WITH a tried and tested family golden ginger cookie recipe, a sprinkle of sarcasm and a background in marketing and advertising, Emma Head scored an investment on Shark Tank from Janine Allis and Andrew Banks.

Her business, Sweet Mickie, is a personalised biscuit company and she stamps messages into the icing on top of the cookies with messages to make people laugh and add a bit of fun to their day, and their sugar-fix.

The cookies were initially an outlet to express herself, but Emma Head's friends spead the word and in 2014 Sweet Mickie was born as she swapped corporate tweets for funny treats.

Business News Australia spoke with Emma Head and asked her where her passion for food comes from and whether she's still going to be 'bootstrapping' with the Shark Tank investment.

What was behind the decision to get out of marketing and advertising to go into the business that you have now? What was the key moment for you?

I started making these biscuits for friends just to make them laugh and feel good about Valentine's Day, and everyone loved them and it was a family recipe and I just kept getting more and more requests for them. Then I got asked by a friend to make some for his café and then from there another café wanted them, and so I just kept doing it on the side and then it happened quite naturally. It was then that I realised that I was on to something. I had a delicious cookie, but I had a little point of difference, which was the humour. So, the decision was made for me and it all happened quite naturally really.

What were some of the initial slogans or things you had that worked well? Which were the ones that were the most popular early?

Emma: I started writing things like 'treat yourself, you deserve it' and 'cal free', and I started using the cookies as a bit of a platform to make social commentary of all the green and healthy eating that was on Instagram.

"Then I started marketing 'Kate Moss lied'. Her famous saying was 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'. So, I started writing that Kate Moss lied that these biscuits taste better."

Anyway, I was mixing it up every week with different quotes that I write things out of movie lines. I was doing this all on the side just to make it all happen, and it was just a matter of keeping up with demand. I had to find a commercial kitchen and I was quite reactive in the way that the business took off. It was basically me keeping up with orders really.

What sort of time lines are we talking about here from when you started playing around with the idea to actually quitting the job and then going into this full-time?

I probably did it part-time for about a year and a half and now I've been doing it full-time for the last year. But, my mum and grandma had both had biscuit and dessert businesses and I've ended up in food, which I never thought I would, but my mum makes ginger biscuits, and my grandma and my mum make cakes, and she's a full-time cake maker.

"It's quite funny, I went to Uni and studied media, and thought I'd go down that path, but I've ended up using all my social media and marketing experience in selling my cookies."

So, I've ended up following the family way of working in food.

How are you actually doing the manufacturing now? You can't do it all by hand, can you? Or are you still doing that?

No, no, I can't. I've had to find someone to bake my recipe. So, a contract manufacturer, who I'm working with quite closely and they're baking my recipe for me, and I am finding I'm getting a lot more of a consistent product that I can scale and I know that every biscuit is the same, and there is no variances in the product. So, it's actually made the products even better.

And obviously that your background is marketing. What's your main strategy with the marketing? Is there any advertising involved or how do you get your name out there?

Well to be honest, because it's been still a bit of a bootstrap small business, I'm still quite hands on. So we still do the decorating. We're still icing and packing, because we do a lot of custom work. But there are some orders that we're still quite hands on with all the variations, and I'm still quite hands on with the packing.

"I'm involved in Instagram and our website and building that but we don't really do a lot of paid advertising. It's all mainly through social media, Instagram and word of mouth."

So, I've been really lucky that most of my sales have been organic through Instagram or people that have followed me on Instagram, and worked this brand, and want them for this event, or there might be a food buyer that they've seen them on Instagram. Honestly, I haven't spent any money other than just recently been refreshing my website. I haven't spent a dollar on advertising, and it's all been just through organic reach on social media.

How did you find the actual experience of being on the Shark Tank programme? Was it as nerve racking as it looks when you watch other potential business people pitching?

Yep, it was and I think because I was quite young in business when I went on it as well, and I was admittedly quite naïve about a lot of my business model and my accounting, and there was a lot that I still had to learn.
I've learnt a lot in the last year, but I was quite nervous because I knew that I was weak in some of those points and knew I'd get drilled on them, but I thought it was worth it to still go on there and hopefully connect with the Shark and get a deal, and get a bit of exposure and get the product to market quickly. But yes, I was very nervous.

It obviously all went well and was it Janine who you did the deal with, and is that because of her retail food background? Is that why you gravitated towards her?

Correct. And I also got Andrew Banks on board as well. So, I got two sharks.

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Business News Australia

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