Small-business accelerator Seedlab Australia is set to help start-ups and businesses across the country hone their craft and become retail ready, thanks to $4 million in support from Woolworths.
Fully funded by Woolworths, Seedlab Australia will help producers of food, beverage, home and personal care products start, scale and grow through training and support from industry experts spanning business strategy, production, range, distribution and branding.
The program will identify producers with the potential to scale their business in high growth categories such as artisan foods, health & wellness, and more sustainable products. Those ready for retail distribution will have the opportunity to pitch directly to the Woolworths buying team.
Seedlab Australia’s founder Dr Hazel MacTavish-West brings 30 years of industry experience to the program, with a background in food science and agri-food consulting, which has seen her build an extensive network of global industry contacts who contribute specialist knowledge to the program.
Over her career Dr MacTavish-West has brought numerous food and drink brands to market. She has the expertise to not only develop effective retail pitches and branding, but work with business owners to optimise formulations, production and consistency of supply.
Seedlab Australia founder, Dr Hazel MacTavish-West said: “We’re thrilled to partner with Woolworths to launch Seedlab Australia and support emerging businesses with the knowledge they need to build distribution and reach their goals.
“We’re passionate about helping Australian producers plant the seeds for long term success and we’re excited to work with business owners across the country. It’s wonderful to see Australia’s largest supermarket invest in the industry pipeline to create opportunities for Australian food and drink businesses through our program.”
Woolworths Director of Buying, Paul Harker said: “Investing in small businesses is crucial to a thriving Australian food and manufacturing industry.
“We’re backing Seedlab Australia with $4 million to help give entrepreneurs with bright ideas the leg up they need to make them a reality.
“Seedlab Australia will support pioneering businesses to grow and navigate what it takes to be retail ready and help us bring innovative new locally-made products to our customers. With mentorship from some of the best in the business, Seedlab can help great Australian products reach their potential – and customers right across the country.”
Seedlab Australia builds on a successful pilot program for Tasmanian startups that began in 2020 and has supported more than 100 food businesses. The accelerator will support businesses at different stages of maturity through its three stage program – Start, Scale and Grow.
Offered at no expense to startups and emerging businesses, the pilot program has already helped dozens of small businesses strike supply deals and worked with a range of producers making products including ice cream, olive oil, cheese, curry and kombucha.
With guidance from Seedlab’s Tasmanian pilot, cheese producer Red Cow Organics is set to see its range on Woolworths’ shelves in Tasmania from September, before expanding into select NSW and Victorian stores in November this year. The deal marks Red Cow Organics’ first supply agreement with a major retailer.
Andy and Matt Jackman started Red Cow Organics nine years ago, making cheese with milk from their own dairy in North West Tasmania. To take the next step in their business, the Seedlab program helped the Jackman’s narrow their focus in order to scale.
With the mentorship of Dr MacTavish-West and the Seedlab team, Red Cow Organics selected its Persian Fetta as the product that would spearhead its retail dreams and set about fine tuning their product, production and brand to become retail ready.
Andy Jackman, Cofounder of Red Cow Organics said: “Thanks to the Seedlab program, we now have the vision and direction we needed to be able to grow, foster our strengths and continue to build a successful business.
“It’s allowed us to scale what we do to partner with Woolworths for the first time and we’re excited about seeing our organic cheese in-store and in customers’ shopping baskets later this year.”
As they continue to grow their business, the Jackmans have recently welcomed two new team members and expect to hire more in the coming months.
Seedlab Australia will deliver live and on-demand online learning content as well as tailored advice to participants, plus networking opportunities and workshops.
The first cohort of participants will commence around October this year. With Woolworths’ sponsorship the program is expected to work with up to 700 businesses over the next two years.