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Whole Kids: Scaling your business to meet customer needs

4-minute read

Switching up your business strategy in the wake of COVID-19? Monica Meldrum, founder of Whole Kids, shares her tips for scaling your business to meet customer needs.

Key take-outs
  • Seek out new opportunities when business as usual isn’t possible
  • Take advantage of financial support measures to keep the cash flowing and people employed
  • Encourage an open and honest discussion with customers to help gauge how your business can support them

In the wake of COVID-19, Monica Meldrum, founder of organic food company Whole Kids, knew she would have to think on her feet. The company’s usual distribution channels (airlines, schools and event venues) had quickly dried up as restrictions were put in place, so Whole Kids underwent a swift strategic change to stay afloat. Here are their five tips for scaling your business to meet customer needs. 

Business scaling tip 1: Look for new opportunities

Seeking out new opportunities can be key when your usual revenue streams are not an option. For Meldrum and the Whole Kids’ team, this meant identifying alternative sales channels.

 

“As families were going into lockdown, we thought about how we could support them better and what channels we could open up to make sure they still had access to healthy food,” she explains. “One of those channels was a home delivery service. We also focused on e-commerce and pretty quickly had five times our usual revenue through that channel.”

 

In addition to that, they sought out partnership opportunities that would open up Whole Kids to new customer bases and support other businesses in the process.

 

“We came across KidsCo, which normally does holiday programs but had quickly turned to in-home education support after COVID hit,” Meldrum says. “So, we looked at how we could team up so that they were providing the education and we were providing healthy nutrition. It’s a fantastic collaboration that’s been really well received.”

Business scaling tip 2: Consider financial support measures

In some cases, new opportunities may require additional funding to help you make positive change. Whole Kids managed to maintain their cash flow by relying on a variety of financial support measures.

 

“We had some suppliers who were concerned about what was going on, so they shortened their terms,” Meldrum explains. “Then we negotiated with our key customers to also assist us and shorten their terms – but that created a compounded cash flow issue.”

 

“So, we looked at what was available in terms of government support, like the JobKeeper payments. The City of Melbourne actually offered an IT grant, which enabled us to integrate our website with our enterprise resource planning system. It was all about looking at ways we could lean on support to smooth out the cash flow.”

Business scaling tip 3: Encourage an open dialogue with customers

Understanding your customers’ needs is crucial at any time, but especially in a rapidly evolving environment. Inviting open and honest discussion with customers can help you gauge how your business can be a pillar of support.

 

Meldrum says being transparent with customers was key to figuring out how their needs could be met through new business initiatives. 

 

“We really put ourselves out there and got closer to our customers.

 

“We’re a purpose-based business, so it’s really important for us to help in a meaningful way. We asked our customers what support and help they needed, and also put it out there that we needed some help and support for our business too.”

Business scaling tip 4: Prioritise people management

Employees who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to go above and beyond for the business and hold themselves accountable for achieving the best outcomes. The Whole Kids team has proved to be a testament to that.

 

“Some of my team are juggling families and work, others are on their own or have families overseas,” Meldrum explains. “So, from a leadership perspective, my real focus is on supporting my team.

 

“We’ve become super flexible in terms of working hours and we’re really focusing everyone on outcomes and goals. As a whole, we’re working better as a team. We’ve bonded really strongly and everyone has just stepped up unbelievably, putting in so much effort.”

Business scaling tip 5: Don’t lose sight of the long term

Given how quickly things can change, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. But Meldrum emphasises that planning for the future is vital to making a short-term pivot a long-term success.

 

“There are two things to focus on,” she explains. “One is to move pretty quickly to adapt to the immediate environment and what is playing out. The other is how to come out of this longer term.

 

“For us, a lot of strategic planning has been happening in the background. We went back and looked at our cost structures, our pricing and our margins and now we actually have a better understanding of the business. I think we’ll come out of the situation in a much stronger position.”

 

The global pandemic has challenged many professionals to step out of their comfort zone and approach business differently. However, businesses that scale strategically may be at an advantage. 


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Things you should know

This article is a general overview and should be used as a guide only. We recommend that you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before acting.