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Women in business: Margaret Brockie cereal entrepreneur
07 March 2011
\"Retiring too early can mean closing down. I want others to share what I have to offer. I want to be connected.\"
Margaret Brockie wants to make you regular and she is going to do it through her cereal. In her voice is a commanding strength that draws you in and anchors you to her passion. She has a clear-eyed presence that inspires people to join her journey and stay. (At recent drinks to thank friends, Brockie counted 75 guests, each had played a substantial role in her business success.)
\"In my late 50s I made a decision. I was recently widowed, had left my job, taken the obligatory long holidays and believed I was ready to retire. But inside I felt disconnected from life. I wanted to reconnect. I wanted to do something framed around my own interests and passions to make a difference,\" Brockie states in a no nonsense way.
Passionate about everyone's right to the best possible life they can have, Brockie believes \"eating right is a big part of the answer\". Which is why she began her catering business In Good Taste Catering, 12 years ago at the age of 60.
\"I don't believe you have to live in the label that the health profession or community has decided best describes you. My plan was to cook for people to help them regain their health and wellbeing. I devised menus, got advice when it was needed. I door knocked for clients and brought them food that tasted good and was good for them. And soon I had people being referred to me. It was in formulating a cereal for one man that the next stage of my business came about.\"
Now 72 and with no plans to retire, Brockie is proprietor, manager, chief cook, head of marketing and bottle washer with her team creating her eponomously named range of cereals.
The carefully researched combination of high fibre, with no added sugar, salt, oil or preservatives and including some bio dynamically grown ingredients is designed to provide long-lasting energy, keep the bowel regular and be sustaining. Stocked in 150 outlets including the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne and Victoria's Government House, it has been favourably reviewed by Diabetes Australia, and but for the pressures of time Brockie would have it available across the country and internationally.
Getting to where she is now has been a combination of working from the heart and having the nerve to step across the chasm of the unknown over and over and over. Brockie has never compromised her product and puts the growth and success of the business down to getting good advice and having the right help.
\"I think it's easier to start a business when you're older because you've had enough life experience to be less anxious, especially about asking for help. When you're young you think you have to know it all and won't admit you might need advice, that there are questions you cannot answer and things you cannot do.\"
But not everyone makes the perfect mentor or employee and Brockie has sage advice: \"Find people who recognise your strengths and are willing to work with you, not against you. There were some who thought what I was doing was funded with hope and against all good advice.\"
Author of The Invisible Entrepreneur and Take 3 months, mentor and CEO of Quantum Dynamics, Louise Woodbury has been one of Brockie's greatest supporters and trusted coach.
\"We met through survey material I filled out at a business course.\"
Woodbury helped Brockie examine what the business needed and set the following steps to position the product in the premium quality health food market:
- Build and equip a commercial kitchen using existing space
- Develop packaging/presentation and marketing materials
- Source outlets and develop a system to make, sell and speak about Brockie's
- Source local adviser and book keeper
- Be protective of my time and energy
- Brockie has faithfully carried out the objectives – although she does find herself challenged when it comes to the last.
To rectify this she is putting the finishing touches to a 50-year business plan and recently secured a manufacturer and distributor, leaving room for the next phase of growth and development and an exit strategy from doing too much in the business.
\"I have been relentlessly reminded that I am my most effective tool, especially in a marketing sense. I am the name, the face and spirit of the business. It took me time to get out there. It's a matter of knowing it's okay to feel vulnerable and that if you're passionate about what you believe in you will naturally inspire people.
\"Marketing is key: tastings, talking about the product and doing the communication necessary to get the product out into the world. As a result, Brockie was featured on the Channel 9 Small Business program as well as countless publications across the country. With manufacturing and distribution in hand I will also have time to expand the range. Nut free is the future.
\"My manufacturer has even offered his board room for training. I enjoy people. I enjoy what I am promoting. It's my vocation and my vacation. Everything I've done, the choices I've made and the people I've chosen to work with they have all led to this business and to fulfilling my passion.\"
Having the nerve to step across the chasm of the unknown again and again.
Learning to recognise and find right-minded people and work with their skills. I have done this by never compromising the product. That is my fixed point of reference and if something or someone doesn't measure up to it then you know what is not working.
Marketing marketing marketing: tastings, speaking and promotion done my way.
I have to work from the heart. People are the source of my energy and ideas, without them there is no reason.
I have learnt that if I don't look after me and mine then I can't function. But achieving work life balance is difficult.
\"I don't believe you have to live in the label that the health profession or community has decided best describes you.\"
\"I have been relentlessly reminded that I am my most effective tool...\"