Fitting in the time to shop for good quality, healthy food is one of the challenges of my busy life. It’s too easy just to grab takeaway or fast food when you’re on the go, but I value my health and my wallet too much to do that regularly. So what to do?

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Organic Angels is a Melbourne-based organic produce delivery service started by husband and wife team Scott and Sarah Butler. From their first delivery in 2006 they have now built their business to the success story nominated as a Victorian finalist for Telstra’s business awards in 2009. Today’s HOT Chat is with Sarah – thanks Sarah!

butlers3Sarah, tell me a bit more about your background and the story behind Organic Angels?

Scott’s background was in web design and he was working in insurance as a Business Analyst at the time of starting Organic Angels. After 18 months Scott resigned, hung up his corporate suit and starting working full time on the business. I’ve worked in hospitality and tourism and was teaching / training in these industries.

We have always been people who love good, tasty food. We enjoy entertaining and cooking for friends and family. After the arrival of our first son Charlie in 2004, life’s dynamics and priorities suddenly took a shift. As I was out doing the weekly shopping, I’d often come home dissatisfied with the tasteless food just purchased for the money spent, plus it was such an effort to get out with baby in tow. Shopping was not enjoyable, it was a hassle.

When it was time to introduce solid food to Charlie, we spent many hours educating ourselves about eating organic food. After reading into the benefits of eating organic and the frightening statistics on the high amount of pesticides and artificial hormones in foods today, we slowly made the conversion to organic.

We put a value on out time and we looked at where we could shop online for our organics and have it delivered, but found it hard to find a reliable, friendly organic home delivery company, with an easy to use website. This is when an idea was birthed and Organic Angels made its first delivery in May 2006.

Where do you source your fruit and veg and your other organic products?box of fruit and vegetables isolated

Our organic fruit and veggies are sourced from the wholesale market in Footscray (this is where growers from all over the country deliver their produce), Scott is the lucky one now up at 3:00am twice a week to go to the market! When we can, we source produce direct from the grower. All produce is Australian and certain times of the year majority comes from Victoria.

I think the general public holds a bit of scepticism about the benefits of organic or biodynamic produce – so what do you say to the naysayers?

There is plenty of evidence and research into eating organic foods and their benefits. I would encourage the sceptics out there to do some research and make an educated choice.

What may deter some people from eating organic is the cost factor – you do pay more for organic foods. Our view is that organic is the real price of food. Organic food prices represent the true cost of growing nutritious, high quality produce. Some of these costs include: more labour intensive practices, expensive natural fertilisers, soil regeneration processes, organic grain for livestock, lower yields, certification fees and higher transportation costs due to smaller scale distribution.

When we decided to start eat organic, we were not high income earners but we knew that by making a change to our diet and feeding our children organic was a priority. We looked at our budget where we could reduce other costs so we could afford going organic. We slowly introduced organic more and more in our diet and we can say that is the best choice we have made for us and our children.  Today, our diet is almost 100% organic.

We have noticed a big difference in our lives. Some of these are:

Our health has improved, we have noticed that we and our kids are hardly ever sick and recovery is faster. Research has shown that organic food has more vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients than conventional food.

We feel satisfied and fuller after each meal and we have especially noticed that our kids do not snack as much as other kids on a non-organic diet.

The big thing is organic food tastes better, you really notice the taste difference, therefore cooking healthy organic meals is so much more enjoyable. Many people say that organic food tastes “as it used to”.

It gives us great comfort knowing that we play such an integral role educating Charlie, and his little brother Jacob (who has since arrived on the scene) about enjoying good, tasty simple food, hopefully shaping the future for the next generation.

Beside the personal benefits, we also believe eating organic farming and production is better for the environment. Most people are aware that ‘organic’ means foods and products grown and processed without the use of synthetically produced chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides or pesticides and is free from antibiotics and growth hormones. What consumers may not know that is that organic products are not genetically engineered or manipulated.

Excessive use of chemicals and modern farming methods have led to a decline in soil fertility and an increase in salinity and blue-green algae in waterways over many years. Organic farmers try to minimise damage to the environment by using sustainable farming practices such as physical weed control and animal/green manure.

Finally, organic farming places greater emphasis on animal welfare. Animals are treated more humanely; stocking densities are lower which means less stress on the animal and free range is the norm. Certain cruel practices are prohibited (such as beak cutting); animals are not fed any growth-regulating drugs, steroids, hormones or antibiotics.

What challenges did you face getting Organic Angels off the ground?

Initially we started the business as a part time job for me to do in and around kids, but we soon discovered we were onto a good thing and we did not expect the fast growth we experienced. This was challenging to keep up as we had to continually adjust our processes and working from home had its challenges.

What are your future plans for Organic Angels?

Our plans for Organic Angels is to become a ‘green’ business. Applying sustainable practices to our day-to-day running of the business has helped minimise our impact on the environment and reduce costs. In the near future we are looking to become carbon neutral and offset our emissions from our delivery vans.

vanboxhillWhat’s a typical work day for you and what advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

Each day is varied however a typical delivery day goes like this…..Scott’s alarm goes off at 2.45am, he makes a cup of tea for the road, rugs up warm and heads off to markets in Footscray. Scott arrives back at the office around 5.30am unloads the van, staff arrive and we get prepared for a morning of packing. Making sure we get our delivery drivers out on time for a full day delivering.

I come in after school drop off with baby Jacob (our second son) and Scott goes home with Jacob, puts him down for a sleep, then jumps into bed for some sleep catch up himself. I stay at the office for the day, assisting staff in packing and does other business day-to-day tasks and gets home in time for dinner with the family.

Outside our delivery days, we work at the office doing admin, accounts and business development.

When starting your own business make sure you do plenty of research and write a good business plan, find someone who can act as a mentor and guide you in setting up your business. Don’t give up your day job; ideally you should have an alternative income when getting your business of the ground, so you can concentrate on getting the business right rather than worrying about how you are going to pay the bills. It may be frustrating not being able to spend time on your business but causes a lot less stress financially.

Finally, what are your HOT tips for Melbourne?

A new local haunt in called Red Cup Cafe (1124 Whitehouse Road, Box Hill) brings a little Fitzroy vibe to the eastern burbs. We go there once a week to treat ourselves to a beautifully made coffee and home-made muffin – great spot for our weekly business meeting.

Melbourne’s inner city alley ways are always vibrant and buzzing with colour, smells and bustling people. Here you find great little cafes (one particularly good organic cafe is TOFWD in Degraves St – opposite CAE), recycled fashion shops and other boutique stores.

For really special occasions and a memorable experience, we have eaten at Taxi in Federation Square and  The Botanical (169 Domain Rd, South Yarra 1800 787 299). The menu is spectacular and you’ll always find something organic or locally sourced on the menu.

We are big fans of Vietnamese food, so a walk to Indochine (51 Carrington Rd, Box Hill +61 3 9890 2966) is well known for its food, it’s always busy and the kids love eating there too.

You can read a review of Organic Angels’ fruit and vegetable delivery service next week on the blog.

For more chats with interesting Melburnians, click here.