Vegetable Processor is Top Business for 1995
Melville Cockburn Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Awards were presented at a community lunch at Parliament House last week.
The function was hosted by resources development and energy minister Colin Barnett, leader of the house in the Legislative Assembly.
Jandakot MLA Mike Board welcomed the finalists, sponsors, civic leaders and Chamber of Commerce executives to the cabinet dining room.
Chamber President Graham Dixon thanked the City of Melville and the City of Cockburn, Community Newspaper Group and Telstra for sponsoring the annual awards.
He encouraged businesses to enter the awards and to compete at the national level.
Chamber executive Mark Brockhurst announced the finalists in the category of businesses which employ more than 15 people.
Homestyle Vegetable Processors Pty Ltd, was the successful finalist, taking out this year’s wards as Small Business of the Year, Category 1.
The company, started by sisters Nancy and Tina Merenda in 1989, has grown into a multi-million dollar business, supplying Qantas, Pizza Hut, Kailis and France and Coles Myer with freshly processed fruit and vegetables, mayonnaise, salads and dressings.
What started in a shed on the family market gardens in Munster, with the sisters peeling potatoes to supply the appetite for chips of the ABC staff, has grown to an operation with 40 workers and is now on the verge of expanding into the international market.
Homestyle Vegetable Processors is the only food processor in Australia to win quality certificates AS3902 and ISO 9002.
The award was accepted by general manager Santo Merenda.
Spud peelers skin market
From humble and backbreaking beginnings peeling a few sacks of potatoes for local outlets, Sicilian sisters Nancy and Tina Merenda have carved a food-processing business with customers Australia-wide in just eight years.
Their dedication and plain hard work has earned them a series of accolades, the latest from the Melville-Cockburn Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber awarded the sisters’ Munster company, Homestyle Vegetable Processors, its 1995 Small Business of the Year Award (more than 15 employees). In fact, the sisters now employ around 50 staff and have an annual turnover in the million dollar range.
Starting with a machine which helped them peel about 5kg of potatoes an hour, the sisters now own machinery which powers through the spuds at a rate of two tonnes every 60 minutes.
In addition, the company now processes a wide range of other vegetables and fruit, and produces value-added products, including Nancy and Tina’s secret recipe, pasta and potato salad.
Despite nearing the half-century mark – Nancy is 49 and Tina 47 – they still work almost as hard as when they first formed the family company.
And that means getting up at 2am – often after not getting to bed before 11pm.
The sisters’ husbands – who work in the building industry – have also had to make some hard adjustments.
“Without their support we could not have succeeded,” Nancy said.
“They have had to change their way of living and have not been guaranteed a meal on the table at night for a long time.” Nancy said she and Tina valued the Small Business Award. “We started with nothing and now we are very proud of what we have achieved.” Nancy said.
Seven years ago, sisters Nancy and Tina Merenda started peeling potatoes in a shed by the side of the family market garden in Munster.
That first move into vegetable processing earned the sisters almost $300 a week – much of which was from supplying the ABC television and radio canteen with potatoes and chips.
Today the operation had gown into a multi-million-dollar company, Homestyle Vegetable Processors, which counts Qantas, Woolworths and Pizza Hut among its clients. At peak times, the company employs 40.
The pair are never far from work. Nancy. 48, lives 10 minute’s drive from the processing plant and Tina, 46, lives on the premises.
But the Sicilian-born sisters said success did not come easy. In the early years of the company they regularly worked more than 19 hours a day.
Married to brothers who work in the building industry, Nancy and Tina said they were lucky to have understanding husbands and grown-up children.
“We used to go to bed at 11pm and wake up at 2am and start again,” Nancy said.
If it wasn’t for our husbands being so good to us, we would have never got this far. For seven years, they have never had a meal on time.”
Tina said that in those seven years, shad had only 11 days holiday and Nancy had only one extended trip to see her daughter who lived in Italy.
After the first few months supplying the potatoes and chips to a slowly growing number of food outlets, they moved on to pumpkins and celery and then to processed ready0made salads and a bigger shed. Tina’s sons, Santo and Joe joined the business and it continued to grow.
With a strict motto of cleanliness, Homestyle has taken its first step into overseas marketing.
Yesterday the sisters received a quality assurance award for a consistently high product from Primary Industry Minister Monty House who said the company was a trendsetter of good, clean fruit and vegetables supply.
“The family can be proud of what it has achieved,” Mr. House said.