Kate's amazing million-dollar Coles deal
Melbourne woman Kate Johansson started her health food empire "on the side" - but today, you can find her products in 850 supermarkets across Australia.
The 33-year-old was always interested in health, fitness and natural food, but it wasn't until she landed a job with a supplement company that she decided to do something about it.
While she loved her role, Mrs Johansson was convinced "real food" was the key to health and not "artificial and synthetic ingredients". So, in 2014, Koja Health was launched.
Within the first 12 months, the brand, which produces items including protein pancake mixes and peanut butter bars, had a total revenue of $75,000 and Ms Johansson still held down her "day job" four days a week.
But in 2015, she quit her job and appeared on Shark Tank - a decision that changed everything.
The entrepreneur was offered a $150,000 investment in exchange for 40 per cent equity by the sharks, which she turned down.
But after the show went to air, Koja's products sold out within 15 minutes, with the company pulling in $150,000 in sales "overnight".
"It was a real game-changer for us," Mrs Johansson told news.com.au.
"By the time the episode aired I had put every dollar I owned into stock and bought as much as possible, so it was amazing to see the response."
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Where it all began... our classic Breakfast Toppers is where the KOJA story started. We wanted to create a real food alternative to supplements. Here is our Daily mix, a multivitamin blend & our Natural Protein Blend, a complete protein source. 2 Tbs per day of these is packed with natural organic ingredients, fibre, protein, over 25 vitamins and minerals to genuinely make you feel better. Fresh batch was packed off today and is being delivered Thursday morning... have you tried them yet? #kojahealth
Then, in early January, Koja scored another incredible win after Ms Johansson inked a deal with Coles which would see her products land in every supermarket in the country - within seven weeks.
It was a frantic time organising such a massive rollout in such a small time frame, but by mid-March, the amazing feat had been pulled off.
In the first month of being stocked in Coles, Koja achieved $100,000 worth of sales - and on the current trajectory, Koja's partnership with the grocery giant is set to be a million-dollar deal for the business.
"We had been talking to the buyer all through December and had done a trial in some stores in Melbourne which went really well, so we had our fingers crossed we would get the go-ahead," Ms Johansson said.
"Even now I get butterflies because it's such a great feeling to know everything you've worked towards for over five years is finally happening and that the products are available Australia-wide.
"We're really proud to have our products in mainstream supermarket aisles."
She said the goal had never been to "make millions" and that she was focused on improving the health of all Aussies.
"It's about getting real food on shelves and making healthy products that taste delicious and are low in sugar, satisfying and give you all the energy you need for the day - that's always been my motivation," she said.
However, despite the milestone deal, the coronavirus pandemic has meant Ms Johansson has not yet been able to celebrate properly, and while the crisis has caused a spike in sales for products, it is also posing challenges in other areas of the business.
Despite those challenges, Ms Johansson said she was "looking forward" and had big plans to expand her products into other supermarkets, to launch new products and secure international customers.
"It's all been a bit of a haze having such a short turnaround period, growing the team and increasing the market - it all happened really quickly and just as we were getting ready to celebrate and have a launch party, coronavirus hit and we went into lockdown," she said,
"But it's all about pivoting and being able to adapt to everything going on and as a small business and a start-up, we're resilient and this is just another step in the journey."
Ms Johansson said she still owned "100 per cent of the business" which was a rarity in the sector.
Meanwhile, Coles Senior Category Manager for Health Foods, Vanessa Kiel, said the company had noted a "significant" surge in interest in the health food category in the past 12 months, with more customers shopping in our health food aisle than ever before.
"It is one of the fastest growing categories at Coles, having double digit growth for many years," she said.
As a result, Coles has expanded its health food range and added a number of exclusive products from emerging brands.
"We are so delighted to be working with Aussie brands like Koja Health to stock their range of wholesome, natural plant-based protein bars at Coles," Ms Kiel said.
"We first launched Koja at our Coles Local stores in Melbourne, and the range proved so popular with customers that we're now offering it nationally at Coles supermarkets for all our customers to enjoy."
Originally published as 33yo's amazing 'million-dollar' Coles deal