043: Investment on Shark Tank fell through, next month online sales exploded to $200k – the $100k+ profit from that funded the growth and after 6 years still owns 100% of the business, about to be stocked in 2,600 stores (Kate Johansson)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

October 8, 2020

In this episode, I interview Kate Johansson, the Founder and Managing Director of Koja Health, an Australian company that produces a range of healthy foods that are rich in nutrients, fiber, and plant-based protein, without the excess sugar and artificial additives found in so many others. In 2014, aged 27, Kate started the business by producing and selling healthy protein bars, the only all-natural low sugar bars on the market. By the end of year one, she had made $70,000 in sales and was stocking three stores. In FY19, she got to 400 stores then 1,500 by the end of FY2020. Very soon, she expects to almost double that to 2,600 stockists, with Coles and Woolworths forming the backbone of their distribution.

When she started out, she was the only full-time employee for the first three years and now has 6+ contractors. With no bank or investor funding, she started with $20,000 of her own savings, and after landing an investor on Shark Tank in 2015 (Which later fell through), she funded growth using the over $100,000 profit she made the month after the episode aired when online sales jumped to $200,000. She went on Shark Tank asking for $150,000 for 45% equity, valuing the business at $330,000 and is very glad John McGrath, the Sydney real estate mogul, walked away because now she still owns 100% of the business.

She felt she had succeeded the minute she got a product on the shelf and launched, and believes that the hardest thing about growing a small business is believing in oneself. She says the one thing she would tell herself on day one of starting out in business is, “It’s a good thing. You don’t know what you’re going to face, but you’ll love what you do. You’ve created a business you’re so proud of that makes a real difference in the industry and people’s lives.” Stay tuned and enjoy all that Kate had to share about her small business ownership journey.

This Cast Covers:

  • Making real nutrition snacks with their peanut butter bars as their best-selling product range
  • Advocating for healthy eating by building a business around her passion for health and wellness.
  • Aiming to move away from online sales to focus on their growth in terms of store distribution.
  • Using contract manufacturers and consultants to ensure they can scale up or down much more easily.
  • Focusing on what makes your business different when doing your marketing.
  • Self-funding the business to success despite a failed funding opportunity from a Shark Tank investor.
  • How she had prepared herself to kill it on Shark Tank and why she’s glad the deal she was offered didn’t go through.
  • Destined for food and working towards finding the people that love what they do.
  • Learning to deal with stress and enjoying the challenges that come with being a small business owner.
  • Outsourcing marketing and the other tasks she’s not the best at doing or doesn’t enjoy doing.
  • Growing the business strategically by bootstrapping to overcome the challenge she has had with the lack of access to capital.
  • Trying out crowdfunding and how to successfully raise funds.
  • How their transparency and great customer service have led to loyalty from all their customers.
  • Doing the business more for the positive impact that it’s having in people’s lives rather for the purpose of making a ton of money.
  • Changing her mindset to stop having second thoughts about the business and doubting her ability to run it to success.
  • The power of big picture planning and how it has worked out for her.
  • Hiring a HR consultant to help her pick the right people for her team.
  • Using yoga and meditation to manage her energy levels in order to achieve some work-life balance.
  • Some of the ways she invests in her own professional development.
  • Communication and relationship: The two things that have been fundamental to her business journey.

Additional Resources:



“Success in business comes back to how you define success” – Kate Johansson

“Growing a small business is no easy ride” – Kate Johansson

“Sales and marketing is the lifeline of most businesses because they can’t survive without new customers” – Kate Johansson

“Running your own business you have to develop professionally or you won’t go well” – Kate Johansson


Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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