24 hours with Whole Kids

Food magazine recently launched its Industry Map, where we ask food manufacturing professionals to shed light on the trials and tribulations of their work. Here, Monica Meldrum, founder of Whole Kids, takes our Q&A.

Name: Monica Meldrum

Company: Whole Kids

Title: Founder

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job?
I spend most of my time developing our products. To come up with a range that is totally additive-free and tastes great requires a lot of effort. I develop ideas and recipes at home and then work with a team of dieticians to ensure our products meet all the criteria for nutrition before sourcing organic ingredients and creating commercial samples that we can trial with children.

Kids’ taste profiles are very different from adults so part of my role is to work with our smallest customers to ensure that they really love a product before it gets the go-ahead.

Give us a day in your working life.
As a Mum of a three year old I need to be super organised. I’m up early and at the gym before waking up my daughter for breakfast, making lunches and doing the kinder drop off. As soon as I arrive at the office I meet with my team to set goals for the day and discuss what’s happening in the market and how we are tracking in achieving our weekly targets. The rest of my morning is spent making calls and following up with suppliers and customers.

Afternoons are for planning. Whether it’s product development, potential supply opportunities or reviewing Whole Kids' strategic plan, I dedicate time every afternoon to high level business planning.

As a small team we operate in a very dynamic and fast-paced environment. I have to be super organised to stay focused, so I segment my day to make sure I am giving my team the time that they need as well as allowing myself the space for thinking and planning.

What training/education did you need for your job?
I have a background in Communications with a Bachelor of Commerce and Marketing. I also have an MBA in International Management as well as a Master of Commercial Law. On top of that I am a fully accredited personal trainer/group fitness instructor, so I’ve always been interested in health and nutrition.

How did you get to where you are today?
After completing a Bachelor of Commerce and Marketing I travelled to Indonesia and established a business consulting to Australian companies. After three years I sold my business and returned to Australia where I held a string of positions with Goldman Sachs, Optus, Telecom NZ and Boral while also working as a fitness instructor and personal trainer.

After being chosen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to lead a team of Australians to a North Sumatran village to deliver an aid project for the local children, I was inspired to do something that helped kids and promoted kids’ health, so in 2005, James and I started Whole Kids.

What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?
Becoming a Mum has made me even more passionate about creating healthier options for children. Every day I face the challenge of most parents in coming up with ideas for providing my daughter Chloe with a balanced diet, which feeds directly into my work at Whole Kids.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
I’m proud of everything that Whole Kids has accomplished since it started, from winning the Emerging Entrepreneur Award at the 2013 NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards to creating quality products that make a difference to the health of children across the country.

One of best things we have done is establish One Per Cent For Our Kids, which is a non-profit that donates a percentage of our company’s revenue to fund projects to help improve kids’ health, their communities and their environment. So as our company grows and we sell more products, we can give more and more to help children in need.

Biggest daily challenge?
As we grow there are always new challenges but most recently, our resources were being drained by operational requirements of the business, such as warehousing and logistics, to the detriment of sales, marketing and product development.

After conducting a tender with third-party suppliers, we chose to outsource this part of our operation. This year we will automate the process further so that orders flow directly from our sales team to warehouse for immediate dispatch. It will enable us to establish warehousing in Perth and open up to the WA market. So from a real challenge, we have discovered opportunity.

Biggest career challenge?
My biggest career challenge was giving up the security of my corporate role to start Whole Kids. My experience in delivering aid to children living in poverty created the passion and drive in me to establish a business that would truly make a difference to children’s health. In doing so I have put everything into our business. It has taken a lot of hard work and persistence to come up with a range of products that are free from additives and meet the strict nutritional criteria that we have set. I am fortunate that I have the support of a team that are equally as passionate as I am and are driven to also create change. 

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
It's a highly competitive industry which can be frustrating at times, so we have to think smarter and act differently to get our voice heard so that parents know that there are healthier alternatives out there for their kids.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
Another key challenge is finding distributors who are passionate about our brand and values, so we feel they can best represent our products. We have invested in a great sales team that can service multiple channels, focus 100 percent on positioning our brand in-store, and build strong relationships with customers.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
My overarching job description is to make a difference to the health of Australian kids. The philosophy is simple; I believe in healthy kids and that the actions we take today can make a significant difference to our children’s future.

If you would like to take part in Food mag's Industry Map, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.


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