Question: What is KOOEE!?
Shaun Malligan: KOOEE! is a range of 100% grass-fed beef jerky made in Tasmania. It's a healthy, high-protein snack that is also non-GMO, has no added sugar, and is gluten-free (and endorsed by Coeliac Australia). As our jerky is crafted with only 100% Tasmanian grass-fed beef, it contains no added hormones or antibiotics either, and the beef from each pack is traceable to the Tasmanian farms where it was raised.
KOOEE! comes in four unique flavours and is the perfect snack to consume after a workout or in the outdoors. KOOEE! has also won awards at the Royal Sydney Fine Food Show, the Australian Food Awards and the Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards.
Question: What inspired the creation of KOOEE!?
Shaun Malligan: We started KOOEE! way back in 2013 during a run around Central Park in New York City. I had just moved to NYC, while my co-founder Andy was just leaving to head back to Tasmania. During the run, I eventually confessed to him about my beef jerky hobby/obsession which I had started out of my home kitchen back in Sydney. Unsurprisingly, Andy thought I was a little mad. However, we kept in touch, and once back in Australia he realised that there was a serious lack of healthy beef jerky products in Australia. Further, he was now living in Tasmania, which seemed like the perfect place to launch our new company - being famous for its world-class food products.
So we decided to drop everything else and launch what would become KOOEE!. Four years have now passed, and we've built a factory in Tasmania, launched the KOOEE! brand, and grown a team.
Question: Why beef jerky?
Shaun Malligan: Beef jerky is a protein-packed snack that is a great natural substitute for a protein shake or energy bar. It's great for recovery after a workout or as a satisfying, healthy snack at your desk.
Unfortunately, traditional jerky brands in Australia are often loaded full of sugar, artificial ingredients and preservatives. They are uniformly hyper-masculine, made with low-quality ingredients and offer little nutritional value. However, we always knew that beef jerky could be a super-healthy snack"if it was made honestly using only the best ingredients.
So we launched KOOEE! as we wanted to craft a healthier, higher-quality beef jerky than what was currently on offer in Australia and could be enjoyed by everyone – men and women.
Our fans now range from nutritionists to mountaineers, the Australian Women's Rugby Sevens team to professional surfers. Our snacks have now been taken on trips to every continent"even Antarctica.
And we know it's a new snack that is foreign to many people, but our advice would be simply: 'try it first!" The most common reaction we get from new customers is 'I'm not usually a jerky person, but that was delicious!"
Question: How is your beef jerky healthy?
Shaun Malligan: We take pride in making Australia's best healthy jerky. Every pack contains 14g of natural protein – which is an essential fuel for recovery after a workout. It's also gluten-free (and approved by Coeliac Australia), soy-free and dairy-free, and made with only the finest natural ingredients, like our 100% grass-fed beef, coconut aminos and raw apple cider vinegar. And unlike your typical protein bar, our products are made without refined sugar. Our products have also been endorsed by several leading nutritionists, including Peta Carige and Tabitha McIntosh.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about the training you do?
Shaun Malligan: When I started KOOEE! I used to exercise all the time – often three times a day! I'm a big fan of getting out of the morning traffic jams and running/cycling to work or train station, so my day would start with me run-commuting to the office. I'd then run or do a short circuit in the gym during lunch, and then I'd run or cycle back home at the end of the day. I used to do ultra-marathons and short course triathlons, so part of the reason I started KOOEE! was because I was always looking for healthy snacks at work!
While I'm busier these days with KOOEE! and my 1 ½ year old daughter, I still try to exercise in the morning each day. I find it clears my mind and makes me more productive for the day ahead. And my favourite means of exercise is a run with my daughter in the stroller – she keeps me honest and tells me if I'm going too slow!
Question: As a business owner, what has been the biggest lesson you learnt?
Shaun Malligan: The biggest lesson I've learned with starting a business is perseverance. Starting KOOEE! has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, but it's also been a long, often lonely road with so many bumps along the way that I've lost count! We've faced so many almost impossible challenges where we've thought 'that's it, we're finished""but what I've learned from each instance is to never give up. The problem will be overcome, and you'll be an even better business because of it.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Shaun Malligan: 6:30 – No need for an alarm, my daughter Annabel will wake my wife and I up
6:45 – Finish reading books in our bed, time to make breakfast
8:00 – Annabel is ready to go to day care, and we set off for our morning stroller run
8:45 – Arrive back home after dropping Annabel off, quick shower and breakfast
9:10 – Start going through emails
10:00 – Chat with production team in Tasmania
11:00 – Call with major grocery store buyer
12:00 – More emails!
12:30 – Chat with my co-founder while I grab something to eat
2:30 – Catch up with another food business for coffee
3:00 – Work on New Product ideas
4:00 – Final emails!
5:00 – Run out of the door to pick up my daughter
5:30 – Cook dinner (dad is chief cook in this house)
6:15 – Feed Annabel
6:30 – My wife gets home
6:45 – Bath and bedtime routine begins
7:30 – Annabel goes to sleep
8:00 – My wife and I eat dinner
9:30 – Both of us do more work
11:30 – Sleep (and repeat!)
Question: What's next for KOOEE!?
Shaun Malligan: KOOEE! has an exciting road ahead. Right now you can find KOOEE! at selected Woolworths stores, at health and independent stores around the country (like Harris Farm) and aboard all Virgin Australia flights nationwide. And we're looking boost our reach across even more locations in Australia. Further down the track, we're looking abroad to lucrative Asian markets, where there is high demand for Australian beef jerky products.
We're also developing brand new flavours and looking at other innovative snack options that we could offer under the KOOEE! brand. And, we're planning to venture out into the community even more, with a host of events planned for the remainder of 2018 and beyond!
Question: Can you tell us about the work you're doing with Chobani?
Shaun Malligan: KOOEE! was also recently selected as one of five companies out of over 120 applicants in the inaugural Chobani Food Incubator program in Australia – the first of its kind specifically tailored for food companies in the country. The program has truly been one of the highlights of our time at KOOEE! and was established to assist small businesses – like ours – by leveraging the wealth of experience and expertise of the Chobani Australia team to support our growth. After four amazing months, we've been equipped with new skills, better focus and an even deeper passion for what we do. Additionally, we've been grateful to have found a new family in the Chobani team and have become close with all of the other amazing Incubator food companies in the program.
Question: What's the first piece of advice you'd give a new entrepreneur?
Shaun Malligan: Stay passionate and don't give up! I guarantee it will be a longer, tougher, more challenging road than you ever thought possible, but it will also be more rewarding, personally and professionally, than you can imagine. Don't be afraid to tell people about your story and your product, as no one will be as compelling as you. And always carry samples – you never know who you'll run into!
Interview by Brooke Hunter