If you think a “slice” only refers to pizza, you definitely need to meet Boomerang Bites, a New York and New Jersey business run by Aussie-born CEO, Andrea Rizvi.
In this edition of AWNY Start Up Stories, Andrea tells how she successfully established a business that is not only efficient and profitable but also gives back to local communities. She reveals one of the most critical, yet daunting, levers to her business success and what she’s discovered about taste buds.
Tell us about Boomerang Bites? What do you do and what makes your business unique?
Boomerang Bites is an artisanal bakery on a social mission. Our motto is “Be Good, Do Good”. We hand craft, all natural, authentic Australian slice recipes into bite sized treats. We wholesale our bites to select cafes, provide catering services, and sell customized gift boxes online for corporate clients and individuals. We love sharing the delicious goodness of Aussie slices in a way that not only delights our customers’ taste buds, but also benefits our communities through generous givebacks.
Tell us about you and your business. How was Boomerang Bites born?
Like our recipes, I’m a transplant from the Land Down Under. Originally from Mackay and Brisbane, I arrived on American shores in my early 20s to study and work in international development. Over the next two decades I built my home in the US while traveling extensively, advising on projects to bring water, sanitation, electricity and roads to underdeveloped communities across the globe. I also started a family. As my children grew, I wanted to share with them the “yummo” treats I had enjoyed as a kid in Australia, so I started baking my favorite traditional Aussie slice recipes at home for my sons, their friends and families. They were an instant hit! Boomerang Bites was founded in 2017 to spread my passion for the goodness of delicious Aussie slices, but also as a socially conscious business that is efficient and profitable, and at its core gives back to, and takes care of, local communities.
How have your earlier personal and professional experiences influenced your business approach to Boomerang Bites?
After more than two decades of working in underprivileged communities across the globe, from the slums of Mumbai, to remote outback Aboriginal communities to war-torn Sarajevo, I saw first-hand how local people can make a difference. Boomerang Bites was founded not only to be good, but to do good. At least twenty percent of every dollar we make is given to local causes.
What have been your greatest challenges in starting a new business in New York?
Starting a business is quite humbling and for me has required learning a broad range of new skills very quickly. I have always prided myself on my ability to get things done, and have had a career focused on implementing projects under difficult conditions so I knew the logistics and management components would come easily. However this did not fully prepare me for the diversity of other skills that you need to acquire as an entrepreneur of a startup. We have a very lean operation which means that I am very hands on, from management, finances, marketing, social media, baking, and deliveries. I joke that my role as CEO is better described as Chief Everything Officer.
For New York specifically, there is the added challenge of serving the tri-state area which requires navigating the many government jurisdictions and associated regulations. As someone with a background in working and advising on regulations in different countries (admittedly in the infrastructure sector), I have been surprised by the number of regulations and different bodies responsible for oversight of the food industry, and how difficult it is often to get a straightforward answer to conflicting guidelines and policies at local, state and federal levels.
What are your three greatest learnings in starting up a business?
- Be true to yourself, never let others define you. In today’s world it is easy to follow the well-traveled path. Prior to starting Boomerang Bites I had invested a lot of education and time into building a successful career in a field that I loved. However for a variety of reasons, not least of them raising kids amidst a grueling travel schedule, I decided to make a change. It was initially very humbling to redefine myself and learn entirely new skills. I stayed true to my passion for baking, spreading goodness, and giving back and am excited to be working on building Boomerang Bites in a way that brings together perfectly my experience and core values.
- Taste buds are universal. We have so many delicious foods in Australia that have yet to make it to the massive US market. I believe the plethora of awesome Aussie cafes and bakeries hitting NYC is just the first wave of an Aussie food renaissance overseas. Aussies aren’t unique in loving great, authentic, natural food.
- Social media is a critically important medium for getting your message out. Initially I resisted. Perhaps it’s the Australian in me, but social media is not necessarily a comfortable space for me because I feel it requires a lot of self-promotion at times. However, I’ve come to appreciate how tools like Instagram are important in the food industry, and to understand that people are genuinely interested in learning more about our bites, our story and our mission. It continues to be a learning process. I’m not sure it will ever come naturally, but it is one that I work on daily! Follow us on Instagram: @boomerangbites.
