Her business philosophy is based on community, ownership and fun. However, it’s that word, fun, that comes up over and over again when I chat to Brittany Garbutt founder of Pretzel, brand creative, a true entrepreneur and bloody impressive business woman. Let’s get to the bottom of why it all revolves around those three letters … F.U.N!
Brittany started her career as a brand designer but her skill set and vision soon outweighed the demand for her talents in her home town of Perth, WA. Almost on a whim, and after a discussion with bestie Mallory, Pretzel was born. “She had nothing to do. I was looking for something to do, and we both really loved pretzels. We worked at a Pretzel place when we were kids and thought, ‘there are no pretzels anymore and we make the most phenomenal pretzels’. Then Mallory ended up falling in love with guy and moved to Canada, so it became my thing”.
Fast forward 3 years and pretzel has 6 premises across WA and Victoria, with expansion plans for the rest of the Australian East Coast and into Asia. However, with the coronavirus now impacting businesses worldwide, Brittany has had to rethink her plans for 2020. “Coronavirus has been ripping through the business to be honest. But, it’s been bizarrely positive because it’s allowed us to get super close to our customers. I would describe our customers as kind of ‘culty’ because we’re like a weird band of misfits; they’ll do anything to keep us alive and keep us going”.
With take-away the only option and Brittany’s current goal “to keep her kids employed”, business has been all about how to move forward and keep the revenue coming in. Enter selling online and Pretzel ‘merch’. Brittany is now selling signature pink socks for $15 – “one pair of socks equals a half hour of wages”. Brittany’s moving fast; it’s all about being open to all options and staying agile.
“We can sit in a huddle and be really upset about this” says Brittany “or we can use this time to make improvements to the business long term. If we have new ideas, I’m able to turn them around really quickly because of my skill set. From what I could tell, we were one of the first companies to get online and within 24 hours of the shutdown”.
The pain points
Like all business stories though it’s not been smooth sailing. In fact, at the start of this journey, Brittany went in intending to create something unique, make a profit and sell quickly. “I thought it’ll fund my next adventure, but it was the worst six months of my life. I actually equated it to a jail term. That’s how I got through it. I was like, ‘Brit it’s just like going to jail for six months, you’re going to fine. But by month three, I was like no, I love this. This is mine”.
During the start-up phase, Brittany worked 19-hour days, 364 days in a row. Despite loving the business, burn out looked inevitable. In desperate need of a break, Brittany realised that as much as she loved Pretzel, something needed to change. It was on a trip to Tokyo that the epiphany hit, “I switched from working in the business to working on the business” says Brittany.
How to manage and motivate staff
Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you that often one of the most difficult aspects of running a business is staffing. How to find the good ones, and when you do, how to keep them. “I really underestimated my ability to manage” says Brittany. “I’m a very thoughtful human and I’m really good with people generally. But being in that high-pressure environment where you’re relying on other people to take over something, to do a job, that’s so stressful. Not projecting that stress is very difficult.
“I was used to working with people where I could have greater expectations; I knew they could perform. Now I was asking 16-year-olds to act like they were 30”. As the business owner, Brittany soon realized that she couldn’t impose her work ethic onto her staff. “You have to understand and be respectful of other people, where they are in life, and that for them, this is a part time job not a full-time career.
“It took me a long time to wrap my head around the fact that I needed to be Pretzel’s hero. If I wanted others to work for me I needed to inspire them to do that; not demand it from them because it’s never going to happen. Wrapping my head around being a manager, being in charge of people and how best to manage my expectations to get the most out of them was the most difficult thing about this whole business.”
So, three years in, 112 staff to manage, and a business about to expand, I ask Brittany how her management style has evolved. “Basically, I started ‘giving’ people a portion of the business in their head. I needed my staff to feel ownership in some way, shape or form; that contributing to the business was as a benefit to them.
“I would break up big roles into tiny responsibilities. So, something that a manager would normally do. We had a store room supervisor and then a first-aid kit supervisor. Their job was simply to ensure that the first-aid kit was stocked constantly. But I found that kids thrive on responsibility.
“Now, every time I do a new thing, I throw it out to them. I’d say, what are we doing? What do you guys think we should do? Do you have any suggestions or thoughts? Just having a little piece of the company in whatever way, shape or form, even if it’s ‘owning’ the first-aid kit, really makes people believe that you believe in them; then they believe in the business. That’s how I’ve learned to cultivate a team relationship. I really encourage them to do the best of everything. There’s no reason ever to be lazy or to slack, and I have no tolerance of any negativity among the crew.”
