Catherine Jenner and her husband Jason have been the stewards of Uncle John’s Licorice in Mordialloc, Victoria, for more than 15 years. The last of the country’s old-fashioned, small-batch licorice makers1, Uncle John’s produces traditional molasses licorice from a recipe that dates back 35 years. In late 2019, the Jenners realised it was time to expand the reach of this old-time treat through an improved online presence.
“Our online store was out of date, contributing less than 2% of our business,” Catherine, Uncle John’s General Manger of Operations, says. “We never advertised it. At the beginning of 2020 Jason looked at me and said, ‘Imagine if we did something with that.’”
Catherine started advertising on Facebook, and created a Shopify account that integrated with her new Australia Post eParcel account. Her Valentine’s Day campaign showed Uncle John’s the power of eCommerce, with as many as 150 orders a day. It was a huge jump from around 10 a week the previous year. But then COVID struck.
“We lost 55% of our business just like that,” Catherine says. “The Royal Melbourne Show is our biggest event of the year, so when that and other shows and markets in Tasmania, Sydney and Victoria were cancelled, we realised we were in trouble.”
Her eCommerce platform improvements had the potential to keep the company afloat. But first she needed help managing unexpected delivery disruptions over Easter. So, she contacted Rodger Alister from Australia Post’s Local Area Marketing team to discuss parcel pickup solutions.
“He introduced us to Dai. And we immediately knew that’s how we wanted to do business.”
Help is just around the corner
Dai Nguyen is the Post Office Licensee and Local Business Partner of Australia Post’s Licensed Post Office in Dingley, a five-minute drive from the Uncle John’s factory. He worked with the Uncle John’s team to quickly coordinate a daily pickup service offered through the business’ eParcel agreement.
As Uncle John’s has grown, Catherine has turned to Dai to work out the best Australia Post packaging for her products. She uses flat rate parcels, small and large regular parcels, retail Postpak and Express Post flat rate boxes to ship their beloved molasses licorice as well as a growing selection of lollies.
“I know I can ask Dai what other people are using, and about different packaging options. And if he doesn’t know the answer, he’ll go and find out for me,” says Catherine.
For example, when a customer told her products were not travelling well in the heat, she worked with Dai to investigate aluminium packaging and other alternative shipping methods.
From their first meeting, Catherine immediately felt how much Dai cared about Uncle John’s and its success.
“He’s a person with a family who owns a business,” she says. “He gives us the service we like to give our customers, that sense of a small family business where we can call him anytime. He’s so accommodating, always just around the corner.”
Dai considers Catherine and Jason more like family than customers.
“Jason and Catherine are so down to earth,” he says. “We chat about what we do on the weekends, our kids. It’s more than just a business relationship.”
Thinking outside the parcel