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Diary of an entrepreneur

By Rebecca Ganz

Tuesday 1st July 2003

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Rebecca Ganz is facing her biggest challenge yet. The contract filler she'd chosen to put her lovely ha into her splendiferous French bottles has decided to retreat to its core competency. In other words, it's rescinded the agreement. Will she find another filler?

April 5: Unbelievable - Coca-Cola is trying to nobble me already. Its Rio purchase has taken huge capacity out of the contract filling market. There couldn't be a worse time to source a new high-spec contract filler. I've had the phone more or less permanently grafted to my ear for days now that I'm on a charm offensive, but converting charm into the right bits of stainless steel is proving tough. I've scoured every industrial directory known to man and rung about 50 fillers, but still nothing. I actively ignore Self Pity and search the internet with fierce determination. There must be someone who can help me.
April 13: Melanie, High Priestess of Product Development, is going great guns. We now have a Plan A recipe (for when the land is flowing with one of ha's key ingredients, a native honey) and Plan B is also sorted (for when the x-factor honey is in short supply). I really need a Plan C in case of honey droughts in the future. With daring, cunning and lateral leaps of faith, we have a drink that is getting closer to the Plan A taste profile, without any of the honey. New samples will be evaluated shortly. Nail-biting stuff.

April 22: This drama over bees and contract filling has flushed out a new and hitherto unknown challenge. Oh joy. Melanie has been talking to a microbiologist at Massey, who informs her there's a bug - zygo-something - that would love to use my drink as a breeding ground. I'm not flattered by the attentions of this would-be lodger. This disclosure makes it all the more crucial that we get just the very best contract filler, with the highest hygienic standards - especially if we're to stick with the original plans to go with cold filling. This could get difficult. Cold filling preserves flavour complexity, but with the threat of invading bugs if the filling environment isn't spot on. Hot fill kills the foul bugs but means lots of iterative work on getting the flavours right in the end product. And hot fill may mean changing my bottle. Manageable but deeply annoying. My learning curve continues its exponential path.

April 29: Hallelujah. Well, sort of. I've identified a couple of possible contract fillers, including the people who might buy the equipment off the company who pulled the plug on the original filling agreement. The other crowd looks promising, but they're not so hot on cold filling.

May 2: I could do with that $6000 the IRD owes me in GST refunds. I've pulled in KPMG as advisers, who reckon my GST claim on the warm, flash clothes I bought for my mid-winter marketing trip to Europe is completely kosher. Just like a plumber claiming back GST on his overalls, I reckon. The clothing claim is about $700 of the total refund, but while this dispute gets sorted the IRD sits on the whole $6000. It's really not cricket. After all, it's been over two months since the IRD's visit and the interest it pays to me is less than the interest charge for Oxi-gen's funding. Not its problem, I suppose.

May 6: Here I am with a brilliant product, bound to be a global phenomenon, and I still haven't nailed down a contractor to put the stuff in the bleedin' bottles. DMT (Deep Marketing Thought) reckons - and I agree - that the product is so good that if I have to, I should develop my own process for bottling it. All this has put us behind schedule: everything's on hold until the filling problem is solved. I'd planned to launch in New Zealand in early summer, but now it won't be until late summer. As the dollars keep rolling out of the door, DMT and I are very glad I'm a low-maintenance model.

Fortunately, I thrive on a challenge. I'm thinking of it all as a learning opportunity that will make the business stronger. Just think of all the things I would never have found out about (like the zygo-thingy) if everything had gone like clockwork.

Next time: What learning opportunities will Ganz stumble upon next? Is she about to become a contract filler? Will the zygo-whatsits be held at bay?

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