50 fastest-growing start-ups
StartupSmart Awards 2011
Founders: Carl Harwin
After growing up in California, Wowcow founder Carl Harwin says starting up a frozen yoghurt business in Australia felt like a natural progression.
“In 2007, I had just moved to Australia with my family and knew that I wanted to start my own business,” Harwin says.
“Months after I arrived, I saw a gap [in the market] in quick frozen yoghurt and desserts, and growing up in southern California, which has a very similar beach and lifestyle culture, I couldn’t understand why frozen yoghurt never really took off here.”
“So I decided to take my chances and go with my gut feeling that the time would be right, and Australians would really appreciate a healthy alternative to the already thriving ice cream and gelato industry.”
After devoting a year to research and development, Harwin secured a site in Sydney’s northern beaches and opened Wowcow, describing it as Australia’s first “super-chilled yoghurt and dessert lounge”.
Harwin used the store to test the product and tailor his offering to suit the Australian palate before relocating 18 months later.
“In May 2009, I opened up the flagship store on Victoria Street in Darlinghurst,” he says.
“Over the past few years, the business has developed its retail store model, its events and catering business as well as its wholesale business, and is now ready to embark on its national expansion drive.”
The business employees 15 staff and raked in revenue of $700,000 last financial year, but Harwin says it hasn’t been without its challenges.
In addition to working around the clock for no money – like so many start-ups do – Harwin had the added challenge of being new to Australia with a wife and two babies in tow.
“This was the most difficult and painful thing I have ever done and it lasted three years, but failure was never an option,” he says.
“The feeling when you finally start to come through the other side of all the years of pain and sacrifice – you can’t describe the feeling.”
“For an entrepreneur who gets the first taste of the business’ success, there is nothing like it.”
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