Kate Johansson is the Founder of KOJA, a range of health food products that are a 'real-food alternative' to supplements and pills.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
Before I made the leap into starting my business producing healthy foods with KOJA I was working in the nutritional supplements industry. I saw a lot of Australians wanting to make healthy choices, but who just weren’t sure how. I was also concerned by many global health issues, and I saw the processed-food industry as one of the main culprits. I strongly believe that synthetic and processed supplements aren’t the key to health, but that real, honest food is the best foundation for a healthy mind and a healthy body. It was this passion that led me to develop my own real food alternative to synthetic supplements.
How did you get your business started?
Towards the end of 2013, KOJA began by making one product at home and sharing it with my friends and family. That soon grew to 3 products. I sold them at local farmer’s markets and online. Fast forward more than two years, and I’m now selling six lines, available in more than 100 health food stores and supermarkets all across Australia. I’ve launched new ranges, with more products due to launch in coming months.
What lessons have you learned so far on your business journey?
For me, business is the ultimate form of creativity. You really can create whatever you dream of, as long as you’re willing to work hard towards that vision. Running KOJA has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learnt about my strengths and weaknesses, what motivates me and what my values are. I love strategy, brainstorming and creating plans. I’ve also learnt more about my weaknesses and the best ways to manage them, such as hiring a team to compliment my skills.
KOJA Salad toppers - available at koja.com.au image credit: @kojahealth via Instagram.
How important for you has it been to have a mentor?
For the first 12 months of running KOJA I didn’t have a mentor, but I definitely sought advice from a range of people. I think it’s very important to find the right mentor for your business and for your own personal goals. I now have a great mentor who has a strong financial and strategic background. My mentor understands my vision for KOJA, which is the most important part of our relationship. The advice and support he’s given me has been very beneficial in growing KOJA, believing that it can be as big as it needs to be. Our relationship has been so successful that he’s recently agreed to invest in the next stage of growth for KOJA, so now he’s both a mentor and an investor. I truly believe the most important part of a business is the people with whom you surround yourself.
What are your top three tips for starting a business?
1. Clarify your business model. Simple revenue streams are often the best, especially when you’re starting out.
2. Talk with as many experts in your industry as possible. Invite your contacts out for coffee. Most people love to help, and if they’re in an industry they’re passionate about, chances are they’ll jump at the chance to talk about it.
3. Do something you love. We hear this all the time, but it’s so true. It’s the main thing that got me through those really challenging early times with KOJA.
The websites that were most influential in your journey towards launching your business?
Reason: Numbers are everything!
Reason: Shopify is essential for e-commerce!
Kate Johansson is a graduate of the RMIT Bachelor of Business, Entrepreneurship (2008). She is willing to answer your questions about starting a new business. Find her in the Members section.
"For me, business is the ultimate form of creativity. You really can create whatever you dream of, as long as you’re willing to work hard towards that vision. " - Kate Johansson - Founder, KOJA - 'Real-food alternative' health food products