10 minute interview with charlotte rees of healthy treats by mrs rees
25 February 2016
My very first taste of Healthy Treats by Mrs Rees was surprisingly at my beloved hairdressers. I literally ran to Pulp Friction after my appointment to get my own selection to share with Nick! We are so incredibly lucky to live in Tassie where I feel there is a real community sense and appreciation of good quality food and Healthy Treats by Mrs Rees really embodies the thoughtfulness that we all should all be putting into our food. To be completely honest, I was relieved given my very full schedule that I can just go out there and purchase delicious healthy treats that I feel good about eating. I was delighted to have gotten to know Charlotte more over the past few months and to have been invited to just hang out with her and her family at the Farm Gate market one Sunday morning. Charlotte, I love your calmness and the way you made me feel like you had the whole morning just for me, even though customers were busily streaming to your stall to get their hand on your Healthy Treats... Who could blame them?!!
MD: Well, firstly, I have to say that Nick and I are your biggest fans, Charlotte, cause we have a healthy addiction to your treats! Tell me how Healthy Treats by Mrs Rees came to be?
CR: When my eldest had just turned 2, I was looking for a change from running a café. I didn’t want to work for someone else again so I thought I would make an energy slice, which had been popular in the café and try to sell it to other cafes around town. I heard that there was a kitchen out the back of café in North Hobart that didn’t get used much and arranged to hire it one day a week. As I delivered samples around town I realised that there was a huge demand for quality gluten free items so my range quickly expanded to include some gluten free biscuits and bliss balls. After about a year, business got busy enough for my chef husband to leave his job and take over the cooking!
MD: That is fantastic. It sounds like you really just saw an opportunity and ran with it, and it's now very much a successful family business. So, it all started with just an energy slice. I love that you have obviously then expanded your product range to meet a gap in the market locally. What other yummy products do you offer?
CR: We now offer a range of biscuits, bliss balls, cakes, raw chocolate, peanut caramel bars, coconut roughies, spreads and the odd creative special! We are now a 100% gluten free kitchen and we don’t use any refined sugars. We also try and cater for a variety of dietary intolerances and have a lot of vegan options.
MD: I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! Was there a defining moment, when you decided, right! I’m going to do this... I’m going to package and sell my treats and really build a business around it?
CR: Well, it just kind of happened! I have never actually sat down and did a proper business plan. We have just continued to do what feels right! I’m not quite sure how much longer I’ll be able to wing it for though!
MD: You just followed your instinct... I am not much of a business plan person either. I think sometimes you just know when something feels right and I think, as businesswomen, we rely on that a lot, our gut feelings. We have to feel right about what we are doing for it to mean something. If you think back 10-15 years ago, did you always think this is where you’d end up? What are the events that have led you right to this point now?
CR: Crumbs... No! Fifteen years ago, I was working 16 hour days running a restaurant in England. I wasn’t giving much thought to my health and considered white sugar to be perfectly OK to eat! When I was pregnant with my eldest, I started thinking a lot more seriously about my health and I started learning more about good foods. When I first started reading about natural sweeteners I realised there wasn’t any treats in the market which used them. I guess, I have always wanted to have my own business in some ways shape or form and when I was looking for a change, I thought I would try and fill that gap!
MD: I love that motherhood seem to really make us think of things we have taken for granted. We just seem to become more interested in what is around us and how that affects things in the bigger scheme of things. It sounds like your business really grew out of wanting to make things better for your family, and what a bonus it is that you found a gap in the market and fulfilled that need. What do you love about what you do?
CR: Our stall at Farm Gate Market is my favourite part of what we do. It is great to connect directly with our customers.
MD: This is the first time I've been to the Farm Gate Market since it moved to Bathurst Street! It is absolutely buzzing here! I just love this about Hobart... Clearly this is a local favourite for Hobartians but I just love the fact that there are so many tourists around as well. It must be exciting for you to know that some of your Healthy Treats are being showcased to the world through this great, little market! I know that you have some exciting things happening at the moment. Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
CR: Well, in 5 years both of our children will be in full time school and I’ll be able to dedicate some more time to it. I view us selling more online and also wholesale interstate. We have dabbled a little in interstate wholesale but it is a bigger market to compete in and it needs some more marketing time allocated to cracking it some more.
MD: Big plans for the future then! But, it also sounds like balancing motherhood and business is a real priority for you. There is plenty of time for expansions and smashing those business goals. How do you find it... Balancing motherhood and a business?
CR: I won’t lie... It’s incredibly hard. They take turn being put on the backburner! And the guilt which comes when the mothering side suffers is hard to swallow sometimes!
MD: I hand it to any family business with young children. I'm too familiar with the old guilt monster too! How do you come to terms with it?
CR: I guess it kind of becomes a part of life for everyone! The kids help out at the market and our 2 year old loves to sell biscuits on a pretend phone just like his mum!
MD: Cute! I think it is so important in a family business to have the children involved and understand what it is we are trying to achieve in terms they understand. I find in incredibly confronting when my little ones questions why I'm working in the middle of the weekend or we have to answer an important work call when we are on holidays. Still, we do it all for our families. What do you hope to achieve in your business overall?
CR: It would be fantastic to get it to a level where we can get a good stable income from it and be able to employ some people so that the odd family holiday can be a reality rather than a logistical nightmare!
MD: Is there anything you would do differently now knowing what you know?
CR: Probably a lot! But it’s the now and the future I try to focus on more.
MD: Haha... Great answer! So much! But, it would not have got you here right now if it had been different, right? Speaking of the future, what is your vision for your brand going forward?
CR: Great question! And I constantly debate whether to streamline or diversify…. Someone mentioned to me recently the lack of gluten free and vegan savoury items out there….I guess it might be a case of, watch this space!
MD: Gluten free savoury! You got my attention! Can't wait! The one advice you would give to other mumpreneurs?
CR: Get yourself some dedicated work time and space and find a way to make it clear to your family that’s what it is. All too often us mumpreneurs are trying to parent, answer calls/emails and cook dinner all at the same time. Or trying to keep ourselves awake so that we can get some work time in late at night – and that is TIRING. I am learning more and more to say – no – I need my work time away from the family because otherwise they suffer.
MD: So, the most important question that my followers are just hanging out for me to ask! Where can we get our hands on your yummy goodies?
CR: Cafes and quality independent grocers around Hobart. Pulp Friction and Eumarrah stock the widest range of our goodies. Also via tasRAW online. If you would like to see our goodies stocked anywhere in particular, please mention it to the outlet and we’d be happy to follow it up.
MD: I love all your treats but what would you recommend people try first?
CR: Our range of raw chocolate and the cacao and hazelnut spread are my favourites. Most popular is our date and cacao balls and date and ginger biscuits.
MD: Well, Charlotte, thank you so much for letting me spend time with you, your gorgeous family, and your Healthy Treats at the Farm Gate Market this morning! I had the best time!
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