What steps did you go through to launch your business?
Prior to launching my business I spent a lot of time on recipe development. I canvassed friends and family from Oz for their favorite slice recipes, and spent months and months hunting down the perfect versions of the chocolate caramel, raspberry coconut, and Anzac, and then translating them to US ingredients and measures. It was very important to me that we selected the very best recipes that also had a long shelf life without requiring any artificial preservatives or additives. Not surprisingly, I became very popular with my neighbors, friends, community and the local food kitchen as I repeatedly tested out and shared the different recipes!
In between long sessions in the kitchen we worked on administrative aspects, legally incorporating the company, finalizing branding, and setting up financial, marketing and logistical systems. We also finalized our search for a commercial kitchen space and obtained necessary health inspections and permits.
Once all this was in order it was a matter of selling our bites. Initially we relied heavily on local networks, catering local events, and working with charities for fundraisers as well as participating in farmers’ markets. There was also a lot of cold calling, and a lot of sample distribution and taste testing to get our product out there. We are still doing a bit of all of this, however we are increasingly seeing business generated through a strong core of cafes and our website.
Starting up can be notoriously difficult. What motivates you to keep going?
There are many challenges to starting a business, but our social mission is definitely what motivates me to keep going. I love sharing great Aussie slice recipes and all the nostalgia, home-made goodness and deliciousness that is associated with them. However, what really drives me is the desire to build a business that thrives, and also gives back to and takes care of the local communities in which we work. My time working in the development and non-profit sector has convinced me that truly sustainable social change relies on integrating social and business principles rather than separating them.
What has been your “A-ha” or ”I’ve made it in the USA” moment?
Not sure I’m there yet! As an entrepreneur every day presents a new challenge and every new obstacle overcome yields an “A-ha”. I definitely am excited about the momentum and growing sales of the company and am excited about the gift box offerings we will be launching this fall.
Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?
We have tried many different methods: cold-calling cafes, offering samples, farmers’ markets, networking. Each has been successful in different contexts. We have definitely benefited from the upsurge in Aussie cafes in the NYC area, which has helped generate a buzz around awesome Aussie foods.
Do you have any mentors that have been instrumental in their support?
My husband has a background in business consulting and finance with specific expertise in the food sector, and this has been incredibly helpful in navigating the industry. I have also relied heavily on “mom” and food entrepreneur networks in the northern NJ and NYC area, not to mention AWNY – it’s lovely to sell to customers who know that a slice is NOT a piece of pizza!
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?
Just do it! It’s easy to be overwhelmed by what you don’t know when you are starting out. Though I have always loved baking, I was not a professionally trained baker, and had always worked in the non-profit sector. I initially let this intimidate me. It’s amazing what you can learn if you just try.
Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business?
There is not much about Boomerang Bites that is not Australian. The name, the product, the story all have strong Aussie roots. It’s a wonderful place to come from as a person, and a business.
What is next for Boomerang Bites?
Having established a reliable roster of cafe customers we are looking to expand our presence in the catering and gift boxing markets. We are currently finalizing a new range of customized gift boxes that will allow us to ship domestically and thereby expand the geographic reach of Boomerang Bites and attract more corporate customers. Stay tuned for this exciting development in the fall!
Is there anything else you would like to share about your startup journey with the AWNY community.
I have to say that the path to entrepreneur has not been direct. I don’t think in my wildest childhood dreams that I ever expected to be living in the US running a bakery specializing in making Aussie slices. It’s not the career I embarked upon initially. I am reminded of a quote by Steve Jobs in his Stanford commencement speech, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”. This quote resonates deeply with me, because although starting Boomerang Bites may not have been on my career radar until very recently, it is a job that has allowed me to integrate my skills and core passions perfectly, and I could not be happier.
Do you have an offer or promo code you would like to share with the AWNY community?
Mention AWNY for 15% off your first purchase on our website.
Where can we find Boomerang Bites?
The ultimate guide to Australian Coffee Shops in NYC
Boomerang Bites is included in the AWNY guide to Australian coffee shops in NYC, and amongst a passionate network bringing the Aussie coffee culture and accompanying baked treats to NYC.
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