Karen Lavecky always dreamt of starting her own business, but it wasn’t until her “world changed” after getting caught up in September 11 that she was inspired to take the plunge.
That plunge has made her so successful she has just landed a seven-figure deal with Aussie supermarket Coles.
Ms Lavecky, who was working in the hospitality industry at the time of the September 11 attacks, had jetted off to the US for a 10-day holiday with friends when the horrifying situation occurred.
The group ended up getting stuck in the country, and Ms Lavecky said witnessing the tragedy from up close moved her to change her life.
“My world changed from that point. I was fine – obviously many people were far worse off – but it really changed the trajectory of my being,” she told news.com.au.
After returning to Sydney, Ms Lavecky stuck with her job for several months before she had an “epiphany” and decided life was too short – and that “the world needed more dumplings”.
So she quit her job and began planning how to turn her dim sum addiction into a business.
The result was Land of Plenty Food Co, which was launched from her parent’s house almost 18 years ago.
She started small, concentrating on dumplings, and “hit the streets” trying to convince companies to stock them.
They were snapped up by “a lot of little gourmet food stores” and eventually secured a deal with David Jones after Ms Lavecky was introduced to the company’s buyer by chance at a party.
Another big break came when she pitched her dumplings to Gold Class cinemas. At first, she was fobbed off – but when Ms Lavecky sat through a Gold Class session herself as a customer, a golden opportunity fell into her lap.
Guests were given questionnaires asking what they would like to see introduced at screenings, and Ms Lavecky filled in a stack, writing “dumplings”.
She soon got a call from company representative Craig Rochat asking to stock her range – and the pair eventually ended up tying the knot.
Mr Rochat – who is now Group CEO at Land of Plenty Food Co – told news.com.au he only discovered they had met through “trickery” on their wedding day.
Over the years, Ms Lavecky developed different ranges of products under her parent company, including the Lotus & Ming, Dim Sum & Co, Rustic by L & M, Paloma Pops, Bondi Yoghurt and Our Family Table food brands.
Another major coup came when Costco began selling some of her products – but a new massive deal with Coles has been the real “game-changer” for the family company.
Earlier this year, the couple pitched their Our Family Table seafood range to Coles, and by “pure chance” the grocery giant was in the middle of a range review.
The parents of two had a “very narrow window” of just three months between pitching their range and having products land on shelves, and they worked around the clock to meet the tough deadline.
It ended up being the “single largest order” the company ever dispatched, involving 59 pallets of more than 65,000 boxes of seafood.
Today, their gluten free Fish Goujon, Crispy Squid Chips, Deep Sea Hake Fillets, Alaskan Deep Sea Flounder and Premium Australian Whiting are available in Coles stores across the country.
And while the range has only just made its Coles debut, Ms Lavecky said if their sales expectations for a year were achieved, the Coles deal would be worth “over seven figures”.
“It was an amazing moment when we received the confirmation letter from the (Coles) buyer,” she said.
“This is a milestone for our company and a fantastic sense of achievement for Craig and I.
“Any opportunity to supply one of the largest food retailers in the country is a game changer for a family-run company like ours. Ultimately though, our success now lies in the hands of the Australian consumer who we hope love the range as much as we do.”
Coles senior category manager Todd May told news.com.au the company was “proud” to partner with the responsibly-sourced brand.
“We identified a clear gap in the market for gluten-free frozen seafood products and the Our Family Table range is a perfect example of some great, delicious meal solutions for our coeliac customers,” he said.