Fix and Fogg founder inspires next generation

Fix and Fogg founder Roman Jewell speaks to business students at the University of Otago...
Fix and Fogg founder Roman Jewell speaks to business students at the University of Otago yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A Dunedin-born entrepreneur believes "trying" is key to being successful in business.

Roman Jewell, of Fix and Fogg, made that point clear to a group of business students at the University of Otago Business School yesterday.

Mr Jewell, an Otago management and law graduate, left his job in Sydney as a lawyer and founded a small company with his wife Andrea, producing peanut butter in Wellington.

After a lot of trying, Fix and Fogg would expand from selling its products in 10 supermarkets in the United States in January 2020 to 1000 by July, he said.

About 50 people attended Mr Jewell’s talk, hosted by the school’s master of entrepreneurship programme.

Mr Jewell said those wanting to start a business had to be prepared to do a lot of hard work.

"Running a business is not sexy. It’s so much hard work but it is immensely rewarding," he said.

He told the students they had to be prepared to work through the challenges thrown up while trying to run a business.

"You have to be prepared to do a million steps backwards to do one step forward."

One of those challenges was trying to keep the doors open on Fix and Fogg throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

That had been incredibly tough, Mr Jewell said.

The peanuts Fix and Fogg used for its product were imported from Argentina, then the finished product was shipped to the United States.

"That seems really crazy to do that but the cost of transport and all that had been incredibly tough," Mr Jewell said.

After setting up in Houston, Texas, the American business "just grew faster than what we thought it would", he said.

While that was great , it also posed a challenge.

Fix and Fogg has been spending about $100,000 a month getting the supermarkets set up to sell their product, meaning the business would lose $1.2 million in that market this year.

"It’s really easy to say ‘wow, you had 10 stores, now you have 1000’ but in reality it costs so much money to get into that.

"I believe we can make it there but it has been a huge risk for us.

"There is a lot of cash being sucked, a mortgage on my home, a lot of stress."

Mr Jewell encouraged the students to take two journeys in entrepreneurship: the "business" journey and the "founders" journey.

The business journey was the path of running the company and the founder journey looked at the people side of the venture and added value to the company

and it was the latter that motivated Mr Jewell.

"At the end of the day, I want to come away from this thing thinking I’m proud of what I have done here."

Before starting Fix and Fogg, Mr Jewell and his wife knew nothing about the food industry.

"I love this idea that with no knowledge of food, no knowledge on how to run a business, that we can take something from the community in Wellington and put it on the shelf in the States."

- By Riley Kennedy

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