BRUCE BILLSON: Andre Kogut, thank you, as the founder of Blue Bay Cheese, having us at your premises today. Been a remarkable journey you’ve been on. Share a little bit with us about your story.
ANDRE KOGUT: Look, we are migrants from Ukraine migrated 1999, and we came to this country, I believe, with the knowledge and skills in cheesemaking and dairy manufacturing, dairing producing, and sharing these skills with Australia. Australia opened up opportunities for us, for our premium product, European quality and European techniques used in manufacturing. And I feel really lucky to be in this country and making product for the public out there. The good thing about our products, it’s all natural, made out of 100% grass fed, organic milk and really good qualities. So we take great care in manufacturing and supplying a lot of organic shops, house food shops, interstate within Australia and really lucky that we’ve got our place in the market.
BRUCE BILLSON: A real niche market, though. You target the people that are discerning about their cheese and their milk products, looking for a different kind of experience. Tell me about the niche market that you saw and how you’ve pursued that.
ANDRE KOGUT: It was an incredible journey for us over the last 15 years almost to produce and get Australian palate recognised in European flavours and the quality of the product.
ANDRE KOGUT: So it’s such a multicultural country these days. It’s amazing country to live and produce. We’ve got a great consumers with a high basically expectations and quality these days. So we cater for those markets. It’s a niche market. It’s growing, but growing very fast in the country. And people are more aware what they can consume, and what sort of product they want to see on the shelves, and especially the house food shops and organic shops sector growing very fast over the last few years. So we’re really lucky that we can cater for those markets.
BRUCE BILLSON: So how important is your particular techniques, the story and authenticity of you and your family, and the story about your suppliers to the way you market and present your products to the niche markets?
ANDRE KOGUT: It’s number one priority for us to share the story, and to be out there is our story as a small business, to be able for people to recognise the difference, and to find out about you. And people do want to know where their product comes from these days, how it gets there, and how it’s made, the way it’s made. People are very conscious about their diet these days. It’s about us basically sharing that story.
Retailers, which are smaller retailers, where there are coffee shops serving smashed avocado with some locally made fat, organic fat for lunch or for breakfast or where it’s a premium, top restaurant in Sydney or another continental delicatessen in Bayswater selling our products from their shelves. That story can be actually shared with the consumer in that way, and that’s what’s bringing customers to those places, too. And that’s what we want to see, people working as a family businesses, growing these days, basically benefiting from having this product on the shelves and dealing with us as a small business, getting a good service from us, and, again, benefitting having customers at their door.
BRUCE BILLSON: You came in with a great and bold ambition, but you recognised that the Australian palate may not have been ready for all that you were doing. But that’s changed over time. How did you choose the lines that you commenced and what process do you go through to say to a consumer, well, you’ve like this product of mine. Maybe try this one too.
ANDRE KOGUT: Try something else. Look, I’d say it’s quite a slow process. Educational process can be quite slow, and educating people, consumer, and their palate, what they should get used to and try. It’s a very slow process. Palates are changing. People get used to this products, and they’re more open to it.
BRUCE BILLSON: It sounds like you’ve got the niche market and particular expertise and knowledge, but then the broader skills of running a good business is something that you’ve brought as part of your approach to your business success.
ANDRE KOGUT: That’s exactly right– to be open to it, I’d say– that’s a major part to success. Making cheese, one thing, but marketing is very different and a totally different thing to do.
BRUCE BILLSON: So what have you learned, though, in that marketing challenge? You’re a niche business, but you still need– there’s no substitute for customers. How do you get to them–
ANDRE KOGUT: Look, more customers, you get, more business to get out there, more you can grow your business in the most efficient and most profitable manner. And why? It’s about understanding more about the product, understanding what you can do with the product, and using other people’s expertise. And with others– unfortunately, we live in such a country where everything is on social media now and being locked away in a Mornington and in a factory here, making too busy basically to focus on those things and making sure your job getting done properly and your products are high quality, having no time as being a small business market yourself and go out there onto social media and promotions and talks to other people and advertising the product.
It’s just so hard. So I think it was the best move we’ve ever done, given it to someone else to cover that area.
BRUCE BILLSON: So the big three lessons from your journey– one is obviously on the marketing side– understand the expertise that you have and bring in extra talent and capability. What would two other lessons be that you’d share from your journey?
ANDRE KOGUT: I’ll tell you my lessons. Never give up because so many things can go wrong and you just got to get up and keep going. What you believe in, what’s your philosophy is about is stay true to your philosophies. It doesn’t matter how hard it is. Just stay true with that and believe in it. Believe it will happen for you. But it might take a long time. Stay open and stay honest, true to your philosophies and you’re right.
BRUCE BILLSON: Andre Kogut, thank you so much for sharing your story and Blue Bay Cheese’s journey, and I’m sure our audience will be very grateful for those insights that you’ve shared as well.
ANDRE KOGUT: Thank you very much, Bruce. Thank you.