Noelle Sandinsky is the woman behind Fridge-to-go, a unique range of eight-hour cooler bags. She's also the mum of two boys: Jasper, six, and Cruz, three.
What led you to believe that there was a market for your cooler bags?
When we first test-drove the Fridge-to-go cooler bags over six years ago we realised they really did stay cool for up to eight hours, even in the hot Australian sun, so we knew we were on to something. We’d never seen any product perform like this one, and as I had a baby that has grown with the business, I knew first-hand how much easier it made my life. Being able to transport breast milk, baby food and eventually school lunches without having to worry about anything spoiling gave me real peace of mind.
What was the first thing you did to kick-start your business?
I started networking my butt off, joined the Australian Business Women’s Network (ABN), and set up a goals group with other local small business women to keep me on track. Networking is so important and I still love to pass on the Fridge-to-go message of healthy, fresh and easy eating to anyone who will listen. Mums are especially brilliant at sharing their experiences with their friends and families, so they’ve been wonderful for the word of mouth exposure.
Has running your own business lived up to your expectations?
Yes and more! I’ve really settled into running my own business and appreciate the freedom and flexibility beyond expectations. I’m around for my kids and I also get to keep working and growing as a businesswoman, which is very important. And I love being an entrepreneur! I love seeing all the opportunities that continue to appear for us to spread the word on healthy eating - whether it’s via social media (we're on Facebook at FridgetogoOz) or stocking our products in school uniform shops!
How important has your online presence been in growing your business?
I continue to be amazed at the importance of having an online presence, especially as mums want to do lots of research and it can be accessed at any time – even the 3am breastfeed. This has expanded to social media, and I love the interaction we get from parents sharing how they use our bags and letting others know too. We’ve learnt that our panels have been cuddled to sleep by toddlers in the middle of a hot summer, and used in the playground as an ice pack for a bumped knee – now that’s cool!
What's been the hardest part of starting and running a business?
I’m quite self-motivated, but we’re a small team so we have to keep stepping back and looking at the business as a whole to see how we can grow and help more people.
Explaining how the bags work is vital as well. That’s always been an obstacle as our bags don’t look any different from a traditional cooler bag, yet they work in such a unique way.
Getting the word out about our bags on multiple channels (ie television, magazines, online) has proven challenging as well, as you always need to have a new story to tell. But we have many stories to tell so we’re chipping away at this one!
What's your best time-management strategy?
I’m a list maker and it keeps me on track. I’m always thinking of new ideas and concepts as well as keeping the normal running of the business going, so a list is vital so nothing gets missed.
What were you doing prior to Fridge-to-go?
Before starting Fridge-to-go I worked in advertising media sales for almost 10 years, finishing up at Cosmopolitan magazine. Cosmpolitan’s Body Love philosophy (where food, exercise and healthy living are more important than your body shape) helped shape my viewpoint of the need to help women to nurture themselves with beautiful fresh food. Our bags help in a small but important way.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to help educate parents, to show them they can give their children fresh and beautifully healthy food – and it can still be simple and cost efficient. Often children don’t get given fresh food, or parents don’t eat it themselves, so they don’t know they like it. Eating habits seem so simple, but with childhood obesity at an all time high, we can all use as much information as possible. I love that Fridge-to-go can help with peace of mind and know you’re doing something positive – even just feeing your family more fresh fruit and vegetables.
What advice would you give to a mum looking to start her own business?
Women are especially happy to share their expertise and opinions, so it’s vital to really listen and look for mentors who have expertise in areas you need to know about. A lot of this valuable information doesn’t cost a cent and can be so helpful.
Also, just like the airplane mask theory (in an emergency, put your mask on first, then your child’s), you MUST look after yourself. Strive for balance, as raising a family and a business can be very stressful and time consuming. Make sure you still catch up with friends or go for that walk to keep yourself grounded and focused – it will only make you happier and more successful in the long run.