January 1, 2016

From the wild west coast of Auckland to West Africa’s remote villages is a long journey for three idealists wanting a fair deal for growers. Five years ago, on Piha’s black surf beach, the co-founders of All Good Organics picked the banana as one of the world’s least ethically traded edibles. Bananas are still New Zealand shoppers’ top buy, but thanks to brothers Matthew and Chris Morrison and Simon Coley, consumers in supermarkets and fruit shops nationwide can now choose a bunch that doesn’t come packed with guilt.

One idea for good led to another for the small Grey Lynn company. “The cola industry grew from the kola nut native to West Africa, but not a cent was returned to the villagers who harvested the nuts,” says financial director Matt, who works from Wellington. “Most cola drinks are flavoured with synthetics now, so we wanted to make a real drink from real stuff grown by real people. And, working through the German NGO, Welthungerhilfe, we wanted every bottle of Karma Cola we sold to benefit the Boma community of Sierra Leone where the kola trees grow.”

The Problem
But it required more than a strong sense of Kiwi justice to brew a soft drink from local natural ingredients and kola nuts, especially when the cola comes from a poverty-stricken country recovering from civil war. “Before we could begin trading we needed an inventory system,” recalls Matt. “We’d had no need when we were only sourcing ethically grown bananas from Ecuador.”

“To a small company, every cent matters so whatever we chose had to be very affordable. We also wanted something user-friendly that would be a straightforward plug-in. It had to integrate seamlessly with our Xero accounting system. So we talked to our accountant, Justin Keen from Cloud Accountants, who is a huge proponent of keeping things simple and of using the cloud as much as possible.”

“Justin recommended Unleashed Software, and we’d heard of other small businesses using Unleashed successfully. It sounded pretty easy to implement, and I’m no expert in inventory management systems. So we looked at the online seminar and talked to Unleashed, and we were all confident that it was the right tool for us.”

The Solution
“Most of the implementation was done by Unleashed, and 90% of it was complete within a week. It was very, very straightforward”, emphasises Matt. “That was at the end of 2012 and it was a relief to know we had one less thing to worry about.”

Sales turnover was accelerating and the list of products and ingredients was lengthening. First-born ‘Karma Cola’ soon had company: brother and sister Fairtrade drinks, ‘Lemmy’ and ‘Gingerella’. The cola, lemon and ginger trio were settling into premium cafes, bars, restaurants and retailers throughout the country.

“All Good Organics has exploded in recent months,” says Matt. “Full-time staff has grown to 24, and we’re working directly with distributors in Australia. In May we moved into the UK, with an office in London, and in September we will begin production in Somerset.”

The emphasis is on locally brewed, which is why All Good Organics is setting up in Somerset but the craft sodas are also being drunk in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong.

“We have a very long supply chain and lots of small orders weekly with a high transaction volume. Our smallest orders may be for two to three cases. But Unleashed is a very easy platform to work with as our sales staff only have to enter the sales details once and then it flows through to Xero.”

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“We can track sales and see from day-to-day what our stockholding is, and know that when we’re writing invoices they are going to the right place. Unleashed makes for an easy relationship with our accountant, as he can see the same information we see. He can log in and fix our problems without us having to be involved. We can get balance sheet reports and see what our financial position is throughout the month, without having to wait till the end. Our independent subsidiary company in the UK uses Unleashed too, so that’s another thing we don’t have to worry about.”

“We have grown 500% in the last 12 months and like Unleashed, are developing all the time. They keep adding more and more tools and making their software easier and easier to use. Rapid growth brings big cash-flow problems and it’s a challenge to manage them, so it’s great to have Unleashed by All Good Organic’s side as we grow our market in the UK and Australia. We also want to push further into Europe.”

Another unexpected challenge was names. “If we had anticipated the growth, we’d have thought more carefully about the ingredient names we put into Unleashed,” cautions Matt. “For instance, we have three different lemon concentrates now, so we’ve had to rename things a few times so we can find the right ingredient name for the product we’re assembling.”

“We want to double our business every year but we don’t want to get too carried away,” says Matt. “Profitability will be a problem because everything we make in the next few years will be going back into the business.”

It’s not profit but the people-side of All Good Organics that keeps Matt passionate. “It’s a chance to have great trips and a privilege to get insights into countries like Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka — where our vanilla comes from. We wanted to restore the connection between the consumer in the cafe and supermarket aisle, and the people growing that food. Companies are making a poorer and poorer job of making that link and, if All Good does a good job, consumers will become interested in overcoming that gap.”

So if there’s no money for marketing, how is All Good Organics growing so rapidly? “Word-of -mouth and good favours from people who like us or feel sorry for us,” jokes Matt. “Being named the ‘world’s fairest trader’ by Fairtrade International, which recognises 27,000 products in 120 countries, has given us a huge profile this year. We’ve also latched ourselves onto the growing coffee culture.”

The Result
It is fitting, then, that the kola nut and the coffee bean both contain the sought-after caffeine that is used ritualistically in both modern and traditional societies. “The cafe revolution in the UK is being led by New Zealanders who started out in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch,” explains Matt. “They’ve taken their business to London and elsewhere to start new cafes for people demanding good coffee. It’s all about relationships, and our sales people finding the next great place that’s opening up.”

A good relationship with Unleashed has also aided All Good Organics’ exciting growth, Matt believes. “Because we travel so often, we’re really looking forward to a specific platform for mobile devices and seeing positive new things coming from Unleashed,” says Matt. “When you are growing together, you feel as if you are partners in business together.”

It’s great to have Unleashed by All Good Organics side as we grow our market in the UK and Australia.