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Julie Hirsch and Nicole Lamond: The new 2-woman business that just raised $1m capital and won over Woolworths
Fri 21 June 2019 - 11:56 amExpert | Featured | Let's Talk
Julie Hirsch and Nicole Lamond have founded Eloments, the world’s first organic tea enriched with plant-based vitamins and minerals, designed to give consumers a natural and enjoyable way to take their daily vitamins.
This small company – comprised of just Julie and Nicole – is celebrating a big win this month with entry into the tea aisle in 75% of Woolworths supermarkets around Australia, making them one of the few female-owned companies to sit in the category.
In their recent capital raising mission, Julie and Nicole broke the $1million-raised mark.
According to Forbes, only 2.2% of venture capital funding in 2018 went to female founders. Julie and Nicole hope to be part of the movement of female-led businesses around the world changing this norm.
Nicole, who was a founding member of Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand in 2003 and a single mother of three, met Julie at a writers group in Melbourne. Julie was a Deputy Director of an environmental NGO at the time and after bonding over ethical trade, healthy living and tea, they set out to create the world’s first 100% natural vitamin tea, Eloments. The have also launched Eloments into the UK and have demand from the Middle East, Europe and parts of Asia.
Dynamic Business spoke to both Nicole and Julie about Eloment’s growth, challenges and future in an exclusive interview. It’s a fantastic insight into some of the struggles women have with securing finance for their start-ups and Julie and Nicole have also shared tips on their marketing strategies and what they’re finding works right now.
DB: How has Elements grown since it was founded?
Nicole: We spent two years developing a patent-pending process for the world’s first 100% natural vitamin tea. This innovation was greeted with excitement from both retailers and consumers, and after selling our first box of tea in September 2018, Eloments is now in almost 1000 stores globally including 75% of Woolworths stores nationally. In only 8 months we were in almost 1000 stores around the world and had to quickly look to open a Series A funding round to support our growth.
DB: Where did the initial; idea come from?
Nicole: As busy professional women, we wanted to make sure we were getting all of the nutrients we needed to stay healthy, but we hated taking pills and didn’t like the idea of taking synthetic supplements (as the majority of supplements on supermarket shelves are).
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, only 5%1 of Aussies are eating enough fruit and veg every day, but around half of professional-age women in Australia drink more than one cup of tea per day2. 100% natural vitamins in a beautiful cup of Fairtrade tea was a natural progression.
DB: What makes your business unique, or what sets you apart from your competitors?
Julie: Eloments is the only tea on the market that blends natural organic vitamins. Tea is a beautiful and healthy beverage option, and increasingly people look to tea for its traditional health benefits and antioxidants. It seemed like the perfect medium to blend organic fruit and herbal extracts that had been standardised for their vitamin content. It also contains no plastics like some other tea bags can.
Every cup of Eloments Organic Vitamin Tea provides you with over 40% of your recommended daily intake of nine essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B1 B2 B3 B5 B6 B7 B9 C and Zinc. Eloments’ multivitamin blend, which was developed in collaboration with an Australian Dietician and Nutritionist, was formulated for general health and wellbeing, and can help with things like immunity, sleep and skincare.
DB: What are some of the challenges you faced when you initially established your business and how did you overcome them? Was securing investment as women difficult?
Julie: We know that globally only 2 per cent of venture capital funding goes to female founders – very alarming! And while this was extremely challenging hurdle for us as female founders, we also acknowledge that the statistics are even more challenging for women of different ethnicities.
When we first started looking at opening a Series A funding round, they approached a few companies in the Venture Capital space in Australia. At every meeting, the men in the room commented that it was unusual to see women raising capital. One even said it was nice to see women in the office, full stop!
Also, when we set out to make a 100% natural vitamin tea, no one had ever been able to create one before. Manufacturing challenges meant that other companies had chosen to use synthetic vitamins, so we had to create a totally new process for blending the nutrients with Fairtrade teas in a way that wouldn’t harm the plant-based extracts. After two years of research and development, we created an innovative manufacturing process that is now patent-pending.
Once we had created our world-first vitamin tea, the response from retailers and tea lovers was overwhelming. In only 8 months we were in almost 1000 stores around the world and had to quickly look to open a Series A funding round to support our growth.
DB: Where do you see Eloments in 10 years?
Nicole: Our goal is to become the leading vitamin tea brand globally.
We also hope to move the tea category towards transparent and ethical supply chains. Eloments is Fairtrade certified, which is one of the most rigorous trade certifications in the world. Fairtrade means that farmers are paid a living wage and that our tea is grown using sustainable practices. This has a huge impact on the regions where our teas are grown – for example, the majority of the tea for our Ceylon Breakfast blend comes from farms less than an acre in size, and many of them are run by women, helping to provide more economic stability.
DB: What strategies do you use to market your business?
Nicole: We love giving out free samples of our natural vitamin tea so that tea lovers can see how delicious taking their vitamins can be. We’re offering free samples on our website at the moment (hand packed by us!) for Aussies interested in trying Eloments at https://eloments.com.
We’ve sourced some of the best Fairtrade ingredients around the world – from peppermint grown under the desert sun in Egypt to Ceylon tea grown on small-scale family farms less than an acre in size.