Tips for great Brand design
Whilst Brittany had always wanted her own business, her start as a creative in brand design has been invaluable in the creation of Pretzel. So, what are Brittany’s tips for great brand design?
- “I think people are often a bit strangled by some of the basic principles of marketing design and branding. In the case of Pretzel, I knew it should be about fun and it should be evolving and it should be a community.
- “A lot of people are concerned about market research and to the point where they let it stifle them, not inspire them. So, it’s great to do that work and to have it, I have a lot of that and it supports my brand, but I don’t allow it to stop my creativity.
- “When creating a ‘food destination’, you have to provide people with something other than a product, because otherwise why leave your home? We love the fun, we love to interact with our customers. I love seeing people come in and check out all the little bits and pieces; that’s why we never do one store the same as the next. We provide a bit of magic for our customers.
- “Make sure your brand can progress; don’t lock into something that is so brand specific it doesn’t allow wiggle room. You should have an opportunity to evolve with your customers, especially in the early stages of your business where you’re still getting your foot hold and deciding who actually is the best customer for you. I do a new mood board every month and it helps me to make sure that I’m doing new content, new things.
- “Create awareness. At Pretzel we use pink and that creates a blanket of brand awareness and then we go wild. So, we do anything and everything. As long as it’s all pink.
Over in WA, Pretzel has become part of the community and for Brittany’s target market a cult brand. As a result, Brittany’s decided to expand into fashion and use the brand to make a difference.
“Fashion has always been a way to let people know what you feel about the world and how you associate yourself in it, what you think etc. So, [branching into fashion] is a really cool way for our brand to move. It’s not only, ‘hey, I eat pretzels so I’m a Pretzel Kid. It’s hey, I eat Pretzel and I wear Pretzel and I associate with this brand’. It’s fun to see something that really is just flour and water turn into something that is actually, ‘this is how I see myself, who I align myself with, this is what I believe in and this is what I’m a part of’. And I like that.”
Brittany and her staff are “obsessed with dogs” so the plan now is to use Pretzel’s new-found cult status and create a small company related charity called ‘Pink for Paws’. “I want to give them something that they can build up and love” and its aim will be to raise money for dogs.
So, what’s a Pretzel kid?
“Definitely a misfit” advises Brittany. “We’re more likely to align ourselves with being different, or being artistic, or having a different view on things rather than more mainstream. We’re a little bit interesting or fun or odd or quirky in one way or another, and I suppose that’s sort of the essential. The essential heart of Pretzel is a quirkiness that’s just like a little left of center, it’s fun and it’s bold.”
Advice for side-hustlers
The best advice Brittany can give is to “spend a lot of time nailing down what you are doing and why. Are you really interested in your side hustle? Or are you more interested in being a boss girl? If you love your side hustle then go for it”.
“It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the glamour of it, but it’s really not glamorous. It’s hard work. Sometimes you lose a lot of your life, you lose a lot of spare time and it’s hard. And I really make sure that if anyone does ask me for advice, it comes with a disclaimer. I need them to know that if they’re not obsessed with what they’re doing, it’s going to bring them more unhappiness; it will never bring them happiness.
“Then, all you need to do is put in the time. Set a schedule, say between this hour and this hour I’m going to be doing branding, or mood boards – laying stuff out, printing inspiration. Start to work on systems, do a heck of a ton of research. Those things can all be a part of a really great beginning.
Know your value
Last but not least, Brittany suggests that you need to know the value of yourself and your product and be 100% certain you’re not undercharging. After all, business is about turning a profit.
Brittany suggests that “the biggest failure of a lot of side hustles is that people don’t know their overheads. Know your taxes, labor costs, like super, and then right down to the cost of a light globe. If you have to switch on a light in order to make that thing happen, it counts. It’s not just the bare necessities. I’ve seen a lot of people have really successful online businesses that have gone under because they’ve actually been spending money to produce that product, not making money. So, know your numbers”.
Brittany still has her heart set on expanding Pretzel. “We are looking at Singapore first. We have started the groundwork over there already. I think that it would be a nicely aligned product with that culture and that space. We also want to move up higher up the East Coast of Australia, we’re looking at Sydney and even Queensland”.
In addition to expanding the bricks and mortar side of the brand, Brittany is also working on the creation of prepackaged pretzel kits, “we have a couple of house recipes and they’re amazing” and moving into a wholesale version of her business. “We want to look into the how we can diversify pretzels from being just a single sale item business to something that is more of a culture in a larger sense, because it’s able to appeal to multiple areas of retail”.
With that we say our goodbyes and I’m left in awe, wondering exactly what Brittany will do next. It’s sure to be incredible.
Jump on to the Pretzel website here.
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Spend another minute with Brittany here.