My journey of 50 years of self-education
My ultimate goal is working together with the leaders in the fresh produce industry, in both Australia and across the globe.
I was born in 1956 at Paddington hospital, New South Wales. My first memory takes me back to my primary school years on Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach. Back then, it was not a trendy suburb, it was just a suburb by the beach. My childhood years were good.
My passion and almost obsession for fresh fruit and vegetables started from a very tender age. We were privileged enough to have Mr. and Mrs. Mangraviti’s Italian Fruit Shop situated right next to my parents’ shop-fitting business. My parents specialized in providing cabinetry to retail shops especially the fruit shop industry in Sydney.
Age 5 with my proud mum
Teenage Years: when pampering is all what you expect
I grew up in a health-conscious family, where our pantry and fridge were always packed to the rafters with heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables. Our fruit bowl was always overflowing! We kids were well looked after, and my parents almost always indulged our little quirks. It was a well-known fact that I favoured the centre of the watermelon and wouldn’t even consider eating the rest. Now some people might call that spoilt; nevertheless, it was my favourite way to tuck into a juicy watermelon. As a family, we never took for granted the blessing to always have food on our table.
Teenage years were tough
My grandfather, an upstanding Jewish man, was both a gifted artist and an incredible musician. By encouraging my emerging creativity, he played a huge role during my sometimes-troubled teenage years. My adoring grandmother was the president of the Red Cross auxiliary role. With the assistance and unwavering faith of my two brilliant grandparents, my first art exhibition was launched at age 12. You can imagine the proud moment when all, but one of the 22 paintings were sold!
Entering My 20’s: when imagination trumps almost everything.
During my 20’s, my passion for fresh fruit and vegetables never wavered, and only grew stronger. I was driven by my eagerness to learn everything there was to know about growing fresh produce, and of course, to taste the fruits of my labour! At the age of 17, I’d already made up my mind that mango, paw-paw, and watermelon were my 3 favourite fruits. That’s one thing that remains the same until today.
The hospitality industry was calling my name, so I decided to leave school and pursue a career that was sure to feed my passion for obtaining the freshest produce. My first gig was at the Sydney Royal Easter Showground. Farmers and growers from all over the states would gather at the Hall of Agriculture to show off their fresh produce. I would be in utter awe of the spectacular displays of fruit and vegetables, a picture that is still engraved in my mind.
Soon after, I threw myself into a four years intensed study. The dualcertification of Nutrition and Advertising & Marketing escalated my two passions and dreams. I was lucky enough to share a house with 3 other like-minded individuals, who also needed extra cash to support their ongoing studies. Future Foods, my very first company, was launched in collaboration with my fellow “fresh obsessed” housemate, Michael. In 1979, we began our production of sprouted seeds and became suppliers to restaurants and wholesale markets. I soon spotted an opportunity that would allow us to rapidly expand our business, almost overnight. We started buying fresh produce from the wholesalers, to then offer a broader variety to restaurants around Sydney.
Not long after, we were compelled to employ additional staff to fulfil the weekly delivery leg of our full-service offering. The next step was to branch out and start selling directly to the public. Luckily, we were one of the first companies to break into this new market. Our modus operandi was to grab an 18kg box, fill it up with any in-season produce, and charge $10 to deliver straight to our customers’ door. The concept proved to be a roaring success! By the early ’80s, I’d finished my studies and sold the business. By applying the same proven formula, I launched a brand-new business for my sister, living on the South Coast of NSW. I was 25 and itching to take on the world and concealed prospects!
A Grown-up: when you understand life is multi-coloured
Like many Australians, I began my travels in Asia, surfing my way through the different coasts and oceans. I embraced whatever life had to offer by fully immersing myself in every cultural experience I encountered. Sampling the various cuisines was, of course, a priority. The tropics gifted us with the most incredible fruit, bursting with incredible flavours! Mango always ranked first though. On my journey from Indonesia to India, I was fortunate enough to discover, touch, taste, and also share an array of tropical fruits with my fellow travellers.
Fun in Asia
After Asia, I headed up to Europe and experienced my first winter season nestled in the middle of the French Alps, Chamonix. To supplement my income, I turned yet again to selling sprouts. At that stage, sprouts weren’t very well known but through a good contact, I sourced some seeds from a sprout grower in Switzerland.
I began my sprout production again, served, and kept healthy a small group of expats that chose the French Alps as their new home. It was an instant success. People loved it as it was new, fresh, and also incredibly good for health. It wasn’t enough to just keep the expats and locals content and healthy; I had to ramp up production. After buying more seeds, my small production was soon supplying sprouts to all the local restaurants.
Halfway through the season, I was approached by a reputable businessman from Paris. He’d discovered the product in the US and could never come across anything similar in France. I was offered a deal where we would go after, what he believed, was a vast untapped market in France. As winter was nearing its end, I grabbed the opportunity to investigate and evaluate the viability of installing a commercial production unit of sprouts in France.
Hungry for success with my good mate Rory
28 years old, and hungry for success, I accepted the offer. We formed a partnership and commenced production in Bordeaux. After approximately 6 months, the business really took off and I ended up spending the next 10 years of my life in France.
