Jarrod Milani and Marcus Brown are the co-founders of Forbidden Foods – a rice foods company based in Melbourne, with a vision to “Feed The World With The World’s Best”. They pride themselves on the quality of the specialty & organic rice varieties they give can give their customers – including black rice, red rice and green rice, brown rice and white rice.
The Forbidden Foods range is sold throughout 1500 retail stores and food service outlets in Australia and New Zealand and was most recently named 2015 Supplier of the Year by Zambrero, the leading Mexican Restaurant franchise in Australia.
An idea can be exciting but also daunting and some people struggle to get past the idea stage. We found that, in any given moment, focusing on completing the next immediate step has helped us stay focused and thus builds momentum.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
It was 2010 when Marcus returned from travelling the United States. He saw and tasted black rice for the first time. It really hooked him. I remember Marcus saying, “Black rice just makes sense – It has taste, texture and natural health benefits behind it, so why can’t I buy it in Australia.” He had a point, so we set out together to introduce it to Australia.
Can you please explain your business model?
We work directly with a select number of rice farms globally that fit our quality standards and we then sell it to retail outlets and food service customers in Australia and New Zealand under the Forbidden brand.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
We’re in the process of rolling out our organic brown rice and organic white rice nationally. It’s always fun to launch a new product! Rice wholesaling is a heavy and high volume product, so in 2016 we will be working on new infrastructure for our supply chain strategy that enables us to service not only local customers more efficiently, but also international clients.
How do you make ideas happen?
One step at a time. An idea can be exciting but also daunting and some people struggle to get past the idea stage. We found that, in any given moment, focusing on completing the next immediate step has helped us stay focused and thus builds momentum.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
We know there are those who have more experience than us, so we regularly seek them out for advice. They’ve been critical in our overall direction and we always lean on them when we’re at a crossroads.
What does your typical day look like?
Routine is important to us. It’s in at 8.30am, cover off any overnight emails, book in any orders and deliveries and then tackle any major projects or meetings until lunch. After lunch until 4pm is all the day to day actionable administration items and then after 4pm it is where we respond to any emails and explore our more lofty ideas.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
In our early days, when we set out to find our first service providers like the bank, packaging printer, warehouse and freight & logistics, we found it difficult to find businesses that were willing to provide services to us because we were too small. Most of the ones that believed in us way back then are still our suppliers today and are happy that they backed us.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Look where the majority isn’t. The market is hot on technology, health care, wearables, digital currencies, IoT and virtual reality and it seems that every day a new entrant arises, however, great opportunities still exist in all the sectors that our economy motors on.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
Sundrop farms, based in South Australia, is the only company in the world trying to use seawater and sunlight to operate greenhouses that can provide sustainable food production. Very ambitious and impressive plan.
The Chia Co is a chia seeds company that originated out of Western Australia. Today they are a global leader in Chia Seeds and have been very consistent with their likeable brand, product innovation and market expansion.
What about internationally?
Freight Farms allow farms to be placed in urban communities in a shipping container under the most efficient growing conditions. This tackles the issue I mentioned earlier of freight costs being factored into the final cost of goods and allows all year round produce. Indoor farming is definitely something we are keeping an eye on.
FarmLogs provide farmers with critical analytics and insights about their operations. It’s about helping farmers work smarter so they can grow more with less.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
We believe businesses can bring more innovation and sustainability to social change. Money can help, but sometimes it doesn’t address the root cause of the issue. Where we believe businesses can help most is by using their competitive advantages to assist in advancing society. For example, Facebook is a leader in social online interaction and is using their large reach and audience to promote and build a network of partners that can connect the parts of the world who do not have internet access. See www.Internet.org for more information.
Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like to support?
We utilise an Australian Disability Enterprise called VATMI to package our product in Melbourne. This helps to provide gainful employment to those with a disability.
We’ve also just recently started assisting Stop Hunger Now as their ingredient sourcing and supply chain partner in Australia & New Zealand. Stop Hunger Now package and ship meals to those all over the world in need, working towards a world without hunger, and we’re proud to be able to help them with that by providing our supply chain and ingredient sourcing knowledge.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
We’re always looking for opportunities to scale. We’ll soon be on the hunt for a savvy full time book keeper who’s willing to wear more than one hat! We also welcome anyone with enough gusto to pitch any position in our foods business that will add value to Forbidden Foods while sustaining their own wage.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
With the focus of automation of a number of current jobs, how do we create the next generation of businesses that generate significant gainful employment?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
We’re right next door to Beraldo Coffee in Northcote! Being dangerously close, Beraldo coffee is our fuel each day.