May 20, 2018

24 Hours with Elissa Renouf

Rising to the challenge of parenting four children with Type 1 diabetes prompted Elissa Renouf to found Diabete-ezy, a rapidly expanding business whose products help other sufferers manage the condition. We spend a day with her in export and expansion mode.

Elissa Renouf is an entrepreneur – a Brisbane mother whose world was turned upside down
15 years ago when four of her five children were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Three of them were within a two-year period. The challenges associated with their care inspired Elissa to start Diabete-ezy.

The firm designs, manufactures and distributes
a range of practical products including carry cases, insulin pump belts and alcohol-free test-wipes, each designed to help people living with diabetes manage their condition daily. International distribution agreements and long-standing relationships with the likes of medical equipment vendor Medtronic have assisted the growth of Diabete-ezy and helped Elissa establish markets in the US, UK, Europe, Asia, New Zealand, the Middle East, South America and here in Australia.

5.30am: I get into my walking clothes and have a quick piccolo on my verandah. I was brought up in the country so rising early is in my blood and for me it’s the best part of the day. I now live on a 53-acre property in Samford, about 25 kilometres from Brisbane CBD.

6.00am: I head out (past my Belted Galloway cows) for my daily seven-kilometre walk. This gives me time to clear my head and think about the day ahead.

7.30am: I cook myself an omelette and have another coffee for brekky while listening to some music – John Mayer, Sam Smith, Jack Johnson, some old-school songs. Now that my children have grown up and left home, there’s always some form of music playing to keep me company.

9.00am: I have a short five-minute drive to the office in Samford – it’s in a peaceful lifestyle centre alongside a lily pond with ducks and water fowl. I check in with the team, make a coffee and settle in at my desk. I run my eyes over my emails and write my hit list for the day on a new page of my notebook. Sometimes I’m rewriting the same things day after day until I get it done… each day there are always new priorities to add.

9.30am: This morning I have a conference call with my agent over in China, Peter. He’s currently working on four projects for us and two of them are new products. Seeing a product through to production can be a lengthy process. I’ve used my knowledge and understanding of diabetes to personally design each of our products. We put together a specification sheet with sizes, colours and materials, and Peter organises a quote and samples. If I’m happy with the sample, I place an order and may also request a few product adjustments. Pre- production samples are then made to ensure our high quality standards are maintained, and all components are correct prior to mass production.

I give my graphic designer a brief on my packaging and artwork ideas and once I’m happy, after many to and fros, it’s sent off to the factory. We’ve been using some
of the same factories since 2005 for production, and
also have products made in the US and Australia. We’re currently liaising with a new company in the US to quote and sample another new product, which I’m extremely excited about.

11.00am: Drinking my protein shake, I plan my trip to the US in August; I’ve been invited to speak at the American Association of Diabetes Educators Conference in Baltimore. We exhibited at the 2017 conference and I’ve been invited back as a guest speaker and have a trade display as well. I’ll be speaking in the Mental Health stream about how I positively handled the challenges of parenting four children with diabetes. They say it takes 17 hours a week to look after one diabetic child, and I well and truly remember the daily pressures of small children and working out insulin doses, giving each child up to seven finger prick tests and five needles a day, and recording levels.

12.00pm: I have a three-day turnaround from my US presentation to speak again at the Australasian Diabetes Congress in Adelaide, so I research and book flights to ensure I arrive in Adelaide on time. Over the years I’ve created wonderful relationships with many of the diabetes educators in Australia – and the

1.30pm: Lunch is at my desk; today it’s a chicken salad. I eat while I get stuck into some international marketing. There’s a US consumer Type 1 diabetes conference in July and summer camps coming up. We’re in the middle of producing promotional packs to share at these events – emergency contact ID tags and literature about our products. I’m currently working out whether I can spare the time to attend the conference. It can be tricky with a small business, working out where best to direct your efforts, however this year we’re really trying to focus on our international market and continuing to build our presence worldwide.

2.30pm: I go through our social media plan with the team for next month. We’re working at expanding our direct-to-customer online presence. This includes continuing to write educational blogs and tips to help parents, carers and children live daily with diabetes.

3.00pm: I’m on the phone to my web developer, Daniel. We redesigned and relaunched our website in January, and designing an online order process to make it easier for our wholesalers and healthcare professionals is causing a few headaches. Smoothing the order process, linking our website with an eBay shop and investigating the Amazon market is our priority today.

4.00pm: I’m on another phone call, this time to a potential partner in Israel who reached out to me via LinkedIn. She runs a distribution business from Jerusalem and has had diabetes for 35 years. While we already have a distributor in Israel, she’s considering becoming our distributor in the Middle East. Such an interesting lady, it’s humbling how much she respects my family story and products.

4.30pm: Today I leave when the team does and head home to spend some time with my animals. This is my happy place and where I’m able to do my best thinking. I feed my cows and then do some mowing.

6.30pm: It’s family dinner night (which happens once a fortnight). If all the kids and their partners come, there’s 11 people to cook for! It’s a favourite of everyone’s – crumbed rib fillet baked in tomato, with melted cheese on top; like a beef parmigiana. Lots of voices and laughter, it’s always an entertaining night with my kids.

9.30pm: Time to turn the music off and turn in. I like to go to bed early: up at dawn and bed at dusk – country hours! I think that’s what keeps me sane.