Today we are introducing you to Anna who runs The Baru Project, a small business that does a lot more than just sell delicious Brazilian nuts.
Anna started this small business, The Baru Project, with her husband Ricardo and their friend Thiago, who is located in Brazil. Their business journey is driven by their own passion for Indigenous practices in Brazil, the natural wonders of the Baru tree and working towards a positive social economic impact on the Brazilian industry.
Ricardo was an Art Director in Brazil but has been working in graphic design since moving to Australia. Thiago is still working as an art director and is a farmer. Over the last few years Anna has worked in a few aspects of the fitness industry and practised immigration law.
Our business is called The Baru Project, and is all about the baru tree – its nut, its fruit, its ecosystem and the people that live in the region where it grows.
The baru nut is a nutritionally-dense nut from the Cerrado region of Brazil. As well as wanting to introduce such a healthy and delicious nut to the Australian market, we are passionate about helping preserve and restore the Baru tree’s ecosystem in Brazil and creating valuable and meaningful employment opportunities for often underprivileged rural workers in the region.
The Baru Project began in 2018, first by founding a co-operative in Brazil to learn about harvesting Baru in the Indigenous tradition, and to work directly with the community there. Our next step was to look for ways to actively help preserve and restore the Cerrado’s ecosystem. For example, we leave one-third of each tree’s harvest and are planting more Baru trees. We’re also slowly forming working relationships with cattle farmers. They allow us to forage from the wild baru trees left on their properties. The plan is to soon begin planting food forests on their land, which is for the most part usually very devastated land. Baru trees are one of the key species needed in restoring the Cerrado’s biome.
We officially launched the Australian side of The Baru Project at the end of 2019, so about six months ago.
Why Anna Started the Baru Project
Business intrigues us both a lot, it’s what really makes the world go round it seems. And we believe that businesses should have shared value for everyone and not only be a ‘profit machine’. It’s also really amazing to be able to work on something that is very meaningful to you. When I was in Brazil I fell in love with the nut for its taste and then when we learnt how important it was for the ecosystem and the positive social impact the industry can have. It really is a labour of love. Since living in Australia, Ricardo has become even more passionate about finding a way to support his country and its people. The three of us share the same environmental and social vision and are passionate about how our business can help improve realities.
We split most of the work the business needs between the three of us but do contract out a few specific things to professionals such as some of the export processes. The co-op members in Brazil are also managed and paid by us. And last but not least, our families give us a lot of their time as well as moral and financial support.
Working with Many Rivers
Penelope has so much experience in the food industry, so she has been an amazing resource and so supportive. Squire Patton Boggs also gave us formal legal advice around packaging and wording. And we had some assistance with general business planning and cash flow forecasting.
Penelope is full of great ideas and is so supportive! Having a mentor that has worked in the same sector as our business has been really amazing. We have enjoyed sharing the development of our business with her so much. We have held off on big purchases like a nut butter machine and have found more artisanal ways to work on our products so far. We’ve just released our first product, which is a nut butter. We’ve got one original flavour and also a chocolate flavour, a baru tella.
The biggest challenge has been not being able to draw salaries from the business yet. We need to make money alongside having a business that we are still feeding – and it has an insatiable belly! The lack of money also makes it very difficult to bring in more heads to think and help grow the business.
We are very thankful for how many stockists have already got behind us. Many people that have been trying and purchasing the nuts from our stockists and also our online shop. Demand was consistent before Covid-19, and we hope that it will pick up again now that restrictions are lifting.
Future Goals For The Baru Project
Ultimately, we would like to be spending most of our time on the Brazilian aspects of the business – the social enterprise and co-op side of things. It would be amazing to have a team of people in Australia, focusing on sales and marketing. Social media really is very challenging. We are also looking into how to organise the packaging better longer term. We are considering a commercial packaging company, as packaging is very time consuming. Shorter term, we are planning to focus on the mainland. We are hoping to find 50-100 stockists ourselves on the east coast between Byron Bay and Noosa. There’s a lot of interest coming from that strip. We are also talking with a number of distributors to introduce the nut Australia-wide.
Thanks Anna for sharing your business journey. Make sure you follow The Baru Project on Facebook.
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