Just Between Us

HOW A CHANGE IN DIET FOR THIS COUPLE INSPIRED A PALEO BUSINESS

Blake Poole and Jen Thompson were a couple looking for a healthy diet for their growing family. Six years ago, they decided to trial a paleo diet – one which is free from gluten, grains, dairy, preservatives and added sugar. They admit that the first two weeks were tough, but after persevering for another two weeks they felt amazing. 

Inspired by their new diet they decided to go ‘back to basics’ with their snacking and create simple, real-food recipes that tasted great as well as skipping the unnecessary refined sugar, additives and preservatives. After witnessing their enthusiasm for the paleo diet, it wasn’t long before the couple had friends and family asking for batches of their snack bars for their families to enjoy. From there, the business Naked Paleo was launched.

With rapid growth in the last six years, Blake and Jen have moved from producing small batches of their bars in their own home, to stocking some of the largest health food and fitness stores across the country, including Fitness Playground and IGA. For this couple, it is clear their desire to create healthy recipes all comes back to their family. Running an independent family business has given them time to share with their two boys – Bear and Stone – and they have fun working together through the highs and lows. Creating a product with the whole family in mind, the aim is to “fill that gap so you can get on with picking up the kids, finishing your assignment or even just sitting down and enjoying a cuppa with something tasty to go with it.”

BLAKE

The best thing about being a family business is being light on our feet and ready to adapt and make changes without any hesitation, because the business environment is ever changing around us. It’s just the two us, so it makes moving with trends and making structural changes much easier and faster. If things are not working how we envisioned, we just move onto the next thing.

Upscaling from making our bars by hand in our kitchen, to outsourcing the production to a third party was a big challenge. We went from being really time poor, spending all our time in the kitchen, to being cash poor as we gave up margin as we grew. Having the volume to match the reduction in margin has always been the biggest challenge and an ongoing process to get the formula right.

The most rewarding part has to be the freedom. Making our own schedules as well as both being full time parents. Knowing that we have created this from scratch in our small apartment, while simultaneously growing a family. We as a family all play a role in its success, even Stone, who is one and a half.

We need to bring back and push for small family businesses to survive and thrive. That it can be done and be extremely rewarding. The monopolisation that is common practice nowadays is not a recipe for long term success of our species.

Don’t rush the creation of the brand, be clear on what you stand for and make sure it shines through. Don’t rush the growth, make sure you are ready and have a strong foundation before taking the big steps. Margin is precious so know your numbers, make sure they work before any major upscaling. Most of all, which may seem to contradict the above, don’t be afraid to fail. Take risks and back yourself.

JEN

The family business advantage is that decisions get made fast. We don’t have a board of members that new products have to be approved by. We could decide to change our entire business today and have things in motion by tomorrow and that’s pretty cool. Once you realise you can do whatever you want with your business it starts to feel really fun.

Financial stress is a challenge. Business and finances are like an extreme sport. It can be so exhilarating when everything is flowing and you feel unstoppable but then one little thing can throw you off course and all of a sudden you’re freefalling without a chute.

That kind of stress definitely trickles into our personal lives. Your brain doesn’t just stop thinking about it at 5pm. And because both of us are full time in our business, there is no backup, consistent income to cover the bills. That can be tough at times but we have become better at dealing with it over the years and usually when one of us is down the other is up so we can support each other mentally.

Having both of us at home with our boys is the biggest reward. When I had our first son, Bear, I was bitter because maternity leave didn’t exist for me and while my friends were having playdates and coffee I would have to head home and tackle emails. But then I watched them all go back to work and I realised I never had to do that. I’m incredibly grateful I don’t have to solo-parent during the day while my partner goes to work which is the case for most mums. Both of us get to be 100% present in the boys lives every day. We share all the tasks of parenthood and I wish this for more families.

You don’t need buckets of cash to build a successful business. You just need patience and a little bit of crazy. There are so many times I have wanted to quit because it’s been tough, or I have felt incredibly drained, but we always get through it and that’s what we tell each other when we’re in the thick of it. It will all pay off. We know it.

You can’t create a brand by copying trends and looking at what is pretty right now on social media. Your brand has to truly resonate with YOU. Authenticity is the key to a good brand and is what makes the decisions easy. We recently went through a period of defining our brand again because I was feeling a little off track. We looked at everything from our look, feel, copy and ideal customer. Define these things to the most minute detail and everything else becomes so easy. When you feel like the decisions are difficult, you don’t know what your new packaging should look like or what to write in a post then it’s time to look back at the bones of your brand and define it all. Then the answers should flow. 

Words: Sophie Coldham
Photography: Supplied by @naked_paleo

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