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See how this business is changing the way we fundraise

Tiffany Loh
Smarter Writer

Tiffany Loh is the Smarter Business™ & News and Digital Editor, with varied writing experience always looking for a unique story

Tiffany Loh
Smarter Writer

Tiffany Loh is the Smarter Business™ & News and Digital Editor, with varied writing experience always looking for a unique story

Could there be a standout alternative to the traditional chocolate fundraising drive? Living Fundraisers shows us the importance of customer feedback in developing a new product strategy.

Living Fundraisers, founded by and previously run by Rachel Taylor and Rebeka Morgan, has helped thousands of schools, children's centres and community organisations raise in excess of $2 million. By selling Living Fundraisers’s range of healthy and eco-friendly products, including herb growing kits, cards and Christmas trees, organisations can keep 40% of profits, while educating themselves and the community about the importance of environmental sustainability. We chat to Rachel, who tells us how the seeds of this blooming business and successful product strategy were planted.

Founders of Living Fundraisers Rebeka Morgan (left) and Rachel Taylor

The beginning
 

From uni assignment to business idea

"By the end of it, we had a business concept. We got invaluable input from lecturers and assistance from classmates and by the end of the course we had a comprehensive business plan, a marketing plan, and all of our financial modeling and growth strategy completed and validated. We partnered with food education program Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, who were looking for ways to help their schools fundraise to support their garden programs. The partnership definitely helped launch the business and let people know it existed. We work with Happy School and Greening Australia, who continue to help expose and grow [Living Fundraisers]."

Product strategy built on customer communication

“We designed the initial product range in consultation with our potential customer base. We talked to primary schools, kindergartens, childcare centres, sporting and community groups, and charities. We ordered the components to fill 50,000 herb and veggie growing kits. That was enough to get us going, but it wouldn’t break the bank if the business idea was a flop.”

Low startup funding

“We sourced seeds and potting mix from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and packaging materials from China on credit cards as needed. We also borrowed a few $5,000 loans from family members. The products were assembled on my pool table turned workbench. There were several late-night sessions involving family and friends pitching in to get orders out.”

Consumer conversation
 

Use flexible product strategy

“We asked customers for feedback on current product options. This allowed us to tweak and improve our existing products, develop options for future line and to gauge the level of interest. Our initial product range included packets of vegetable seeds, as well as our mini-greenhouse growing kits. We found that people were more interested in the step-by-step kits than the seeds on their own, so we dropped the seed packets at the end of the first year.”

Creating and launching new products    

“Thanks to our customers and their excellent feedback, continuously created and launched great new products. We ran a national competition for children to design our first range of Christmas cards, and the designs for our range of Birthday and greeting cards were voted on by our community.”    

Make a positive contribution    

“Part of our business philosophy was to make a positive contribution to the community. We wanted to work in partnership with a disability enterprise. We searched around and found Options Victoria, who support people with disabilities to lead lives of dignity and achievement. We really liked the way they worked and engaged them to do our manufacturing, warehousing, and dispatch.”    

Challenges
 

Main challenges

“One of the main challenges we had was managing cash flow while growing rapidly. Good relationships with our suppliers and keeping overheads rock-bottom have kept us above water. Another challenge we face faced in developing new products was that they need needed to be sturdy but light enough to be carried home by a child.”  

Managing the business virtually    

“We all worked from home and our manufacturing and warehousing was done in partnership with Options Victoria, so keeping track of stock and internal communications was not as easy as when everyone is co-located. At one stage, we changed to a cloud-based enterprise management system. It was a difficult process to go through and took up an enormous amount of time, it almost ran the business for us.”

The verdict

“We both enjoy working hard and have always juggled lots of things. Work is woven through life, rather than being a distinct part of it. School drop-offs and pickups, doctors’ appointments, kids home sick or needing attention, uni, even the occasional holiday all just happen and we make it work. We give gave a lot to the business and we understandunderstood when other things deserve deserved priority. Between us and the help we get from our partners, we always get got what needs to be done, done.”

Communicate with your customers to develop a great product strategy.

Discover Telstra Smarter Business Tools

Originally published 21st August 2013. Updated 2nd August 2019.

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