Rachael, tell us a little bit about your business and how it came about?
Myrtle and Pepper is a luxury chocolate brand based in the Hunter Valley. We partner some of the finest chocolate in the world with native Australian ingredients. The initial concept formed in 2013 when I was an MBA student and pregnant with our second child.
At the time, working with native ingredients and chocolate in a contemporary way was unique. I felt that the business had the potential to appeal to the international, domestic and tourism markets and it fulfilled my desire to work creatively. We currently remain the only Australian chocolate business to partner all of our products with native ingredients.
We launched the business in 2016 and our strategy was to test products at the local markets for 6 months and then expand to online and retail. Within those 6 months, life had other plans and I became pregnant with Olivia our third child. Having experienced life with two wonderful but not great sleepers before Olivia we decided to take the business growth at a slower rate. I have generally worked part-time to fit the business in around the demands of our family.
Brian Pereira says: The business that Racheal has created has been thru a full Proof of Concept and her passion for both the business and its impact on the community, the environment and its early customers sets it apart from every other confectionary business.
Describe the situation that your business was in, including any impacts that COVID-19 has had, when you heard the news that you had been selected as a recipient of a Rare Birds mentoring program through the Office for Women scholarship?
2020 was due to be our year to grow – demand for our products was high and customer feedback was positive. We had just won our third major national award and were confident in our future to the extent that we had made the decision to increase capacity. We were planning to design a larger commercial kitchen and to invest heavily in equipment. When we heard the news about the scholarship it was in August last year and there was still a deep level of uncertainty around COVID. I would say the impact of COVID has set our plans for growth back around 12 months.
What were you hoping would happen as a result of having a mentor?
I was hoping to gain support and a sounding board for new ideas, to improve business acumen and to hopefully view the business from a different perspective.
How did you feel both before and after your first meeting with your mentor?
Prior to meeting with Brian, I was intrigued. I understood that Brian had a more service-focused background within software development. Myrtle & Pepper is a luxury product and has a very pretty aesthetic, therefore I was interested to learn why we had been partnered. During our initial conversation I considered that we had been well matched on a values level. We both prioritise the wellbeing of individuals over profits and I felt that Brian could help me to shape that vision and articulate how this could be applied to the fabric and culture of Myrtle & Pepper. I have a huge appreciation for the skills and experience that Brian brings to our mentor partnership and have been filled with ongoing optimism.
Brian says: I have enjoyed mentoring Rachael and giving her a sounding board for her ideas to scale and differentiate her business. From the initial conversation I felt we shared a common set of values and that would prove to be a sound foundation. She has proven business capability and a sound idea of how she will scale and turn M&P into a contender for the high quality chocolate market.
How have you been enjoying the program so far and what have you found to be beneficial to you and your business from the program?
I enjoy Friday morning conversations with Brian, as they are never rushed and I feel that he genuinely wants to help. He tells it straight if an idea isn’t worth pursuing and challenges my reasoning.
Longer term I will schedule time to prioritise self-care which is something that I wouldn’t have done without Brian’s mentorship. I believe that this could be crucial to my wellbeing and our future success.
Brian says: I have enjoyed and still enjoy the conversation, and planting alternative ideas, ensuring Rachael has a balanced view of her business commitments versus the other aspects of her life.
What has been the short-term impact on your business since commencing your mentoring program?
Short term, the mentoring program has propelled me to read and seek additional learning in areas of weakness such as social media. I now also have an improved understanding of our finances, although I recognise that this is still an area that I need to work on.
Myrtle & Pepper has grown organically, which has meant that we have fixed any issues as they have arisen and haven’t taken the time to sit down and coherently delve into procedures and the general functionality of the business. I believe that the strategy that I’m developing with the aid of Brian’s mentoring will make us stronger in the longer term as the process has allowed me to take stock of the business and fill those important gaps of knowledge before taking the next steps.
If you have employees or a team, how has it impacted your staff?
Not currently. We look forward to employing two team members later in the year.
Taking what you have learned so far on this mentoring journey, what are you planning to achieve in the next 12 months?
In the next 6 months there will be a focus on building our new premises, further develop the roadmap and solidify the vision to take the business through a period of growth next year. We are developing new innovative products and working on new packaging to complement our existing range. We will target and enter new markets in 2022.
What advice would you give to a potential entrepreneur or mentee thinking about applying for a mentoring program? The advice that I have for future potential mentees would be not to hesitate. You may gain insight, connections or receive advice that will propel your business or prevent you from making a mistake. Regardless of the stage of your business, Inspiring Rare Birds will have a mentor to meet you where you are on your individual journey and you will definitely be further ahead than you are today.