Your may be familiar with The Source Bulk Foods; the specialised bulk-food stores with over 400 nuts, seeds, grains, cereals, flour, rice, honey, oils, confectionary, snacks and products for cleaning and personal care. But you may not be familiar with the story behind the hugely popular 100% waste-free health food stores. The Source Bulk Foods was created in 2012, by husband and wife duo Emma Smith and Paul Medeiros. Leaving their busy corporate lives in Sydney for a sea change in Byron Bay, they begun with one small community minded health food store, and now boast over 30 stores in Australia. Reducing packaging and waste, in addition to supporting local growers and producers, is central to their ethos.
Here founder and owner, Emma Smith chats exclusively to Amodrn about how they’re revolutionising the way Australian’s shop.
What inspired you to create The Source Bulk Foods?
My husband Paul and I created The Source in 2012 after realising that most of the health foods we were selling in our fruit and veggie store were heavily packaged. We thought there must be a better way to sell healthy foods that didn’t have a negative impact on the environment. We have always been passionate about food and where our food comes from as well as doing our bit to help the environment and reduce waste.
The Source Bulk Foods is about getting back to basics, shopping the way it used to be by refilling your own containers and buying just the amount you need without all the fancy packaging.
What was the first step you took toward making your idea a reality?
We started selling a small selection of bulk food in our fruit and veggie store and it was very successful. When our landlord offered us the shop next to our fruit and veggie shop we took it as a sign and decided to move in! We now have 30 stores around the country, which is mind-boggling! The store expansion happened naturally; everyday we had people telling us how much they loved our shop and asking if we would open a store near them. The store provokes an emotional reaction from people because it reminds them of how shopping used to be. People are keen to get back to basics and to do their bit to help the environment as well as create amazing healthy food for their families.
How important for you is it to have 100% waste free stores? Why?
It is very important to us. We have two young kids and the planet is in dire need of help. Around 8 million tonnes of plastic rubbish is going into the ocean every year, which is staggering. Australians are the second highest producers of waste in the world! We use over 10 million plastic shopping bags a day, which is extremely alarming. We need to take drastic action and everyone can make a difference. Just small lifestyle changes like buying in bulk, refilling your containers and shopping without plastic bags can help change the future of our planet, oceans, and wildlife.
What do you think is the secret to your success?
Our customers are always at the front of our mind; we want to give them the most amazing service and the most incredible products. We also work extremely hard and we are very passionate, resilient, and positive. We do things with pure intention and kindness. We believe that what we put out comes back ten fold.
How involved are you in the day-to-day business? What does a typical workday look like?
I look after marketing and new product development. Paul looks after the stores, customers and drives the business forward. We have two young boys so our days are never typical! It can be a little crazy trying to juggle it all. Normally, we get the boys off to school and I work from home on campaigns, promotions and product sourcing. Paul is usually travelling and spends most of his days in the stores, conducting training or looking for new store locations. We live and breathe The Source 24/7 and we love every single second of it!
What has been the best advice you’ve ever been given?
To believe in yourself 100%, follow your gut instinct and always be kind. When you work really hard and have the right intentions and you can’t go wrong. Anything is possible!
What are your top three tips for someone who is looking to start their own business?
Be absolutely committed to your idea regardless of what other people say.
Be prepared to work extremely hard and take some risks.
Keep going – be resilient and wipe the slate clean everyday. Don’t stop until you reach your goals and always be grateful.
What would you say is the best and worst part of your job?
The best part is being part of the global zero waste movement and really making a difference. We are in awe everyday of the support we receive and the opportunities ahead of us. We sample every single product we sell so product testing is a pretty great perk too! The worst part is the limited about of time we have – we have so many ideas and things we want to do but we are committed to living a balanced family life so we have learnt to be patient with ourselves and let things unfold when the time is right.
Who do you look up to and admire?
I am inspired everyday by a whole range of people. Instagram is a fantastic platform for our industry as there is an amazing foodie and healthy lifestyle focus. I am often drooling over my phone screen! I am also inspired by the zero waste movement so I follow all the’ Zero Waste Bloggers’ (Zero Waste Home, The Rogue Ginger & Be Zero Waste Girl to name a few). We are massive fans of Captain Paul Watson and everything that Sea Shepherd does to courageously and relentlessly defend our oceans and marine life. I love Gorillas and primates so I admire Dr Jane Goodall and all her amazing work. In business – I admire Lisa Messenger and the Collective Hub, Lorna Jane and Spell Designs because their clothes are gorgeous and I love to see local Byron businesses thrive!
What is your advice on a healthy work/life balance?
You have to take time out. When you are passionate and excited it is really easy to keep going and work around the clock but eventually you burn out. In the first couple of years we worked relentlessly but now we have a small team to help us so we make sure we prioritize family time. Taking the time to recharge is essential and makes you more focused in the long run. We love spending time with our boys so we are still there everyday to pick them up from school and do fun things together. We would not give up our moments with them for anything in the world.
What is your own food and fitness philosophy?
It amazes me each day how beautiful food can be and how lucky we are to live in a country where we have an abundance of healthy, fresh food available so we try and take advantage of that. We eat lots of organic, local produce and a healthy balanced diet. I love yoga and wish I had more time to practise but I go easy on myself and just get to a class when I can fit it in. I believe in a little bit of everything in moderation because you need to have some fun along the way!
How do you see the brand evolving of the next few years?
We would love to have 100 stores in Australia. We have plans to head overseas very soon and lots of amazing new products in the pipeline. We are going to take zero waste shopping to the next level!