasting what your expected running costs will be is important. How much will you need to succeed to take your passion project full time? And don’t forget to measure your passion too. Do you have the motivation and enough passion to keep going even when things get hard?”
Whilst Finz Crisps are now stocked at fine food emporiums and retailers across Victoria and South Australia, Akkary says it hasn’t been without a struggle.
“Building the brand has been a challenge” he admits.
“The snack industry is a crowded market. So it can be difficult to find cut through.”
Akkary suggests finding a mentor to help you on your small business journey can be immensely helpful to “bounce problems and ideas”.
He tells KBB also never underestimate the power of your network.
“Word of mouth is some of the best advertising you will ever get so it’s important to start building your network. Start with Linkedin and use your social media account to build your profile. Go to networking events. Explore all the government options for assistance and funding. Get the help of your family and friends if you can. Above all, stay positive and strong.”
While Akkary is still in the process of building a name for his brand, there is no doubt everyone who tries Finz Crisps enjoys the super thin, tasty baked crisps.
He hopes anyone sampling his product comes away having tasted “a great flavoursome product and with an insight into innovation in the snack industry in Australia”.
Whilst Akkary confesses that like any small business he still struggles with cash flow he hopes to expand his product line in the future.
“We will be introducing new flavours and products as the business grow.”
Innovation is important for Akkary. He tells KBB he hopes to launch more products that innovate on traditional ideas. Having patented his snack food, exporting Finz Crips could be the next step for this entrepreneur. We wish him luck in the future.
To find out more about how you can grow your business, visit nab.com.au/backingbusiness