Flip & Goliath: a breakfast-time story

October 23, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Get your teeth into this one!

Muesli: it’s hard enough to eat; how hard is it to make? Here’s a quick small business owner’s guide. The story is true. And the muesli is delicious.

Wait until midsummer.

Scour the city for tiny batches of insanely expensive, uber-high-quality ingredients. Make extra trips because your car is small.

Ask a friend to lend you his commercial kitchen.

Spend your entire weekend ripping and chopping dried mangos, pineapples, apples, apricots, peaches and pears until your fingers seize and you collapse from exhaustion.


On weekdays, have potential distributors ignore your superior quality and hammer you on price. At the same time, project manage your home renovation and worry about finding the cash for next week’s ingredients.

When your first batch is ready, wait for the wrong-sized bags to arrive late, despite your fax and phone reminders.

When the right bags turn up, pack the muesli and ask your copywriter friend to give your labels a quick once over.

When your copywriter friend suggests that Fruitopia, Nut Nirvana and Karmic Combo may have been locked up by existing food companies, do a quick internet search to confirm this is true.


Create every possible permutation of the words fruit, nut, seed, muesli, breakfast and nutrition, along with all (in)conceivable conjugations. You should get about 350.

Search the ‘net again to find that all these names are owned by firms three million times bigger than you.

Send a howling email to your inner circle, saying you can’t take any more and that you’re going to abandon the whole project as a stupid joke.

Cry yourself to sleep.

Wake to messages of love and support, then be inspired with the following, ridiculously obvious muesli names:

  1. The one with just fruit.
  2. The one with just nuts and seeds.
  3. The one with fruit and nuts.

Tap your final (hitherto unknown) reserve of strength, stick the labels on the bags, convince three tiny outlets to give you a go, make all deliveries by hand and sell to friends to make ends meet.

Go online.


Today’s lessons

  • Never give up.
  • Do your research.
  • If you hit an immovable object, go round.
  • If you’re freaking out, ask friends for advice and support.
  • The closer you stand to the lighthouse, the darker it gets (Japanese proverb).

Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, www.thefeistyempire.com

Comments to date:

  1. Adam Finlay

    March 12, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Wow. Great story Paul. Goes to show that there’s never been a better time to be a niche supplier. With the internet you can go anywhere! Entertaining as ever. Thanks.

  2. Paul Hassing

    March 12, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Hi Adam! True stories are the best. So kind of Flip to let me tell hers. I really think this one has merit. I’ve sent it to some big wheels; maybe they’ll come round! :)

  3. Richard Mercer

    March 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    A great story about a great product. Flip is an inspiration!

  4. Anaik

    March 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Great story, read straight through. Good work Paul and good luck Flip!

  5. Kate James

    March 12, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Fantastic post Paul! You make the story engaging and fun with your great writing style. I’ll try some of the muesli AND remember those messages. So very true.

  6. Paul Hassing

    March 12, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you, Richard, Anaik & Kate. The muesli is indeed ace. As are your kind words! :)

  7. Angela den Hollander

    March 13, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Oh that’s just a gorgeous story Paul, my heart was just breaking for Flip. What courage and tenacity in the face of setback after setback. And I love the names! Perfect, simple and spot on.

  8. Paul Hassing

    March 13, 2009 at 9:44 am

    So glad you dug, Angela! My hot Flip tip is that her stuff will go right round the world before long. :)

  9. Matt Walker

    October 28, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Hi Paul. Great story and the message is never ever give up. I agree



  10. Paul Hassing

    October 28, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Thank you kindly, Matt. Both for your comment and your tireless retweeting of my blog posts. All are much appreciated! :)

  11. Susan Oakes

    October 28, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Great story and lessons Paul, especially – Do your research. This can save a lot of freaking out down the track, but it seems is often overlooked in the early stages of a new business.

  12. Paul Hassing

    October 28, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I hear you, Susan! It can be so exciting to start something new. It’s even tempting to do NO research, just to make sure you don’t find someone has beaten you to the punch! Funny how the mind works. Thank you for your comment. :)

  13. Tami M Pederson

    October 28, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Susan, thanks for posting on twitter. You know I love to read your “stuff” when I’m up this late at nite in the US of A.
    And you are right…research, research, research. But I’ve also never given up on my dream. Your dream can turn and go around angles you didn’t think of, so make adjustments and keep moving forward. Rely on your friends, business acquaintances, relatives and people you trust. You may not always like what you hear but remember they are looking from the outside in…sometimes it’s too dark for you the business owner (#5 point).
    Post to #leadership on twitter and they’ll love it!

  14. Paul Hassing

    October 28, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Great to see you here, Tami. Wish you had a link so I could learn more about you. Jolly nice of Susan to invite you, wasn’t it? I hope we see you back here soon. Best regards, P. :)

  15. Flip Shelton (yes me!)

    October 28, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Susan Oakes and Tami M Pederson are both correct..reserach reserach research but may I add, and more research. I did 9 months of reserach – reserach to source the best possible non-GM, Aussie products, reserach on my competitors (and if I am say, mightily proudly I can tell you every ingredient and from where it’s sourced from my competitors), research on production, etc but nothing can give you research like hands on experience and quite simply rolling your sleeves up and seeing how it operates. I started this biz without any financial backing and am very proud of it. It’s a dream which has sometimes seemed like a nightmare but I always wake up smiling. I’d also like to add a postscript to this story which wordmesiter Paul wrote…the distributer who I worked with for over two years, and had developed into what I thought was a loyal and trustworthy win-win business arrangement did a Barry Bolt and left town with about $20,000 worth of my product. (Turns out he didn’t just do this to me.) You can do all the financial checks in the world, you can behave with integrity and fairness, you can trust (or not trust) people but at the end of the day, some people are shameless sheitsers. Here’s to onwards and upwards.

  16. Susan Oakes

    October 29, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Hi Tami,

    You make a good point as sometimes we can get tunnel vision and all it takes is an outside perspective to get fesh ideas to keep moving towards achieving our goals.

  17. Paul Hassing

    October 29, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Dear Flip, I’m so stoked that you’ve added your voice! It’s just the dimension this discussion needed. I never knew about that $20K shafting. By Jove it’s a tricky path we tread in small business.

    Thanks very much for stopping by. And for giving us your fascinating story in the first place. I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share. :)

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