Coffs Coast woman Alison Heagney fell pregnant at 43, with her son Daniel, and shortly after the relationship she was in broke down.
Being a single mum with a toddler, Ms Heagney was no longer employed and went on to study a Masters of Project Management.
“During my study I realised that I needed to think about what I was going to do afterwards,” Ms Heagney said.
“I needed to work up a business model that offered me flexibility, good cash flow and an exciting future for my son and I. Something scalable and that I was passionate about.”
During this time, Ms Heagney said she had been cooking “emergency meatballs” for Daniel which were a “meal in a meatball shape.”
“As part of my Project Management course, I had to use real life project examples. So I started to work up the idea for Magic Meatballs,” Ms Heagney said.
“One day, on my way to the Coffs Council co-working site, I stumbled across the Small Biz Bus. I thought I’d just walk in there and tell them my idea and see what they thought, and that’s where I met Fiona from ETC.
“Fiona told me about the “top down” approach, where I find a contract manufacturer and develop the product straight into the supermarket chains.”
Ms Heagney went on to find a contract manufacturer who also referred her onto a commercialisation expert.
“I was able to secure the help of a consultant famous for the Recipe to Riches television series,” Ms Heagney said.
“And now I’ve got the shelf space. That’s a big ticket item in the supermarket world.”
As of a month ago, Magic Meatballs can be found in 323 stores throughout Victoria, NSW and QLD.
“We’re just trialling at the moment, but there is a possibility for them to go out to all 900 Woolworth’s stores in Australia,” Ms Heagney said.
Ms Heagney said she would not be where she is today without the help of Fiona Barden and the ETC Small Biz Connect Program.
“Fiona really grounded me. It’s also a friendly face and somebody that knows all the business secrets that I didn’t know,” Ms Heagney said.
Ms Heagney explained that her next move is to focus on the marketing side of her business. She hopes that in the long term she can look at setting up her own local factory.
“I’d love to do that because having a background in the employment industry I know about the underemployment in this area. I love employing people and having staff,” Ms Heagney said.
ETC Business Advisor Fiona Barden said watching Alison’s progression from idea to reality has been an exciting part of her role with ETC’s Small Biz Connect program.
“It is not often that we work with a client who dreams of starting big and then has the ability to see the plan through,” Ms Barden said.
“Alison’s commitment to planning and her desire to build something of significance, not only for her son, but for the community has been inspirational.”