They say you’ll only regret the things you didn’t do in life, which is why Olivia Ellice-Flint plunged – virtually penniless – into her own venture. “After a couple of years of ‘what ifs’, ‘how the hell am I going to do this’, and millions of crazy ideas, it became the path I was going to take. If I didn’t go through with it, despite the innate fear of branching out on my own with a huge debt, I would regret it for the rest of my life.”
Now almost a year in, Olivia’s organic food and cocktail bar The Grassy Bowl – based out of an olive green, 1972 restored Kombi van – is catering to the wholesome tastes of Byron Bay’s beach-goers and a burgeoning throng of events and festivals (the first of which was Australia’s highest-attended shindig, Splendour in the Grass). Here are some lessons we gleaned from her on successfully launching a biz, the first time around.
Travel for inspiration
Olivia’s idea took root when she was in Hawaii, “enjoying the food truck experience in one of the world’s most sustainable countries.” A trip to India for yoga teacher training taught her “an Ayurvedic philosophy to appreciate our food and its origins,” and when she returned to Australia, she fine-tuned her fusion with local offerings. “Flavouring the food with native spices and plants such as Strawberry Gum and Warrigal Greens is my way of showing respect to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and has become a focal taste of The Grassy Bowl.”
Buddy with local businesses
The Grassy Bowl sources produce from a handful of local farmers and businesses in Byron Bay. “This is not only beneficial for our soils, but also to spread awareness about our native foods,” says Olivia, who found that meeting one supplier led her to connect with another… and so on. “In working together, a small business becomes a huge, collective web of likeminded people. If there’s one thing I have realised it’s that to be in business means to collaborate, and support other businesses so you can rise as a collective rather than an individual.”
Source funding from far and wide
Olivia was a uni student when she launched, with not much in the way of savings. “However, I was lucky enough to have an extremely supportive network of friends and family. We managed to raise AU$5,000 through a crowd-funding platform to start the venture.” She also put her friend, designer Tom Schwaiger, to work on her brand identity, and got herself accepted into the Australian government’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) – an initiative that provides financial backing to thousands of upstarts each year. “These regular payments supported me through the darker times.”
“If there’s one thing I have realised it’s that to be in business means to collaborate, and support other businesses so you can rise as a collective rather than an individual.”
Stick to your values
Running a sustainable business whilst also spinning a profit is an ongoing challenge – especially on the food tuck scene. “You only have a small window of time to feed as many people as possible, so when you’re creating an intricate meal, such as a ‘nourishing bowl’, with a variety of different, fresh ingredients made on the spot, it is hard to operate at such speed,” says Olivia, adding that organic ingredients also come at a cost. “I must admit when I watch the burgers been pumped out around me, it does get hard. But I believe the most important thing is to stay authentic to yourself and business values.”
With a budding partnership on the horizon, Olivia hopes to expand The Grassy Bowl into a full-service catering and events company – so keep an eye out for a little green Kombi in your hood.