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2 Aussie mums make $1.4 million in 12 months

·Finance reporter
Franjos co-founder Jo Clark and Fran Woods stand behind a kitchen benchtop.
Franjos co-founders Jo Clark and Fran Woods have scaled a 7-figure wellness business. (Source: suppled)

A chance encounter on the street led to co-founding a business for Fran Woods and Jo Clark.

In 2014, the two women started the eponymous Franjos Kitchen, making lactation cookies and other naturopath-formulated food and drinks to support mothers.

Entrepreneurship is a tough gig and Franjos was far from an overnight success. The duo struggled and slogged for seven years, even considering closing the business in 2019 after facing mounting debt.

Here’s how they turned it around and grew a $16,000 startup to a seven-figure business with zero investors.

Chance meet-cute makes business

Both new mums, Fran and Jo met while pushing their newborns in prams out on a walk in Seddon, a suburb in the inner-west of Melbourne. Within three weeks they’d started a business together.

Two women are about to cross a street in Melbourne's inner west.
A chance meeting on the corner of Williamstown Road and Charles Street was the starting point for Franjos. (Source: supplied)

“I was breastfeeding my first child and had a number of issues with her with her weight and not getting enough weight in my breast milk supply," Woods said.

"So I Googled how to make more breast milk and I came across the concept of galactogogues (foods that help increase milk supply).

“I started making my own biscuits and then I was going for a walk and stopped at the lights and there was another mother there pushing a baby the same age, and it was Jo."

Biscuits are part of Clark’s legacy. Her Dad co-owned the famous Kooka’s Country Cookies based in Donald.

"The meeting of Jo and realising she had this biscuit company under development, I realised that her skill set as a naturopath and her background with Kooka’s would help create Franjos,” Woods said.

Both Woods and Clark were already working in other businesses, Woods as a full-time lawyer and Clark as a full-time naturopath with a side project of making biscuits.

They also had young daughters and have grown Franjos alongside running their own businesses and raising three children each.

Stockists come calling

Originally conceived to be an online business, Clark said one of the biggest milestones was to have businesses approaching them to stock Franjos products.

They now have almost 1,000 stockists.

“We thought we were just going to be an online business, then we started getting all these wholesalers and stockists calling us, saying ‘We want you’," Clark said.

"That was like a big, 'Wow. OK, we've actually got something here'.”

A jar of wet ingredients is being poured into another jar on a kitchen benchtop.
Franjos will be trialling in select Woolworths stores next month. (Source: supplied)

Franjos has been approached by Woolworths to do a trial at their Double Bay store and Metro stores in NSW in February this year.

Road long but worth it

It’s only in the past 12 months that Woods and Clark have been able to pay themselves a proper salary. Six years in, the business now consistently pulls in six-figure revenue each month.

“We hit the low point about 18 months ago, and we weren't profitable at all, we were going backwards,” Clark said.

"That was another really significant moment for our business. We realised that there was no out - we couldn't get out of it. So we just had to keep on going."

They pulled the business back to the bare bones, leveraged their established brand name and were fortunate to be part of the eCommerce boom through the pandemic - all of which has helped them grow revenue a whopping 37 per cent in the past six months.

Beyond financial milestones was the way the products helped mums, Clark and Woods said.

“When we get individual DMs of people sending us photos of their happy, healthy babies and thanking us ... they’re all milestones,” Woods said.

Business built on strong partnership

The true strength of this business is the two women behind it and their support and deep respect for each other.

“I don't think many business partners could have got through eight years like we have, honestly, like it actually really makes me cry," Clark said.

"The respect that we both have for each other actually is phenomenal."

Franjos co-founders Fran Woods and Jo Clark stand arm in arm.
The real strength behind Franjos is the partnership between founders Fran Woods and Jo Clark. (Source: supplied)

“It’s human nature to think if you build it, they will come or, if you launch something, people will buy it, and that's a lesson where we're learning constantly, but it's just time and consistency and belief in what you're doing,” Woods added.

“I think that if you told me at the beginning that it would take this long to kind of get somewhere, I might not have done it.

“I think one of the biggest lessons is just that patience and time and perseverance and consistency that we've needed to get this far. I think it takes such a long time to achieve a profitable solid business.”

Clark agreed, saying her key advice was “go with your gut”, and that often when seeking answers from experts you realise you had the answer all along. Trust yourself and your capability.

5 business tips

We asked Clark and Woods for their top 5 business tips:

  1. Find a problem in the marketplace and make your product or service the solution.

  2. Be different and go beyond to offer an improved solution. Franjos isn’t just a biscuit but a nutritionally sound, well-rounded and point-of-difference product.

  3. Trust the process and the journey of business and just commit and persevere. It's grit and hard work. It’s not like what you see on Instagram or an overnight success.

  4. Connect with key people who will be integral to helping your business grow (go with your gut here too).

  5. We went from $1,000 profit to having tens of thousands this year. Several years back, we stopped focusing on growth and focused solely on profitability. Despite this, we’ve had 50 per cent growth since last year.

Franjos has just launched a new product line of smoothie powders to clear brain fog, and will be closely watching their trial at Woolworths.

From a bootstrapped, home-kitchen startup to a staff of six, with a factory in Melbourne and international stockists, Clark and Woods are excited for 2022.

“We've got quite a lot of exciting things in the pipeline next year. I think we're on track now to kind of get into that more serious level of being in business.”

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