Rawsome: A true story of innovation and achievment, part one.
Chocolaty, tasty, sweet deliciousness is accessible to all thanks to one woman’s creativity born from adversity.
Crackling first met Laila Gampfer on Valentine’s day 2014 at the Meet the Maker High Tea hosted by local food champion Urban Locavore. I had noticed the bold, un-fluffy Rawsome logo around town on cafe windows, but not being a diagnosed coeliac and having no axe to grind about gluten I had never investigated further.
However, I know quality and the promise of pleasure when I see it and I saw it on February the 14th when Laila brought her dainty Rawsome goodies to the table. I paid for my ticket and this is not a sponsored post. I seldom photograph food served to me, it’s not very scientific and other bloggers do it so much better, but I snapped away like a paparazzo on a red carpet at these beauties.
The Rawsome range of sweetmeats are paleo-friendly and free from
- refined sugar
- and soy
They have names like Love Bite Slice (chocolate, cherries and coconut), Moon Rocks (hazelnut, chocolate fudge) and Rosie (pistachio balls flavoured with rose essence). They are all absolutely fresh and bursting with health-giving micro nutrients.
These delicious morsels are what they are: luxurious, super-healthy, perfectly proportioned extremely high quality treats. Just like their creator Laila Gampfer, there is nothing disingenuous about them. They are not substitutes or compensatory items mimicking conventional pastries but the kind of product almost every type of special dieter can order in over 100 Perth outlets. Dietary constraints need not equate to self denial and social exclusion across the cafe scene in Perth any more and you can be sure else around the table throw will be throwing side-eyes full of envy.
I ate five, straight down. I felt fantastic afterwards. The selenium from the brazil nuts and the antioxidant polyphenols from the Ecuadorian Fair Trade organic cacao were surging through my system making me a touch light headed and very, very chatty.
Laila Gampfer began Rawsome eighteen months ago in Spring 2012. “I started the business quite by accident after I was diagnosed with coeliac disease,” Laila explains to the chocolate smeared guests around the Urban Locavore tea table. She is ultra-chiq and self-contained and there is no whiff of the fad dieter or alternative lifestyler about Laila.
To use a very elderly cliche, necessity was the mother of Rawsome’s invention. “I realised there were a limited number of foods I could eat and I grew bored fairly quickly so I had to create. I still wanted to sit down with my Italian family for coffee and cakes and I didn’t see why I should be left out. I decided to embrace my new eating regime – raw, so me. ”
So I can cram another Rawsome treat in to my face (the mini dark chocolate donut), I ask Laila to explain how she took a dietary restriction and turned it in to a business opportunity.
“I have a lot of energy and that is best focused. I have a strong administrative background and worked as an Executive Personal Assistant in the mining industry for 10 years. I also studied psychology.” At this I realise there is no point trying to surreptitiously lick the chocolate from my wrists as Laila already has me marked as a gorger of the good stuff. I ask how these skills translated in to a food business?
“I used to make traditional celebration cakes. Sugar Therapy was my cake decorating business. I would worry about the sugar and unhealthy ingredients going in to the cakes. It didn’t fit with my food philosophies. The experience did teach me about General Manufacturing Procedures, Environmental Health issues and supplier contacts.” Laila knew from a business and practical perspective what had to be in place before a food business could be launched and so was able to focus and save a lot of time.
Accessibility and Accommodation
With all the back end in place Laila could concentrate on Rawsome’s Mission Statement: Accessibility.
“Morning/Afternoon tea is a huge social event in Australia. Women will meet their friends at cafes rather than the pub. I wanted to make sure all those consumers with dietary restrictions who would usually have to pass on the pastry, the cream cakes and flapjacks could order from a range of safe products and eat a high quality, satisfying treat and not look out of place amongst their friends.”
Soon after Laila began producing the Rawsome range she reached the critical point for expansion. Without sounding in the least arrogant, she says she always knew this would happen. “People with allergies and special eating plans are all over the place and almost all the cafes in Perth have customers asking to be accommodated,” she explains. “Rawsome was ready to tune in to this need and make the right kind of products accessible and make them consistent every time.”
Having reached a reasonable state of fullness I stop eating and try to draw from Laila how she thinks Rawsome made the step from boutique kitchen-table supplier to medium-sized enterprise. I suggest it is her ability to see the bigger picture – that she must expand if she is to fulfill her mission statement of accessibility – and willingness to allow the business to change to meet her goal. “When I worked in administration I did pick up a certain degree of confidence through working with various mentors and I always trust my own instinct so it wasn’t a hard decision to commit to scaling up the operation and covering more outlets.”
I happen to know that the eponymous owner of the best known cafe chain in Perth, Miss Maud’s Swedish Pastry House, approached Laila to set up a city-wide wholesale deal. I ask if she was concerned she would lose control of her product, which can be a constraint for small food producers who are sometimes diametrically opposed to associating with the big players. “No, I wasn’t phased. Miss Maud is an intelligent business entrepreneur and could see that Rawsome products ticked many nutrition-plan and dietary requirement boxes in a single range of products. Miss Maud saw an opportunity to compliment her range of well loved pastries and baked goods – (Princess Cake, anyone?) – with a product which accommodated a niche market. Of course for me, it means people in every region of Perth can go out and enjoy the morning tea/afternoon tea experience with their friends no matter what their dietary preferences or restrictions and that matches up with my accessibility philosophy.”
Whilst Rawsome has always been a wholesale operation, the Miss Maud’s deal made Laila look at investing in her own refrigerated vehicle and full time drivers “I couldn’t quite believe it was our truck with our logo on it, I started out with a car full of eskis.”
It is kicking out time at the Urban Locavore Meet the Maker event. While I have many more questions for Laila about her business model, manufacturing operations and the future for Rawsome, I can sense she is far too gracious and professional to ask me to leave her alone so she can pack up and go. I pull the old catering trick of offering to carry boxes to squeeze a little more from Laila. “What is next for Rawsome, have you thought of going interstate? Or overseas?”
“We start selling in Victoria next month,” she says, but before she can continue she is offered a La Paleta Salted Caramel Ice Lolly by the Urban Locavore kingpin Paul Kilmurray. At first I am a little surprised to see her enjoy the sugary, creamy item, and I must have been staring. “It is very, very rare that I indulge in a dairy treat but when I do, I go for quality. I’m not a self-denying purist. I will feel this in my system in a few hours but it’s so GOOD!”
Laila deserves a reward; she has just presented her product range to and answered questions from twenty guests and she is about to step out in to a 40oC in the shade afternoon. Plus, she needs fuel as she is on stage in three hours, at the Old Mill Theatre staring in Dinner With Friends. Also, she trains as an Olympic weightlifter just for fun. “I need balance; work and family and hobbies keep my energy levels up.”
We reach the carpark and it really is time to let her be. “Come by to the kitchen next month and we’ll talk some more,” she calls and I wave goodbye to my new supplier of natural highs and the healthy good stuff.
Part two of the interview with Laila Gampfer will cover the Rawsome Business Model, her manufacturing operation and the bright, expanding future for this awesome business woman.
PHOTO CREDITS: black and white photos courtesy of Rebecca Foster
This article is copyright, Crackling 2014. No part may be reproduced on any media platform, other than sharing the article in its entirety and crediting the original source via social media, without prior permission.