Well, my good stint in France not only catalysed my professional growth but also painted my personal life blue. During my initial years in Lacanau, destiny had its first smile on me. Yes, I met a beautiful and charming French lady, Sylvie. She was then an artist, dancer who shared more or less the same vibes with me for we both chased our passion. As a result, in addition to having a stellar mutual understanding, she lent that much-needed support to build up my business. Her innate creative skills, aptly complemented by the knowledge about locality along with her language talents, facilitated my efforts to kick-start the business. She was the major force in attaining publicity when we launched our product in the local market, thereby ticking all those boxes in favour of the product promotion. The very testimony to this feat is winning of the venerated and prestigious award – The Green Ribbon of Agriculture.
A punch and a kick into your healthy salad
Within the first three years, the business had already reached a production of 1000 kilos of sprouts per week. Due to this rapid expansion, I decided to import more seeds from Australia. The French media lauded us, and every news platform enquired about our product. We became the talk of the town in no time. You see, patience is a virtue, but self-belief holds the key!
Start-up research by local college students
Top chef in Bordeaux, France
Wholesale Fresh Produce Market
RUNGIS – PARIS. France
My top sales person, Marie, at a trade fair in Bordeuax
Front cover of Young Agriculture France National
Les Rubans Vert
The Green Ribbon of Agriculture
Les Rubans Vert
The whole production
Turning 40: Time does change people, but I call it adaptation!
After my 10-year adventure in France, it was time to return home, Australia. France allowed me to meet remarkable people while firmly making my mark in the French hospitality industry. All the great opportunities had armed me with new ideas to implement in Australia. One of the concepts was the creation of laminated display cards. These cards were perfect for the hospitality industry, where they were referred to as ‘Visitors Info Cards’.
Heading home to Sydney, Australia
Once back in Australia, I set up shop and started manufacturing the cards in Sydney. In 1997, ‘Uptime Marketing’ was born, and so my advertising and marketing career was launched. Our launch coincided perfectly with the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
Our business expanded rapidly as I successfully set up a distribution network of display stands, filled with visitor info cards. We targeted all the 3-5 star hotels in and around Sydney as well as tourism and hospitality outlets, and terminals. We hit the sweet spot by launching our product at the exact right time. The business flourished, leading up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics as well as the 2004 Rugby World Cup. The product proved to be unique and suited to both domestic and international tourists.
‘Uptime Marketing’ was sold in 2006. With my increased capital and new-found industry knowledge, I formed another business and continued to work in the marketing industry to this day. The main focus of the company was selling advertising for magazines and other print media. Our main clients hailed from tourism, hospitality, the fresh produce industry, government sector, and lastly, retailers. In this time, we witnessed the inception of online marketing.
In 2001, I spotted an opportunity to re-enter the fresh produce industry. Owing to my previous involvement in the tourism sector as well as in the fresh produce industry, I was fetched with an opportunity on the south coast of New South Wales. We were to provide seasonal produce to a niche market of seasonal retailers. The first couple of years were tough. The operation didn’t seem financially viable, but because I still foresaw the potential in the project, I persevered.
During this time, I had found love again with Faye, a wonderful woman I had met through the retail sector. It would be another 7 years before we became partner in an new business.
Over the next 10 years, this perseverance paid off handsomely, and the operation became very profitable. The concept was simple, but we were way ahead of the competition in the food marketing industry. It was 2001, and a few more years would pass before the concepts of food trucks and pop-up shops became popular. My business kept this initiative up for the duration of 12 summers. It was at this stage that my FRESH IS BEST logo was born.
An exclusive agent for Time Out Sydney. One of the first international travel guides written by locals
During the mid-2000s, the emergence of digital marketing caused a significant shift in the traditional advertising and marketing industry. My previous company, Adpac Australia, was forced to evolve and acclimatize to this new style of marketing.
In 2008, my partner, Faye, quit her retail management role and joined my business. She had spent 15 years working for a reputable jewellery company in Sydney, where she specialised in sales and operations. Part of her responsibility was setting up and launching their stores in 5-star hotels.
Faye with Helene
Faye with the Bali crew 2005
Over the years, Faye had contracted to and worked for several companies located in Australia, Singapore, and China. Her most recent project was as acting regional business Manager for Australia /New Zealand, where she represented a Singapore based company that provided the largest online restaurant reservation portal in the Asia Pacific region.
Faye has a thorough understanding of delivering projects in marketing services in both an agency and client capacity. Her expertise in the social media and digital arena keeps on delivering results that are well above the industry benchmark. Our company has benefitted enormously from her combined retail management and digital experience, and with her assistance, we’ve managed to keep abreast of the ever-changing industry and evolved accordingly as well.
From our exposure to these niche industries, both Faye and I have garnered and honed unique skills. We formed ‘Eightfresh’ Australia to provide a marketing platform that caters for the wholesalers and retailers of the fresh produce industry. In her role as both operations and creative director, Faye has firmly established herself as a principal operator in our business. At this point in time, she holds the position of Director of Operations as well as social media Manager.
It is now my privilege to present to you, Col LovFresh, a platform that promotes all things fresh: fresh produce and fresh water. It is also home to the Alkaviva way, the stores and markets in Sydney as well as all the special people that grew up in Sydney, Australia.
We aim to share our knowledge and provide you with locally available healthy eating options plus introduce incredible destinations, from our sandy beaches right through to the majestic mountains. Last but not least, we’ll serve up fresh music to perk you up and cultivate an enthusiastic attitude towards this great city called Sydney.
I hope you are equally excited and looking forward to experiencing this new dimension of fresh produce! After all, when all that makes way to your stomach, you are in only for quality!
I love this city.
Fresh Is Best