- Make a robust business plan - identify not only your market but also your key value proposition and that of your competitors’
- Your business should be driven by customer satisfaction. Exceptional customer service is what makes a business different from others.
- Work in something that you are passionate about. Nothing can be created without passion driving it.
El Cielo Foods, the first Melbourne based producer of tortillas and other Mexican inspired foods was born out of the founders’ passion to bring quality Mexican ingredients to Australian kitchens. Having won the NEIS National Business of the Year at Mission Australia’s 2013 Employer Awards, the fast growing Port Melbourne business now serves 150 retail customers Australia wide and employs 13 people.
Remarkably founder Cesar Duran and partners Javier Calzada & Paola Bisogno started the business from scratch without any previous experience in the industry.
Read on to learn about the challenges and successes of this incredible business:
How did you start the business?
Any good business starts with a clear market opportunity, sustained after conducting diligent research and conservative planning; without this there is no business. Once we discovered that we did have a business potential, with our available funds, we searched our hearts for our combined passions and beliefs. We believe in quality and service as a way of life, this is the culture inside of El Cielo.
What were some challenges you faced when starting up the business?
We faced and are still facing a number of challenges, amongst them: adhering to relevant regulations and legislation, maintaining a positive cash flow without being able to get unsecured loans from banks, analysing and defining best practice, training new staff and maintaining our competitive advantage in the market with new quality and gourmet offerings.
You won the NEIS National Business of the Year at Mission Australia’s 2013 Employer Awards, what is your philosophy on people management?We believe in treating others like we would like to be treated, so we give a fair go to immigrants and our staff seem to be content and empowered; this is a daily focus for us as managers. We keep our costs down, from scratch helping as much as we could to build the warehouse and we keep our processes and language simple, this has allowed us to teach non-skilled workers to do skilled tasks. We hire and work with people based on attitude and not skills. We believe that if managers dedicate time, you can teach anyone skills but attitude comes from inside the individual.
What is the best thing about being a small business owner?
The best thing is being able to test your limits, see the dream of being owner of your own time and be able to employ others is a great gratification.
Best success moment?
The most exciting moment we have had so far was when, after a lot of work, we were able to taste tortillas that were exactly or better than the ones we had back in Mexico.
El Cielo has grown quickly through robust business planning and a focus on providing a strong customer value proposition. Researching competitors’ enabled El Cielo to develop a strong competitive advantage in the market.