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Name: Anni Brownjohn
Company name:The Right Food Group Pty Ltd
Title: founder and president
What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.
From the foundation year of 1999 right through until today my primary role is to drive the vision of developing and manufacturing wonderful, delicious organic foods while all of us also have some fun.
As the company has grown, some wonderful people have come on board as members of "Team Organic" at The Right Food Group.
My day can start out with looking at new product ideas, then onto a management meeting, chat with a client, review of new machinery, discussions with new private label customers, review of marketing – and this may all be before lunch!
I've always seemed to have a lot of new ideas for great products and like to spend some time each day on these.
What training/education did you need for your job?
Interestingly – I had none. Just a good idea and dedication to clean, healthy, organic food.
If I had undertaken any formal business training, there would be a good chance that I would never had taken the risk to start such an innovative food company.
In 1999 when I founded The Right Food Group, organic food was considered "hippy food". I well remember turning up to sell my products to a grocery store and the buyer being very surprised I had on a good suit!
How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.
Hmm, career path?? Not something I have ever given any thought to. I have been self-employed since my early 20s – initially in natural health care.
When I work out what my career is, I'll let you know my career path. Not sure there is such a thing for an organic entrepreneur!
What tools and/or sofware do you use on a daily basis?
My MacBook Air, Blackberry, and various software programs. Oh, and the largest computer I own, my brain.
What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
- Still being in organic food manufacturing in Australia in 2013 and being profitable!
- Surviving the GFC and creating full time jobs in a rural town.
- Creating roles in my company where good people can grow their skills, improve their income and lift their level of professional training.
- Giving those people the room to run with their own ideas.
- Taking on the chair's role of the Tweed Business Advisory Board and using the position to push through some ideas to improve the regional economy.
Biggest daily challenge?
Keeping my many ideas for new products in some sort of order, then working out which ones are "real" and which ones go into the "later" file.
Plus – the internet. We are in a regional town and the net can be very slow. Roll on the NBN!
Biggest career challenge?
Attempting to keep my frustration with the organic certification industry in check. Some organic certification fees seem out of proportion with the service and add extra cost to the final product. Imported organic product do not pay these fees. The whole system disadvantages Australian organic food producers. I fail to understand why fees are not controlled by federal legislation.
What is your biggest frustration in your job?
There are a few items in my "biggest frustration" basket.
1. For a regional company, distribution can be a hassle. While we have product on shelf in every state in Australia, how it gets there is complicated and costly.
2. The "I am not interested" attitude to Australian food producers from the federal government! Honestly, why on earth is there no recognition of the following:
- We need to eat as a nation (and I don't think locally made cars make a tasty meal no matter how much sauce you pour over them!)
- The food industry is a massive employer! Many production plants are in regional towns which need the jobs to sustain the local economy.
- We cannot compete with the dollar so high against imports – particularly those which are subsidised. Why is Australia the only sportsperson on the "level playing field?"
3. And of course I have a lot of new ideas for products and the development, certification, supply chain, manufacture, marketing and distribute process can be frustratingly long.
What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
High dollar, cheap imports, lack of federal government interest in sustaining a vibrant Australian food production industry.
Also, there's no domestic organic certification legislation which is enforceable under federal or state law. There are may products on Australian shelves claiming "organic". The only "organic" ingredient in some of these products is the name on the label. I have to compete with these cheats.
Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
I don't have a job – I have passion, drive and commitment. A passion for people, organic food, sustainable business and community.
My food which we create every day in our own factory is proof that the "career path" can be a journey. And all journeys start out with the desire to explore.
I continue to "explore" organic food (and have a heap of fun while doing it!)
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