Spotlight: Raw Out Loud
A surprisingly short 15 minutes into our interview with Bec Thompson (23), I had noted two things:
Firstly, my fellow grasshopper Jack had been mowing through a box of goodies Bec had brought along. The only thing that interrupted his continuous munching were murmurs of ‘WOW’ or ‘OMG’.
Secondly, our interviewee was part Energizer bunny, part health food enthusiast, and part business savant. Bec oozes passion and enthusiasm, not just for her venture Raw Out Loud, but for everything she gets involved in. She’s ridiculously down to earth, easy to talk to (our discussion went on many, many tangents) and at the end of the day, just plain likable.
By the second half of our chat, I had succumbed to temptation. Wielding my coffee spoon, I set my eyes a delightful looking lemon slice. Admittedly, I have a bit of a preconception of raw foods being a bit… well, bland. That notion was playing on me as I sceptically raised the spoon to my lips…
I couldn’t see the reaction my face, but Bec obviously could. She was beaming with pride as I looked up, ready to bombard me with more little factoids about her other balls and slices she’d brought.
What made you want to create Raw Out Loud?
I’ve been lactose intolerant since I was 8, so its always been a big thing for me not to be have chocolate, cake, ice-cream and things like that. So instead, I would make raw balls at home. I really had no idea how, I just threw things together at first. Even now I don’t really follow recipes. My partner sometimes asks me how much of an ingredient, and I’ll say ‘About 20 seconds of pouring.’ *Laughs*
A few years ago I was working at a cafe, and I used to make my balls at home and bring them to work. People I’d work with would end up buying them from me, which was pretty exciting. Everyone kept saying how much they loved them and it eventually got me thinking.
So how’d it start taking off?
I was a week out of leaving my old job and starting ROL (which was exactly the same age), and I was just at my local health food shop checking out potential ingredients. The owner, who was a regular from a previous job at a nearby Jamaica Blue, recognized me and we just ended up chatting and catching up.
When I mentioned ROL she mentioned how she was actually was looking for a new supplier and asked if I had any testers. Mind you at this stage I didn’t have any price or ingredients lists, no boxes, bags or any sort of marketing. I ended up driving home straight away, and putting a bunch of balls into a spare Chinese box I had lying around. After heading back, the owner and her husband ended up trying them. A minute later they were saying how much they loved them and that they wanted 70 for the following week!
As if that wasn’t enough, another friend got me in with her boss to supply the café she worked at. Within the first week, I’d gone from starting ROL and having to supply two cafes! And since then, that was the end of November, we’re now at 16 cafes.
Sounds intense. Hang on… end of November? How old is ROL now?
It’s just over 4 months old now.
*cue exclamations of WHAT from me and Jack*
Yeah I know! I’ve actually had three more cafes contact me recently, but I’m actually going away to Europe in July for three months. I actually booked it before Raw Out Loud started. I’d definitely not be going otherwise. Fortunately for me, all my stockists know now, its nothing I’m hiding. They’re all a little upset, but I’ll have as much as I can for them before I go.
A few friends have offered to look after ROL for me while I’m gone, but I can’t seem to let it go. I thought about it but even then… no. There’s a lot of little things that go into running into ROL that I wouldn’t want to put on someone else. The quality of my products is something I’m very protective of too. It comes down to a piece-of-mind thing for me I suppose.
Someone will still be around to deliver them while I’m gone. I’m making huge batches so she can do delivery runs while I’m away, but it still means I won’t be able to supply my stockists for two months. I hope to pick up where I left off with them when I get home from my holiday.
Seems like you stockists really love you!
Well I hope they do. I mean I haven’t really done much marketing at all for ROL, its mostly been word of mouth. Sometimes I’ll do pop-up stores at the cafes I supply and give out free testers for everyone. The owners love it because its something nice for the customers, and it lets people try my products for free. If they think ‘that’s nice’ they’ll buy it next time they come in. Plus for people that are a bit iffy about raw foods, it’s a chance for me to change their minds. So it’s win-win.
I did a pop-up store in Southlands shopping center few weeks back too. I’d give people a little spiel about ROL when they came for the freebies. More than a few times people would stop me at the start and say ‘We know who you are, we love your stuff and we’re here for freebies.’ I was amazed! I’ve had reviews on Facebook and Instagram and everyone is complementing my products. It makes me so happy!
So have you really not done much marketing at all?
Not really at all. I mean, I’ve got a Facebook and Instagram account. I actually bought a nice camera (for work, not Europe obviously *wink*) and I sometimes setup nice shots of my products, but other than that not much. So I’d post up my shots and a few cafes started noticing and liking/following my stuff. So it started a bit of a dialogue and eventually they a few cafes got in contact. And then a few more. And it just seemed to be snowballing.
I’ve even had a café contact me after a customer went to another shop just to buy one of my balls, come back and tell the owner ‘You have to start stocking these.’ She then just emailed me, and told me what she done and asked me to get in contact with the owner. At first I was a bit taken aback, and I was about to inform them about my upcoming trip when they contacted me first! They now know the situation and are fine with the wait, but I’m still surprised to have gotten a client that way!
What’s the next step for you when you get back then?
Well my plan has always to open up my own café. But first I want to get my own space for ROL. At the moment we’re hiring a commercial kitchen in a bowling club! It’s actually pretty funny, but when I first started, my grandma would see me off and I’d be carrying a plastic crate with basically everything I needed. Now, my little Mazda is choc filled with boxes of ingredients and what not every time I head there.
I’ve actually been talking to another friend who has her own personal training business. We were thinking of doing a warehouse half juice bar/café, half classes. We brainstorm ideas all the time. But yeah 100% I want my own café. I’m passionate about coffee and healthy food. I can think of a million recipes off the top of my head that I want to try, so yeah I think that will happen. No, it will happen. I think of it as a 5 year plan, probably two! *Laughs*