Date posted: 03/04/2017 3 min read

Marnie Flanagan on being naturally wild

Changing people's eating habits requires a special breed of entrepreneur. Meet Marnie Flanagan.

In brief

  • After a long career with FMCG industry leaders, Marnie Flanagan launched her own exotic meat business.
  • Naturally Wild sells endangered species meat in two upmarket food chains in the US.
  • Budding entrepreneurs need to understand who they are from both a philosophical and practical perspective.

Selling a new category of meat requires a unique breed of entrepreneur. Sydney-based Marnie Flanagan, CEO of Naturally Wild, was born and bred in the outback and, like her new brand of meat products, is wild in nature.   

Naturally Wild specialises in producing and packaging exotic Australian endangered meat, and Flanagan’s products are currently ranged in large supermarket chains in Australia and the US.  

Flanagan has spent the last five years raising awareness of Naturally Wild’s range of crocodile, buffalo, wild boar, kangaroo and venison meat range.  

In January of this year, Flanagan acquired the licence to sell her endangered meat products in the US. Flanagan says it took three years of careful planning to secure the US licence.  

“Our first shipment was cleared in December 2016, so it’s still early days for us,” Flanagan says. “We are now resourcing up to try and maintain going direct to customers without having to appoint a distributor.  

“It’s all about hamming up the Aussie adventure, ‘G’day, I’m the female Australian Crocodile Dundee and I’m here to share the best meat in the world’.”  

Getting to market

The process of getting food from pasture to plate has always been second nature to Flanagan. She grew up on an outback property near Dunedoo in central western of NSW, where her family ran a 3,500 acre property with 500 head of cattle.  

But Flanagan’s biggest barrier to entry in getting her product to market has always been cost.  

“The meat category is now run as a high volume, low cost to produce asset base, with incredible economies of scale run by only a few global players,” she says.  

“They are hugely protective of their market and have deep pockets. I take the high road and only offer quality, and brand differentiation through introducing a bit of exotic to your plate.”  

“They are the best in the world, which is a good fit for us – the best meat in the world.”  
Marnie Flanagan, CEO, Naturally Wild.

Taking aim at the mid to upmarket consumer, Flanagan was strategic when choosing where her products would be ranged in the lucrative US market. She settled on two upmarket food retail chains, Whole Foods Market and Dean & DeLuca.  

“We go direct at the moment to Whole Foods and Dean & DeLuca in the US,” Flanagan says.  

“They are the best in the world, which is a good fit for us – the best meat in the world.”  

Choose your own adventure

Flanagan is a two-decade veteran of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry and has held positions with some of the largest FMCG companies in the world.  

“I’ve had an amazing career, which started over 20 years ago with Unilever for over six years, then Mars Inc. for five years, then Fonterra, where I was manager of the cheese category worth over A$500m,” Flanagan says.  

So, what motivated her to leave her lucrative corporate career to start her own business?  

“I had died my hair blonde and was driving a Mercedes convertible and I thought, ‘Is this it? Is this what life is all about?’. I had reached a crossroads in my career and life where I was staring down the barrel of the next 20 years.  

“I started to ask myself some hard questions such as purpose and my rural upbringing. I started reading lots of books and doing self-examination and I came up with the brand name Naturally Wild, which was a reflection of myself.”  

Profit from your experience

Flanagan’s advice for those starting careers with big corporates but with goals of becoming entrepreneurs is to profit from experience.  

“Early in your career only accept roles where you can learn from the best of the best,” she says. “If you have to choose between money or working for a bigger company with more resources and top people, then choose the latter.  

“Also, volunteer for everything, even if it’s the Christmas party committee that no one wants to organise. You need to manage your profile early in your career and be seen.”  

Flanagan also advises budding entrepreneurs to really understand who they are, both from a philosophical and practical perspective.  

“I didn’t realise what a profound impact being brought up on an isolated property had on me, and was part of my DNA. This then led to my current new chapter and I have a real connection with what I’m doing.  

“I’m from a pretty wild beef farm, chasing cattle and kangaroos through thick scrub. My hair is now back to its natural brown and I couldn’t be happier.”  

This article is part of an ongoing Women In Business column.