California Crush: A food dream born in the USA
Key learnings from a fresh food fanatic:
Work hard at what you’re good at
– there’ll be plenty of opportunities to specialise or branch out down the track
Leverage existing knowhow
– where possible to better position yourself for business success
It’s not just about the big picture
– small tasks add up, and prioritising them can lead to bigger results than you might think
CM Poke tosses inefficiencies for bank feeds
"Originally, we were going to do a storefront. Everybody would go to one spot and buy our poke bowls with different add-ons."
- Carina Merz, Director, CM Poke
Carina Merz is the director of CM Poke, a wholesale salad business specialising in poke bowls.
It was in 2016 while studying in California that Carina saw something unexpected: eager customers flocking to the salad stores sprouting on every street corner. From here, Carina’s love of poke grew organically.
“Originally, we were going to do a storefront. Everybody would go to one spot and buy our poke bowls with different add-ons.”
While a fresh idea, it didn’t take long for Carina to throw some prior knowledge into the mix.
“We then moved to a wholesale operation because of my background in wholesale food manufacturing.”
From 4am starts to hiring and retail distribution
And it worked. Despite the idea starting as a kernel, CM Poke has developed deep roots. With Carina behind the wheel, six staff members now help drive CM Poke’s success.
Their support also means Carina gets more time to focus on herself – something she relishes.
“I’m really lucky to no longer have to start at 4AM,” she says.
“I have some fantastic staff doing that for me. I come in around 6AM and I check that all the bowls are perfect.”
But it’s not just the number of supportive staff that have increased. CM Poke’s poke bowls have popped up in supermarkets and cafes all over Perth.
“We had one stockist, and then five. Now it’s close to 50.
“It just sort of snowballed.”
"MYOB has been an absolute lifesaver. It’s so easy to use and allows us to track all our sales, history, and reporting."
Dedication and efficiency: Hero ingredients for business success
Carina works around the clock to ensure her products make the grade.
“To embody the true meaning of fresh, healthy salad, we operate seven days a week,” she says.
“I’m in the kitchen five to six days a week, every morning, checking the bowls are up to standard.”
But despite her dedication, not even Carina can tackle it all. Using accounting software has helped her more easily manage priorities and invest time where it matters most.
“MYOB has been an absolute lifesaver,” she says. It’s so easy to use and allows us to track all our sales, history, and reporting.
“The dashboard shows your overdue invoices and things you need to follow up, so that’s a really good reminder.
“It gives me more time to focus on the business.”
Turn up the heat by automating key business processes
The high-volume output of CM Poke means Carina especially values how software transactions are effortlessly linked to her bank account via bank feeds.
“The feature I couldn’t live without would be the bank feeds. They allow you to have an up-to-date, ready, record of your transaction history – and be able to reconcile instantly.”
This seamless linking also extends to her invoicing.
“The MYOB invoicing system allows us to invoice every week for the week prior. It’s a great way to ensure that we’re up-to-date and invoicing as the stock’s going out.”
Payroll is another feature that helps take more off Carina’s plate.
“MYOB payroll allows us to track our employees’ time sheets, public holidays, and any hours in lieu that we need to record.”
"The feature I couldn’t live without would be the bank feeds. They allow you to have an up-to-date, ready, record of your transaction history – and be able to reconcile instantly."
Carina’s tip? There are no small roles
Successful businesses are built on valuable lessons, and CM Poke is an ideal example.
“My advice for day-to-day running of a business would be organisation,” Carina says.
“That becomes key: improving efficiency, and making sure that small jobs get done, makes a big difference.”
Despite having invested so much of herself into CM Poke, Carina still recommends driven business owners should support themselves where possible, in order to better support their staff and help them be the best they can.
“You have to ensure you have good staff. They are the wheels that turn your business.”
But if you’re still nutting out your business concept, Carina recommends dedicating serious time to understanding what’s out there already.
“My top tip would be to do one thing and do it well.
“Do a lot of research and ensure you’re not re-inventing the wheel.”
Unlike many of Carina’s ingredients, good business ideas don’t grow on trees. Investing in a business means investing your all. But for new business owners keen on success, that means investing wholeheartedly into your idea.
“I define success as doing something that you truly enjoy, but it’s also important having the flexibility to do what you need to do, when you need to do it, and providing a product that nobody else has been able to do as well.”
“You’ve got to be prepared to put in the hours, the days, the nights – I’ve worked a lot of hours in the last few years.”
Remember to look at your business from the top floor
Fixating on stumbling blocks is easy when you’re managing a business. But experience has taught Carina the importance of taking a step back. Not just to appreciate her successes, but to recognise the people who helped her achieve it.
“We have really good morale and a great workplace culture. It’s something I value and feel is really important to produce something great.”
After all, knowing your employees believe in you can be just as important as the support of customers.