The best ideas are almost always born from problems in need of a solution. This problem in question was a food baby.
Twenty eight year old Melbourne girl Caroline Chang had major digestion issues where she felt like sitting at the dinner table was an invitation to war: food vs Caroline. Every bite of food was a ninja showdown and instead of nourishing her, it was seriously messing her up.
With major stomach upset and severe bloating, she knew something had to change. Her inquisitive nature and investigative approach to her digestion issues, had her trying every superfood and natural remedy out there. Then she came across the mother of all remedies – literally ‘the mother’ which is the cloudy, weird, alien-like, freaky stuff found in a bottle of Apple cider vinegar or if you’re in the know – simply ACV.
And that is how she gave birth to ‘Applelachia’. An apple cider vinegar infused concoction which refreshes the taste buds and more importantly gives your gut health a reboot. After discovering the incredible effect it had on her health she knew she had to get this crazy good shit on the supermarket shelves. And that she did.
It took three weeks for my body to really feel and show a difference.
I’d gone from looking like I was pregnant after having a bite of food, to being completely bloat free. It was life changing! I would sip on diluted ACV diluted in a two litre bottle of filtered and alkalised water. I would then have at least half of the mixture during the morning time. I wait until after 11am to eat anything as I believe the combination of fasting and letting the ACV replenish your body and be the first thing in your system can work wonders.
I wake up lighter and it fills me up but if I’m hungry when I wake up, then I will eat. I don’t place any restrictions on my diet besides sugar intake.
After you had the lightbulb moment of what you wanted to create, what were the next steps to make your Applelachia reality?
I realised there was a gap in the market when I couldn’t find a healthy, sugar-free drink with ACV that actually tasted good. I then started by researching what it would take to start my own brand. It was a huge step for me. I didn’t realise exactly how much labour and hard work was ahead, maybe for the better!
I contacted all my friends and acquaintances who worked in the drinks industry, who in turn introduced me to all of their friends and acquaintances. I put my idea out there and the feedback I got was mixed. Some thought it was great but others didn’t get it and thought it was too niche of a product to add to the market.
“My first setup was small with only a soda stream, a cheap blender borrowed from my boyfriend’s apartment and some measuring spoons.”
I went through my local council to apply for a license to be able to produce a commercial product starting in my very own kitchen. My first setup was small with only a SodaStream, a cheap blender borrowed from my boyfriend’s apartment and some measuring spoons.
I had some cheap labels printed, sourced some bottles, bought a hand capper to seal my bottles and used recycled VB beer cartons to fit my bottles in!
I went cold door-knocking at some key health food stores in the very trendy and health-conscious side of Melbourne. I asked for the manager but was told the manager was busy and could I come next Monday. I persisted with a smile and promised it wouldn’t take long at all. It worked.
I landed my very first outlet at this kick-ass health food store called Terra Madre. They stock everything from organic produce to house cleaning products to vitamin supplements. The great thing was they have big fridge space filled with a myriad of healthy drinks; kombucha, kefirs, and cold-pressed juices. It was perfect. I went on to land a second store and was then contacted by a distributor. They placed an order of 500 bottles! Shit just got real. Then the real stress began to kick in. How the fuck was I going to fulfil this order with a SodaStream?! I immediately upgraded to a keg and quickly learned how to use this foreign thing I had never used before.
I remember I was still carbonating the morning the order was getting picked up from my house and I had no choice but to apologise for not being able to fulfil their full 500 bottles. There are times when you have seriously worked your butt off but unfortunately can’t always deliver. You can’t beat yourself up about it. Fear of letting people down can lead to doing nothing at all. I focused on the fact that I was asked to produce this much in the first place and that this was a learning curve. Fear can lead to self sabotage so kick fear in the butt and move forward. Just do what you can to the best of your ability.
“I would also visualise having a huge bottling plant and doing big volumes of bottles which is where I am today almost 2 years later!”
What setbacks did you experience?
Starting out with my super small and cheap setup, I knew I had a long way to go. I would tap into my inner dialogue and repeat almost like a mantra to myself of, “This is temporary, I will scale up as I’m ready”.
I would also visualise having a huge bottling plant and doing big volumes of bottles which is where I am today almost two years later!
Everything was done by hand and one thing which was very time consuming and incredibly laborious was the application of labels and trying to apply them in a straight line! I would be up all night, eyes burning with fatigue doing those labels. I was lucky to have made some great friends throughout this whole process who gave me a hand.
Eventually I outsourced my production to a micro brewery. This place helped me with doing bigger runs as I started adding new flavours as well, but one time there was a funny batch made and it was already circulating the market unbeknownst to me until I got a voicemail from a customer saying that a bottle he had bought tasted like gas! I was horrified. It turned out that the micro brewery had let my batch sit for too long with CO2 and it somehow messed the flavour profile of my drink. I was mortified but teething issues are unavoidable. It’s important to stand by your brand and just keep building it and improving it.
The early days of a brand are for trialling and you need to iron out any kinks before you get big. I changed breweries very soon after this happened and the business kept growing from there.
“Everything was a huge learning curve and I did things the hard way. There were no shortcuts and that’s shaped me and my business.”
What do you wish you knew before you started?
I’d wish I’d known how to budget properly and how to use excel spreadsheets more efficiently but like every thing else, I picked skills up as I went along. I think it’s great I went in completely fresh starting a drinks business, as everything was a huge learning curve and I did things the hard way. There were no shortcuts and that’s shaped me and my business.
What would you say to someone who is just starting out and not sure how to proceed?
When I started, I knew nothing. I learnt everything on the go. I didn’t wait until I was ready, I just jumped into the deep end. I had to learn the legalities, licensing and labelling and felt like a little fish in a big pond.
Everyone has to start somewhere and I wouldn’t change a thing. The whole process I’ve been through to get to where I am is the reason behind why I learned so much. I got a taste of how hard it is, so when shit hits the fan I just deal with it, I’ve been through it before and I can do it again.
When I’m super stressed I try to resolve my problems by tapping into my creativity and puzzle piecing everything together. Problem solving evokes thinking outside of the box, so stress can actually be good! Breaking ‘stress’ into separate little pieces and thinking of it as a game is how I cope best. High’s and low’s come with the territory of having the freedom to do what you want and no one to answer to but yourself. And that’s pretty awesome.
For more information on this delightfully delicious drink visit http://applelachia.com.au or the facebook page here.