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Mob Pod: Tara Croker – Yaala Sparkling

Tara Croker is a proud Wiradjuri woman. She is the founder of Yaala Sparkling a ‘beverage company devoted to making delicious, luxurious non-alcohol drinks that honour the true flavours our Ancestors have enjoyed for generations.’ Tara shares her business story with Lisa Gissing from Westpac.


LG: Hello, everyone, I'm Lisa Gissing from Westpac, and today we're speaking with Tara Croker, founder of Yalaa Sparkling, a Queensland based Indigenous owned business producing alcohol free sparkling drinks with native ingredients. Welcome, Tara


TC: Lisa, happy to be here.

LG: Before we begin, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the traditional owners of the various lands in which we all meet and pay my respects to elders, both past and present.


LG: I also acknowledge and pay respects to those here today who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and recognise the diversity of Indigenous peoples, countries and culture in Australia. As Australia's first bank, we acknowledge our role in supporting an inclusive and diverse nation where all of our cultural backgrounds are recognised and respected.


LG: Tara, I'd love you to share your story with us behind Yaala Sparkling, including your appearance on the television show Shark Tank.

TC: Yiradhu Marang everyone, my name is Tara Croker, as Lisa said, and I'm the founder of Yaala Sparkling. So I'm a proud Wiradjuri yinaa, or woman. And in my language, Yaala means the present moment.


TC: So that kind of resonated with me in my language because I created Yaala Sparkling to respectfully share and bring to life the ancient flavours of our land in a modern drink for everybody to enjoy and hopefully connect over.


TC: So when I started the journey, I did notice in the market an increase in non-Indigenous businesses using traditional plant knowledge in their products. And that led me to kind of go on the journey to discover the Indigenous representation in the native food supply chain may shock you to know is less than 2%.


TC: And that did kind of put the fire in my belly to turn the tables and show up in the native space just because I guess the economic benefits aren't returning back to the community and I guess that's where the knowledge comes from for the use of these plants. So I started Yaala Sparkling, like many black businesses do, with a kind of collective, sustainable and community driven approach.


TC: And with the idea that Yaala Sparkling drinks are more than a drink, that it also represents participation, equity and self-determination. So a little bit about Yaala Sparkling. We are a beverage company devoted to making delicious, luxurious non-alcohol drinks that honour the true flavours our ancestors have enjoyed for generations. So we believe in sustainable growth from the plants we use to our business practices.


TC: We importantly work with Indigenous wild harvesters and local farmers to create healthy beverages. And I guess as we use the real plants, the benefits of those plants are passed on to everybody to enjoy as well. So, I mean, I think our drinks are delicious and refreshing. They're made with all natural ingredients. They are sugar free, low in calories, vegan, gluten free, and they are no artificial colours and preservatives. So, it's completely natural.


TC: So we launched Yaala Sparkling in early 2023. So we are still, as businesses go early on and in the beginning of our journey, though, we have seen significant growth and some incredible things happen along our journey. One of those which you mentioned, Lisa, which is the appearance on Shark Tank recently.


TC: Yeah, that was an absolutely amazing and incredible experience to go on that show and end up with some incredible partners and have a lot of support flow through from the community and customers and viewers of the show. So, yeah, I'm really proud what we've accomplished so far at Yaala Sparkling and in a short period of time.


TC: Yeah, we've created a successful business that's making a positive impact on the environment and the community. And we really hope that our beautiful drinks are a nice vessel to kind of begin a conversation and create a more connected Australia.


LG: Fantastic. And as you say, a relatively short journey to begin with, but a very eventful and very successful journey to date. So nice work. What surprised you the most in opening a business?

TC: I come from a corporate background, so I've had a long career in marketing, so I have been exposed to all different parts of business through my corporate work. But I think what surprised me in starting a business is just how many different things there are to do across the different business functions.


LG: Is there anything that you would do differently upon reflection of your journey to date?

TC: This is a really tricky question because it's hard to say you would do something differently when you've kind of very proud and happy with the journey that you've had to date.


TC: I think probably the area that I would say I could do differently would be becoming a bit more of an expert in the manufacturing space. As I said, I come from a corporate background in marketing, and entering the beverage industry is a completely new world to me. It's hard to say that you would do it differently because I think whenever you enter a new industry or start a new business, you can't be expert in everything you have to learn along the journey. But if I could do something differently, it would become a beverage industry expert.


LG: How important is cash flow in running a business?

TC: Cash flow is quite important in running a business, especially for our business. It's super important because we have to forecast quite a bit for our ingredients well in advance, just because of the seasonality and the availability of the plants that we use. We need to make sure well in advance that we have the cash flow there to buy the ingredients that we need, to hold us well for our production to come.


TC: Our manufacturing lifecycle can be three months in advance that we need to lock in our next production date and we need to kind of balance that really finely with our current stock levels. So yeah, cash flow is quite important from even just a stock and ingredients standpoint for our business.

LG: What do you love most about being a business owner or an entrepreneur as you say?


TC: The thing that I love the most about being in business or have cherished the most so far in the journey is just the support that comes through from our customers and community who really understand and get the mission for what we're trying to achieve with our products and sharing cultural stories. And I often get messages of support from our customers, which makes me really proud and I guess reassured that we're on the right track and doing the right thing.


TC: And other thing I love about being a business owner is surrounding myself with other mob in business or other business entrepreneurs as well. They're usually really passionate, driven people and everybody's so willing to share their knowledge and learnings that they've had along the way as well, which is a really beautiful community to be a part of.

LG: Absolutely. And so thinking to other members of the community for a moment, what advice would you give other community members, perhaps looking to start their business, not quite sure where to start. What would you say to them?


TC: I would tell anyone else looking to start the journey of entrepreneurship. One of the most important lessons, I guess that I've learned along the way, and that is just to be resilient, tenacious and patient. There will definitely be setbacks along the way, but just make sure you keep going and don't give up on the vision and the dream that you have.


LG: Wonderful advice. Now, really importantly, how do people find you? Sample your amazing products?

TC: You can find us on Instagram, LinkedIn, or you can head on over to our website and taste Yaala Sparkling for yourself, or learn a little bit more about us over there at

LG: Today we've been speaking with Tara Croker, founder of Yaala Sparkling. Thank you very much, Tara, for your time today.

TC: Thanks for having me, Lisa.


The information contained in this presentation is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness of the information to your own circumstances and if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


Acknowledgement to Country

Westpac acknowledges the First Peoples of Australia and recognises their ongoing role as Traditional Owners of the land and waters of this country. We acknowledge Westpac’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, partners, and stakeholders, and pay our respects to their Elders, both past and present. 

Things you should know

The choices and decisions made by Tara Croker are her own and this podcast is about her journey and not intended to be advice. This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714.