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From competition to collaboration with Chia Sisters

Quote from Podcast

“To create another brand that’s bigger than all of us and that is really scary and that’s hard and we need to be vulnerable when we’re doing it. But ultimately it’s created something bigger than ourselves and it’s benefited our company and all of our companies together which is really exciting.” – Florence Van Dyke, CEO of Chia Sisters

What happens when companies seen as competitors come together to collaborate on the same challenges?

In this episode

In this mini-sode of the SheEO.World podcast, Vicki Saunders chats with the Chia Sisters on how they are tackling challenges to always do things differently because beverages in stores are taken over by two major players in the world. Listen to this short episode on:

  • How stores are locked to big agreements with major players in the industry.
  • Why it’s cost-prohibitive for beverage companies to buy their own fridges.
  • The importance of joining forces to collaborate with other NZ owned and made beverage companies.
  • The significance of collaboration over competition.
  • How you can unite and outperform what you can do alone.
  • The benefits for companies in collaboration.

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Podcast Overview:

Chia Sisters  0:00  

There’s obviously always going to be issues because we are competitors. And it means we all need to give something up, we basically all need to go give a part of our own brand to create another brand that’s bigger than all of us. And that is really scary. And it’s hard. And we need to be vulnerable when we’re doing that, ultimately, it’s created something bigger than ourselves. And it’s benefited our company and all of our companies together, which was really exciting.

Vicki Saunders  0:28  

Welcome to SheEO dot world, a podcast about redesigning the world. I’m your host, Vicki Saunders. In each episode, you’ll hear from SheEO Venture founders, women who are working on the World’s To-Do list. These innovative business leaders are solving some of the major challenges of our time. Please sit back and be prepared to be inspired. 

Welcome, I’m so excited that you are joining us today. I am absolutely thrilled to have Chia Sisters with us and we’re going to talk about a really unique approach they took to tackling the challenge of getting your beverages into stores, that are kind of already taken over by the big boys. Can you tell us a little bit about the challenge that you are here to solve?

Chia Sisters  1:14  

Yeah, absolutely. We are in the beverage industry, which is very difficult because there’s two major players in the world Pepsi and Coca Cola, and they own fridges. And when they own those fridges, it means that your products aren’t allowed in them. And they’re quite expensive, and they take a long time to negotiate different deals and contracts on.

Vicki Saunders  1:36  

And so you’re both based in New Zealand. New Zealand is so well known for sustainability and local production. And so it’s still a big challenge in New Zealand, as well as any other place?

Chia Sisters  1:47  

Yeah, absolutely. We bottle by solar power, and with zero carbon, we pass on a living wage. So we really are trying to do things differently. And even customers that recognize that often they’re still locked on to these big agreements because the agreements might last two or three years. And just the cost of buying these fridges is not something that a small business can afford.

Vicki Saunders  2:10  

So what is a business like yours to do when you want to scale and you’ve got an amazing product? How did you look at this problem? What did you do about it?

Chia Sisters  2:17  

Well, to start with, where you would go to cafes, and we’ll try and get in the door, and we were just blocked every single time not just cafes, but hospitals, supermarkets, universities, all of the big players. And so we realized that our offering alone wasn’t enough. We needed to join forces with everyone else that was experiencing the same thing and unite together. So we formed a collaboration with three other New Zealand owned made beverage companies that all had similar values. And in that way, we could share our resources. We could share our channels, we could buy a fridge together, we could get reps on board to look after us all. And I think the beauty of it was that we realize that while traditionally people may consider us to be competitors, by working together, we could increase all of our sales and also have a fun time too. Because they’re great people in the same industry as us, trying to do something similar.

Vicki Saunders  3:21  

I think this is absolutely brilliant. As soon as I heard you are doing this, I thought this is going to happen all over the world. Small businesses unite and outperform what you could do alone. So this whole concept that we haven’t SheEO at the time you have all that you need come together. And so how is it going?

Chia Sisters  3:37  

Yeah, it’s going really well. We started off by contacting people that we already felt like we had similar values with and want to work with and we will just sit down for a beer and worked it out. There’s obviously always going to be issues because we are competitors and it means we all need to give something up. We basically all need to give up a part of our own brains to create another brand that’s bigger than all of us. And that is really scary. And it’s hard. And we need to be vulnerable when we’re doing it. But ultimately, it’s created something bigger than ourselves. And it’s benefited our company and all of our companies together, which is really exciting.

Vicki Saunders  4:16  

So what was the reception at like local businesses? Or where did you start? What was the first place you went with this idea?

Chia Sisters  4:21  

We started in Auckland. So we hired a sales rep up there and as Flo mentioned that costs is split between all of our businesses, all of that other resources like his car and any other costs involved with it. And we’ve been approaching local cafes in Auckland. We now have 16 fridges up there, which is really exciting. So it’s still early days, but there’s lots to come. 

Vicki Saunders  4:47  

That’s just amazing. 16 fridges All right, cool. So what happens when you go to one of these stores and the salesperson is selling this too? I would imagine businesses are really receptive to this?

Chia Sisters  4:56  

Yeah, it’s really good. I mean, we can go on and say the New Zealand and made produced here drinks, they are high quality, they have the sustainable views. They taste better, they’re often even price competitive. So why wouldn’t you? And what does your brand stand for and had do the products you chose or the suppliers you identify with reflect yourself and what you’re doing.

Vicki Saunders  5:23  

That’s so great. And if you had other local producers who weren’t part of the original group come to you and say… Can we join in too? 

Chia Sisters  5:30  

Yeah, we have a lot of people coming to us. We’re still in early days. So at the moment, we’re ensuring that we have everything set up and functioning well, so that when we choose to bring on more people, which we will, that we can guarantee success for them. 

Vicki Saunders  5:48  

Well, I just continue to be so impressed and we all love you so much in the SheEO community, with your leadership on really, showing us new models and new ways of doing business for the new world that we’re in. I bet you this is going to be called something. When small businesses come together in these new collaborations. I think we need a new word for it. So I don’t know if you’ve thought one up, but I think it’s probably emerging. So thanks so much.

Chia Sisters  6:11  

If you think of a good word for it. Let us know. 

Vicki Saunders  6:13  

Yeah, I love the branding stuff. Thank you so much for all that you’re doing – really excited. And well, we’re cheering you on from all of us.

Chia Sisters  6:23  

Thank you. Thank you so much, Vicki.

Extro: 6:26  

Thank you for listening to the SheEO dot world podcast. If this conversation resonated with you, please share it with a friend and subscribe on your favorite podcast player. If you’d like more information about SheEO, please visit us at SheEO dot world. 

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