Jobs at a health food store and pharmacy chain saw Stillone thinking about the viability of a business idea to sell protein supplements without additives and, by December 2010, he was itching to give his vision of producing a range of all-natural supplements a go.
Signing up for Mission Australia's New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), an education and mentoring program to help job seekers start a new business, enabled him to receive the Parenting Payment while working on his fledgling venture.
The enterprise kicked off with a pallet of dairy protein acquired on trust from a Sydney distributor, hand-packed by Stillone, and labelled with stickers printed on his home computer.
“I didn’t have big overheads – I was doing everything from home,” he says.
“I’d drive around to stores, gyms, cafes, delis, fruit and veg shops – you name it – all day looking for stockists. I had a diary and I’d write down where I was going then I’d head out and tell them my story. Ninety per cent of people said no but 10 per cent said yes”.
He describes it as really hard work: "There were times when I struggled to put food on the table and pay rent, because we had no money."
“I did it pretty rough for the first 12 months and there were times when I’d see an opportunity and I didn’t have the cash flow to be able to pursue it. I had to haggle with suppliers for better terms and sometimes I’d borrow $2,000 from my mum until payments came in.”
The venture turned over $120,000 in its first year and $2 million in its second, after Stillone’s offering caught the eye of a distributor who took the range national.