To market, to market: Sam shares his business success
Name: Sam Haddad
Location: Brisbane Markets, Rocklea, Queensland
Works: H.E. Heather & Co (Director)
Can you please give me an overview of H.E. Heather & Co?
H.E. Heather & Co is a family-owned and operated business, with almost 100 years of colourful history built across several generations.
At H.E. Heather & Co, we understand the importance of personal and professional service to customers and suppliers alike, while dealing in high quality fruit and vegetables. From humble beginnings in Brisbaneâ€™s Roma Street Markets, the business has grown extensively to accommodate the needs of the broader community. In the last three years, the business has grown to a team of 30 staff members and we are based at the Brisbane Markets in Rocklea.
My story with H.E. Heather began 25 years ago when I started as a labourer. Over the years, I worked my way through the ranks to become Section Manager before finally becoming a company Director and part-owner along with three partners. We specialise in our own departments of fruits and vegetables.
I specialise in fruit, with mangos, paw paws, pineapple and limes as my main products. The produce I handle are sourced from across Australia, although mainly from north Queensland and Darwin in Northern Territory. The other partners specialise in commodities such as tomatoes, avocados and vegetables.
How did you first become involved in the horticulture industry, and how did you get to where you are today?
My parents owned a cafĂ© and I used to go into the markets twice a week to buy fruit and veggies. One Monday morning, I was offered a job and took it a couple weeks later. I have now enjoyed the last 25-plus years in a wonderful industry where you get to meet and get to know a range of people from across south-east Queensland.
Youâ€™re the Director at H.E. Heather & Co. What does this role involve?
Once I get in, I:
- Check all night orders to make sure they are all done correctly.
- Check the stock that is on the floor in preparation for floor sales at 6am.
- Bring additional stock in as needed.
- Get on the phone and sell.
- 6am â€“ market opens to buyers, and I continue selling.
- 30am â€“ I start talking to growers about market prices and getting more stock.
That can go all day. In the late afternoon, I start taking orders for the next day.
As Director, it is important that I continually understand where the business is at and make sure that our growers are always being looked after in the best possible way.
Their success is a vital part in our business. Also, with 30 staff members it is important that I understand our employeesâ€™ needs; most of them have young kids, girlfriends and boyfriends, or are married â€“ basically everyone is a little different.
What challenges do you face as a wholesale business?
The biggest challenge is making sure that we are always looking to be better as a business. This affects our growers, our buyers and our staff. All three are as important as each other in working efficiently and united in what we do.
"I love selling fresh produce. Itâ€™s what gets me out of bed every morning."
What do you look at when looking to be better? What improvements have been made in recent years (what sets you apart from other wholesale businesses?)
I always look at being better in myself â€“ bettering relationships with growers, buyers and staff. Iâ€™ve become more patient as I have gotten older.
As a business, we make sure that we continue to improve our facilities, which I think now sets us apart from the rest. With four departments run by the four specialised partners, we have the right people in place to do the best job that we possibly can.
How do you manage these challenges or try to overcome them?
Understand that things constantly need to change, and once that is identified we work through it together.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
I think we have been a little luckier in Brisbane than the other states. Even though it has had some financial implications for us personally in 2020, we have worked through them and managed to retain all our staff and get through the tough times. The fact that we have retained all our staff was one of the highlights of 2020 for me personally.
Did COVID-19 have an impact on the markets? If so, how?
Absolutely it did. For some businesses, it was harsh. Businesses that specialise in serving the hotels and restaurants/ cafes were hit the hardest, and wholesalers that service them were next in line. Growers that grow those specialty products were also affected. There was loss of work for so many casual and fullâ€‘time staff.
What do you enjoy most about being involved in the fresh produce industry?
That is a simple one, I love selling fresh produce. Itâ€™s what gets me out of bed every morning.
One thing that I have realised in my relationship with our growers is that those that have continually grown, and worked closely with H.E. Heather, have benefited â€“ and will continue to. By working together, we will continue to grow.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
I think from where I started over 25 years ago to where I am today. The journey has been something special.
Where do you see yourself in five yearsâ€™ time?
I am lucky to have my 21-year-old son working alongside me while he studies at university. I think working closer with him in running my department would be great.
I canâ€™t see there being anything very different in five yearsâ€™ time for myself, but hopefully all my suppliers are still farming and are successful.
What are the future plans for the business?
There are no major plans in the works.
Weâ€™ll keep striving to improve, and growing as a business is always in your mindset as well as making sure that all involved at H.E. Heather are happy and moving forward in life.
This grower profile first appeared in the leading magazine for the Australian vegetable industry,Â Vegetables Australia. If youâ€™d like to subscribe to receive a new edition ofÂ Vegetables AustraliaÂ in your mailbox every three months, useÂ our online subscription form!
Photography credit: Anna Osetroff.