Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Peita Pini, I am MD & Founder of The Swag
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
As a mum of two, I was sick and tired of throwing away rotting fruit and veggies after only a few days since purchasing. Determined to find a solution that empowered people to lead healthier lives, reduce the cost of fresh produce to the household budget, and combat both food wastage and plastic pollution, I spent years developing the revolutionary product that solved all of these pain points.
Describe the process of launching the business.
It was when I had children of my own that I became more conscious of the extent of fresh food waste in my own home. I started to notice condensation building up inside the plastic bag or container I was storing my veggies in. I realised I was storing my food in toxic materials, and watching them sweat. Fresh produce is living and breathing, and all living things need air and water to survive. So, I set out to fix the problem.I knew nothing of online retail, manufacturing, textiles or the patent and trademarking process. Years of trial and error in my kitchen resulted in creating a design that really worked, and The Swag was born.
I thought it might just be a side hustle, or something I might just share with friends and family, but after seeing a documentary on children in slavery, I was inspired to create The Swag into a business so I could donate the profits to Destiny Rescue – a non-profit organisation dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating children from human trafficking. In my first year of business, I donated 100% of The Swag’s profits to Destiny Rescue. Today, The Swag donates 5% of all profits to the organisation.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Consistent, loyal, positive reviews. We are a multi-award winning, SEDEX certified, start-up business, and up until recently, relied on the 1000s of five-star customer reviews claiming The Swag keeps produce fresh and crisp for weeks. Now in my 5th year as a start-up, I teamed up with Australia’s Applied Horticulture Research, to scientifically test the efficacy of The Swag’s design. The study compared the storage life and quality of produce in The Swag, to storing in plastic, paper and no packaging, in a domestic refrigerator.
Results concluded The Swag not only keeps fruit and veggies fresh for over two weeks (and in some cases up to four weeks) but in one trial extended the storage life of fruit and veggies up to 38% longer than when stored in plastic.
I have already found this scientific backing invaluable. It’s starting to push those not convinced of the incredible (albeit anecdotal) claims, across the line.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
It’s been challenging, but The Swag business is thriving and I have big goals and a dream vision that I’m not taking my eyes off. After receiving Oprah’s endorsement in O Magazine, as one of “Oprah’s Favourite Sustainable Products”, The Swag expanded into the US in 2017 and is now looking to expand into the EU market, with an ambitious mission to be in 1 billion households by 2030.
By 2030, I want to see Swag Australia empower over 1 billion people around the world to live waste and plastic-free, with a net profit that contributes to over 10,000 children being freed from slavery and provided long term rehabilitation.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Mentorships (especially from other female-founders), the art of applying for grants/funding, PR and a solid, supportive team.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We are an e-commerce site; we use Shopify. We also leverage social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, LinkedIn) as well as other digital marketing tools like Klaviyo.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Honestly, the mentors I’ve accessed through networking.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
First and foremost; spend time and energy doing your research and asking questions. As an example, when I was researching fabrics to use, I interviewed five leading fabric wholesalers and importers. I asked them the safest material to put up against food and 100% said cotton. This peaked my interest as at the time, bamboo and hemp were considered and promoted as the holy grail of 100% natural, eco and sustainable fabrics. However, after further research, I soon realised that bamboo and hemp (when turned into a fabric) uses a highly toxic chemical process. Certainly not something you would like to have up against your food or skin. If I had chosen bamboo or hemp as part of my products it could have easily destroyed my business.
Second; testing. Test your idea, product or service (over and over and over again) on a wide cross section of friends and family and ask for their brutally honest feedback. You’ll find out some interesting insights that will really help you hone your business. If you need an NDA then ask them to sign one beforehand.
Third; put some skin in the game. Once you start spending money on business registrations, patents, trademarks, websites etc. then this will get you out of procrastination and into action. If you’re working full time whilst creating a ‘side hustle’ always address the one single thing (BHOG) that will move your business forward – this way you don’t get bogged down in the small stuff.
Finally; Knowing your “why” is the powerful tool on your belt. For me as soon as I had a reason (outside of myself) to make this business profitable – the whole business launched off!