Peter Cain: Growing Dad's Oats
27 July 2016



Young farmers that attended the YAPs Ballarat Young Farmer Dinner earlier this month were treated to a great discussion with Dad’s Oat’s co-founder and young farmer Peter Cain.
 
Hailing from a mixed operation in Natte Yallock, Peter spoke about his family business and shared valuable insights from their eventful journey producing and direct-selling value-added oats.

Teaming up with his sister Alicia, the entrepreneurial duo were enjoying a glass of wine, discussing the interest that consumers have in provenance and origin when they first hatched the idea of Dad’s Oats.

After initial research came the challenge of finding a processor that would be willing to process small quantities of oats. Peter’s advice was simple, “fake it ‘til you make it.” 

“We got the processors on board by appearing professional at the meeting. We turned up with business cards and a packaging box that we had had printed the day before,” he said.

This was only the first of many hurdles, Peter recalling that “Growing and processing was easy compared to selling the oats.” 

“We started at Farmers Markets – these people really care about where the product comes from and this allowed us to refine who we were and what we stood for. Knowing where you are in the market is a really important place to start.”

The Dad’s Oats team found this was also a great opportunity to educate consumers. “90 per cent of people at the markets don’t know what oats look like before they’re rolled.” Peter recalled that they would often be asked if they were organic, and he would explain that they use conventional production methods, however being able to assure the customer when and how their oats were sprayed allayed their concerns. 

Following initial success, Peter and Alicia were looking to expand, and utilised a crowd funding campaign to raise capital to build their online store. “The crowd funding campaign was a good process to go through. It gave us a focal point and made us get everything done.” 

Peter reflected that paying for a professional to help them create a brief, good quality video clip and photographs was pivotal. “The video was a great way to raise awareness. We were keen to tell a story and the video created something newsworthy – two days later we were featured in the Herald Sun. We hit $10,000 in sales within 24 hours of the video being launched.” 

Over the past 5 months Dad’s Oats has focused on selling to high end premium produce stores and high end food service and cafes. Moving forward the Dad’s Oats team are keen to grow sustainably. “We’ve had a lot of interest from export markets, particularly China. At this stage we want to learn to crawl before we walk! That said, the first employee we’ve taken on speaks Mandarin and has a background in software engineering, so we are trying to do everything we can do to make things easier on the e-commerce side”.