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The start-up which makes that Bondi Chai you love won gold in the “business Oscars”

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Bondi Chai co-founder Melissa Edyvean

The small NSW business behind Australia’s most awarded chai latte, Bondi Chai, was named the Asia Pacific Food and Beverage Company of The Year in the 2015 International Stevie Awards.

Dubbed the “business Oscars”, the Stevie Awards has grown since its inception in 2002 to become one of the world’s premier international business awards with six award programs around the world.

Trivia time! Did you know the Stevie Award trophies are manufactured by the same company that makes the Oscars and the Emmys trophies?

The Asia Pacific Stevies, which were launched in 2014, attracted more than 400 entries this year from all the 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific region including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

Bondi Chai savours the sweet taste of success

Bondi Chai’s co-founders, Melissa Edyvean and Martin Buggy, manage their fully-outsourced business with just three direct employees from their Port Stephens home and were thrilled with this latest recognition for their company; a fabulous present for Bondi Chai’s tenth birthday, they called it.

“When we saw that people like Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, Telstra CEO, David Thodey, and Australian household names like DHL, Jetstar, Harvey Norman and Amcor were among the award recipients – as well as the incredible companies from other countries – we feel pretty special right now.”

This is the company’s second major business award in less than 12 months, having last year been named the NSW Micro Business of The Year and National finalist in the Telstra Business Awards.

The company’s only product, Bondi Chai Latte, is a premium chai latte pre-mix that is today sold into thousands of cafes and hospitality venues around the country and in both major supermarket chains.

It’s also sold in many countries around the world – even in India itself, where chai is the de facto ‘national drink’.

Melissa and her partner were among the first to introduce the sweetly spiced tea-based drink to Australian cafes after discovering the ‘chai phenomenon’ whilst on a US holiday in 2000.

They created their own product and brand in 2005 and in the years since have helped to generate a nation-wide following for chai latte and Bondi Chai

“We sold just 17kg of product in our first month back in 2005,” Melissa said. “These days someone buys a Bondi Chai Latte somewhere in the world every two seconds.”

Bondi Chai co-founders Martin Buggy and Melissa Edyvean
Bondi Chai co-founders Martin Buggy and Melissa Edyvean

Business tips from a “business Oscar” winner

What lessons do you have to share about starting and running a business from your experience with Bondi Chai, Anthill asked. Below is what Martin Buggy, half of the award-winning duo had to say.

First of all, I think probably the biggest lesson is not to work in isolation. Working from a home office in a small, seaside village it’s very easy to become an ‘island’.

We made sure we spent time (and money) in getting amongst like-minded people – not necessarily from our industry (chai was unheard of when we started).

Secondly, don’t give up your day job, that is keep debt as low as possible and some form of income coming in while you’re ramping up your business.

You can likely flip all the doubters, naysayers and well-meaning friends/relations that you’ll inevitably encounter when setting out, but a barking bank manager is difficult to ignore and while debt can be a great motivator to make the next phone call after your umpteenth ‘no thanks’, nothing will sap your energy quicker than serious money worries.

Of course, if you’re selling the next big app you’ve written to a mega-company you’ve got no real problems and we all hate you!

But if your idea needs some of those famous hard yards, do everything you can to add physical and mental energy to your life and take as many of the energy sappers (like debt, doubting friends etc.) out of the picture.

Lastly, keep reminding yourself, whatever happens, that your experiences – good and bad – are all lessons. Look at every dollar you spend as ‘school fees’ and you’ll never have to worry about wasting money or so-called failure again.

Look for the lesson in every experience and you’ll never fail.

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