Friends since primary school, Melinda Richards and Kellie Hermansson have been through it all. Nine years ago, they became business partners after Melinda founded super food business Super Sprout.
Together, they have been through the highs and lows of building a brand and have come out the other side with both their friendship and working relationship stronger than ever.
Super Sprout is an Australian owned business that produces pure, all natural, allergen free, additive-free fruit and vegetable powders. Products include broccoli sprout powder, beetroot and blueberry powders.
Richards and Hermansson are using their unique business model to provide solutions in combating the obesity crisis. They are industry leaders trying to prove themselves in a time when chronic illnesses are some of the most prevalent diseases facing our society.
“The fact that we know each other so well I believe is an enormous benefit for achieving goals both as friends and business associates,” Melinda shares in the below Q&A.
Below, Melinda and Kellie answer some questions for Women’s Agenda on how honest communication has really worked for them and their tips for other women thinking of going in to business with a friend.
Can you tell us a little about your company Super Sprout and what inspired its beginnings?
Melinda: The idea originally came from my father discovering that feeding thoroughbred race horses with home grown wheatgrass sprouts improved their performance. He reasoned that if horses are going to get this extraordinary benefit, why not humans? And he also understood the unbelievable goodness of sprouts.
Hence the name ‘Super Sprout’, which I developed when he and I were discussing the concept 8 years ago. Our scientifically tested Broccoli Sprout Powder is our global best seller – as ‘sprouts’ are actually ancient foods that offer medicinal properties that go beyond just health.
Super Sprout is a 100% Australian owned and operated business, producing pure, all natural, allergen free, additive free fruit and vegetable powders. All the powders grown and manufacture are 100% pure, fruit or vegetable. Our products include broccoli sprout powder, beetroot and blueberry powders. Our broccoli sprout powder is 30 times more powerful than the mature plant due to the concentration.
The powders are a quick and easy way to get in our daily nutrients and can be used in so many ways. Whether you add it to smoothies, sprinkle it on your eggs, wraps or sandwiches – the options are honestly endless to turn any food into superfoods. They also have a great shelf life and will stay fresh in your cupboard for up to 8 weeks, much longer than fresh fruits and veggies
Kellie: Since joining the team in January 2011 every day is new because we’re a standalone business. No one else in Australia is creating the same innovation around growing, producing and marketing pure broccoli sprouts and broccoli sprout powder.
To me this is ground breaking, important work, providing solutions to combat the obesity crisis. In my eyes it really does feel like every day is a ‘new beginning’. Every time we plan, strategise and make decisions we’re in fact covering new ground & setting new standards.
Finally, the cost of growing food in Australia is the very reason why other brands go ‘off shore’ or import cheap foods from overseas, impacting the quality and standards of food we consume today.
This fact will impact our health & wellness overall for years to come and is why Super Sprout is dedicated to remaining 100% Australian.
What has the transition from friendship to business partners been like for you?
After nearly 9 years working together, I’d have to say it has been a very rewarding journey through the highs and lows of building a brand.
Working so closely together teaches you a lot about each other’s temperament and expectations. It’s so interesting to learn just how similar but different we are. The fact that we know each other so well I believe is an enormous benefit for achieving goals both as friends and business associates.
Being on the same page in relation to how we believe the business should grow and keep moving forward allows us to understand our roles and get the job done.
In what way has the strong foundation of long-term friendship been an asset to Super Sprout?
When negotiating the position and role back in 2011 we had a very frank and honest discussion around what we thought our friendship could withstand. Awkward ‘yes’ and is difficult as you can never predict the future and there’s the pressure of that saying, ‘you should never mix business and friendship together’.
After going through our check list, we both consciously chose to agree that nothing really could be a significant issue that could impact our friendship.
We’ve always believed in the powder of ‘honest communication’ and whilst sometimes that is hard, it really works.
What advice would you give to other women who are thinking of going into business with a friend?
- Set the working expectations at the very beginning.
- Discuss any topics that could be potential deal breakers – that may hurt the relationship – so they can be thought out & discussed immediately
- Open & honest communication always
- Acknowledge & celebrate how ‘lucky’ we are to be such an amazing business partnership ‘frequently’ & that we’re so good at making it work.
Any tips for maintaining a strong working relationship with a business partner over the long term, especially when dealing with challenging times or adversity?
Our top two tips are to be clear when the conversation is in relation to either ‘business’ or ‘personal’. Name it so there in no confusion, and always keep business conversions within ‘business setting’ e.g. boardroom, office – personal in social settings – lunch room or before business hours.
Has nutrition always been a passion for both of you?
Melinda : My mother taught me about the importance of health and nutrition from a young age. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for real and raw foods and nurturing our bodies, as they are the only one we get!
Kellie: Growing up as a kid nutrition was never a focus for me or my parents in our household. It’s just something we never consciously spoke about or discussed. I was very active a kid, teenager & young adult and was always very thin so I could eat whatever I wanted and never put on weight.
These days being less active working full time with Super Sprout & with 2 kids – I know the importance of making health conscious food choices. I am very well read about the food industry, there’s never been a time where accessing information about nutrition has been so easy. So, making the transition to leading a healthier lifestyle has been hand in hand with Super Sprout.
Working in this industry has opened my eyes in so many ways about reasons why and how to create a better and healthier future for my children & their children to follow.
Can you tell us a little about your business goals for Super Sprout over the next 12 months?
Super Sprout has been working hard to build our footprint in both the USA and China markets. Already having Super Sprout offices in both countries will require a great deal of time and support to build the brand. The businesses focus is to continue to develop and educate consumers around the health benefits gained by including super nutritious foods, like broccoli sprouts, into their daily diets. We want to eventually be known as the ‘sprout people’ and develop our reputation as industry world experts on all things ‘sprout’ related.
What does an average day look like for you both managing both the home and work front?
Kellie: I have 2 very active children that play sports both before and after school with a desire to play representative basketball overseas.
This ambition takes dedication and self-discipline from the family unit and it also requires dedicated parents to drive them around the Gold Coast & Brisbane as they’re never in the same place together. (of course!!!)
My mornings start early at around 5.30am to make lunches and get the kids ready for school. This part of my day ‘is’ the most exhausting – as growing, hormonal teenagers ‘never’ want to get out of bed.
Once I do school drop off & it’s time to battle traffic to get to the office. Like most mothers, a few black coffees work wonders to get me through the day – I finish work then get home to have a nutritious meal ready for when 2 ‘starving’ teenagers (who are never full) walk in after sport – and a tired husband.
The question “whats for dinner” I’m sure will be the death of me – but somehow, I seem to be able to meet expectations and sneak Super Sprout product into nearly every dish.
Once the dinner rush is over & the kids, dog and husband are settled – it’s important that I have some quiet time either reading a book or watching Netflix just to relax after the day.
I like to be in bed by 9.30pm where I then do a quick check of my social media platforms (it’s habit I know but doesn’t stop me from sleeping) asleep by 10pm – until my alarm goes off, and I start all over again.
It does seem a little like ‘ground hog day’ some days – but it does give me a great sense of purpose and I love so much – that’s what keeps me going. Life is good.