Q&A with KOJA HEALTH
Since we are totally spoilt with a wonderful network of super clever people, we had the pleasure of another interview this month with the gorgeous Kate who founded Koja Health. Kate had the chance to star on the Shark Tank TV series and dished up the dirt on her experiences for us to get a taste of TV life. Woop! Enjoy the read lovelies!
1. Tell us about yourself and your life pre-Koja.
I grew up in a family where healthy food was the norm so it wasn’t until I moved out of home at 18 that I realised the big wide world was full of unhealthy food! In my early 20s I experienced some of my own health issues and through overcoming these I learnt a lot about the health and nutrition industry. This gave me a strong passion for wholefoods and I now consider myself an advocate for natural health.
I launched KOJA just over 2 years ago.. and it’s been a big part of who I am ever since. The first 12 months were a whirlwind of setting up the business, everything from sourcing ingredients to creating a brand. My biggest focus with KOJA now is building a great team, and an amazing community of KOJA lovers. We’re launching new products in the coming months and bringing on new stores every week.
KOJA wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of my friends and family, and in particular my husband, John. They’re a big part of who I am. I grew up with a big family and good food has always been an important part of getting together.
At university I studied entrepreneurship because I’ve always wanted to solve the world’s problems! I’m often inspired by the quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
2. How did Koja come about?
I was working with a professional sports club here in Melbourne to develop a range of sports nutrition supplements specific to elite athletes. Whilst I accept that sports nutrition is important for professional athletes, I strongly believe most Australians will be healthier if we focus on eating better food, and getting all the nutrition we need from good food, instead of synthetic supplements. It was this experience that gave me the inspiration to start KOJA. I’m inspired every time I visit a supermarket and see aisles filled with food products that don’t represent what I consider to be food. Even the “health food” aisle is full of overly processed food products! I want to continue to create products that are made from wholefoods and are truly good for us.
3. How did you end up on Shark Tank? What was the process to apply?
I was working at a co-working office in Richmond at the time and the producers promoted the show to a few start-ups there. It was surprisingly quick to apply, just a 10 min online survey and then a few weeks later I got a phone call to meet the producers for a casting.
4. Best 5 things about the experience?
A. Getting the opportunity to talk on national TV about my passion for health and real food.
B. Seeing the Australian public respond in such a positive way. Before Shark Tank I still had my doubts about whether or not I would be able to grow KOJA to be as big as I wanted it to be. After seeing the response from Shark Tank, I realised there are so many Australians who believe that real food IS the answer, and I felt so supported to keep striving to grow KOJA.
C. Getting to know my ‘Shark’ John McGrath. Whilst we decided not to go ahead with the investment after the show aired, it was a pleasure to meet him and the insight he gave me into growing my business continues to be invaluable to me.
D. Meeting the other entrepreneurs on the show- it was a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and be inspired by their start-up stories. Ted Tolfree from Crisp Salads here in Melbourne in particular- we’ve stayed in touch and continue to work together.
E. Seeing the amazing support from my friends and family in the weeks following Shark Tank. We sold out of all our stock within about 15 minutes after the show aired, so it was a crazy few weeks trying to manage the demand. There were a few weekends where I had staff, friends and family all armed with tape guns and labelling guns, working for hours on end to pack orders. Even my 85 year old grandfather helped out on the packing line!
5. Worst 5 things about the experience?
My attitude in life is to always focus on the positives. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be on Shark Tank and I’d to hate to scrutinise the experience to try to list 5 negatives. The experience as a whole was overwhelmingly positive and I wouldn’t change a thing!
6. 5 things we wouldn't expect about being on TV?
1. 6 minutes of airtime took 10 hours to film. My call time was 8am, and I was ready to go on soon after that, but due to the nature of TV, I was then on call for about 6 hours…. Which is a pretty good test for the nerves!
2. There was no second chance. Even though Shark Tank is pre-recorded, it was all done in one take. There was no option to start again or re-record.
3. I was filming in the “Shank Tank” for almost an hour… under the lights and the cameras, with 5 sharks grilling me with questions about every aspect of my business. That all gets cut down to about 6 minutes, making it look very short and sweet!
4. It’s not as glamorous as you’d think. I wasn’t in hair and makeup for hours, there was no wardrobe team. I did my own hair and makeup for the show and wore my own clothes.
5. Even now, 8 months after Shark Tank aired, I still occasionally get recognised from the show. It’s amazing to see how many people watched the show and how well people remember our brand and my story.
7. Give us a quick snapshot of your day on a plate.
7.30am Smoothie for breakfast - blueberries, ½ frozen banana, almond milk and a tablespoon of almond butter.
9.30am Long mac
12noon Salad – Mixed lettuce, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, feta cheese and KOJA Sesame & Almond Salad Topper
2pm Cold brew coffee
4pm 2 boiled eggs, always organic & free-range :)
8pm My husband and I usually cook on weekends and then weeknight dinners are ready when we get home from work. Tonight’s dinner will be a green curry – loads of veggies like eggplant, zucchini, bok choy, with some organic chicken cooked in green curry paste (onion, garlic, lemongrass, chilli, coriander seed, kaffir lime etc) and coconut milk. Weekdays I’m usually super healthy and then on the weekend I’ll relax a little and my day will also include poached eggs on sourdough toast, a glass or two of a local red wine and definitely some dark chocolate.
8. What's next for Koja?
We’ve already kicked off 2016 with a bang launching a new 210g size of our breakfast toppers. This year there will be more products to add to the KOJA Health range as well as new team members to welcome to the family. We’re also working on growing our national stockists so keep an eye out in your local health food store!