While female-led businesses are a growing economic force in Australia, they receive only 3% of venture capital funding. NAB Executive Small Business Ana Marinkovic explains what can be done about this.
Grace Mazur was so impressed by the Thermomix she saw in Europe that she decided to sell them in Australia and she’s now the world’s leading independent distributor. Grace talks with Business View about the hard work, perseverance and passion that have contributed to her success.
Sometimes the simplest thing can change the course of your life. For Grace Mazur, it was the food served by a friend in Poland. “She was a very busy woman with young children,” says Mazur. “I couldn’t understand how she had time to cook so many different meals from fresh, unprocessed ingredients.”
It transpired that her secret was a Thermomix – a combination of at least 10 different appliances that can cook a complete meal in a matter of minutes.
But it wasn’t the prospect of selling a clever machine that inspired Mazur to bring the Thermomix to Australia – it was her vision of changing lives for the better. “Busy people are increasingly eating processed foods and unhealthy take-aways,” she says. “In fact, when I first approached Vorwerk International, the German manufacturer, they were concerned that English-speaking countries are too hooked on fast food to be interested in something that cooks meals from scratch.” But Mazur believed that Australians would embrace more wholesome food if it were quick and easy to cook.
She persevered with Vorwerk, obtained the rights to become sole Australian distributor and, 12 years later, she’s the leading independent distributor of Thermomix worldwide.
Her first challenge was adapting the existing business model. “We knew from Europe that the best way to sell the Thermomix is with in-home demonstrations,” she says. “People need to see it in action and taste the end results in order to understand what it can do. But I knew nothing about direct selling so the process involved a lot of trial and error.”
Mazur had to source menus of five or six dishes that would appeal to Australians with variations to take account of dietary preferences, allergies and sensitivities. She then had to find and recruit consultants and develop appropriate training. “This was crucial because our approach is very different from traditional sales,” Mazur says. “We don’t push anyone to make a purchase. Instead, we teach our consultants how to connect with people and find out how a Thermomix could make a positive difference to their lifestyle. We also train them to provide their customers with ongoing advice, ideas and support.”
At first, when Mazur was still working as a consultant to the mining industry, growth of her Thermomix business was relatively slow. It started picking up speed up when she decided to give Thermomix her full attention and, by 2006, it was doubling in size year on year.
“Now that the business is so much bigger, annual growth has settled to between 30 and 40 per cent, and we’re very happy with that,” says Mazur. “By the end of this year we’ll have 2,000 consultants and our goal is to double that, so our focus is making sure we have the infrastructure and resources to accommodate that rate of growth. For example, we’re updating our IT systems, moving to a bigger building, up-skilling our managers and developing the next level of area managers.”
Her advice to anyone considering a similar business is to find a product or service they love. “You need to be very passionate about what you’re trying to achieve,” she says. “There’ll always be challenges and sometimes things are tough. Passion gives you the energy and perseverance you need to keep pushing through.”
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