“We just had complete ignorance really. We didn’t know what to do.”: Dessert lab founder ‘Mr Frugii’

“About 16 years ago, I bought a two litre ice-cream machine. I’d always been interested in desserts but gradually I started making more ice-cream and experimenting with recipes,” says John Marshall, co-owner of Frugii Dessert Laboratory.

After undertaking a disappointing gelato course, Marshall quickly realised that he and his wife, Ed, had a specific vision in mind to offer ice-cream with natural ingredients, without processed and artificial flavours.

“I wanted to understand what the commercial paste consisted of, but using the commercial product that anyone could get was very limiting. I looked at what the top selling ice-creams were in the world (chocolate and vanilla), and researched how to make all my own extract to get a better flavour,” says Marshall.

‘Mr Frugii’, as he is affectionately termed, is known not just for his desserts and ice-cream, but for his passion to create the best product he can – “I still buy great commercial chocolate but now I’m importing beans from south America to make my own.

The taste is significantly better when I try to make everything from scratch.”

The challenges of starting up

Even though the couple were equipped with a background in IT and accounting, Marshall recalls the setup phase as challenging.

“We just had complete ignorance really. We didn’t know what to do. We went to our accountant, searched on the internet, but it’s hard to find information appropriate to you,” he says.


“When we were supplying to commercial customers, my wife had to chase a lot of invoices, draining her time. This was for miniscule amounts of money, for months at a time,” says Marshall.

Tools like ANZ’s Business Ready Tool can remove these challenges and the sense of uncertainty of starting a business by guiding people through the setup process, from registering an ABN all the way through to sending out that first invoice.

On preparing your business for financial hurdles

Four years ago an ANZ Small Business manager approved the Marshalls for a business loan – “I hadn’t slept for two nights but then we were pre-approved!

“Working with ANZ allowed us to focus on [actually operating the business], and we were lucky because we had good credit. I’ve seen so many small businesses who aren’t building any credit. My wife and I banked every dollar. We kept separate accounts (from my IT job) so when we came to ask for a loan they could see a full history, and we were pre-approved for triple the amount we had asked for.”

“We’ve never paid for advertising and we still don’t!”

While the Marshalls have a marketing strategy using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the support of local TV, radio and news sites has provided additional coverage and exposure, without the need for a paid advertising push.

“We’ve upset a few people because we’re doing well!”

But that’s not to say you don’t put the hard yards in, says Marshall.

“When you’re running a business you don’t have a lot of time to yourself. We do about 15-hour days seven days a week, on average, but they’re not necessarily hard days.”

Written by: Thea Christie

ANZ’s Business Ready tool can help you achieve your business goals with easy-to-use tools that set your business up for success.

This material does not take into account your personal and financial needs and/or circumstances, and you should seek appropriate advice (which may include property, legal, financial and/or taxation advice) before making any decisions or acting on any of the information contained in this material. To the extent permitted by law, all members of the ANZ group of companies disclaim liability or responsibility to any person for any direct or indirect loss or damage that may result from relying on the information contained or this site, or any act, omission or error, by any person in relation to the material contained on this site.

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