Our founder Elke Pascoe shares the LittleOak story in the Sunday Times magazine
As many a parent knows all too well, along with getting your baby to sleep, getting them to eat can be one of the biggest challenges of those early weeks and months.
Just ask Elke Pascoe. The Perth-born, Sydney-based single mum welcomed her children Olive and Freddie in 2011 and 2013 respectively, and with each one her feeding journey was extremely difficult.
Like 71 per cent of Australian mums, her breast milk alone was not enough to nourish her growing babies. Both children are lactose intolerant and the formulas she supplemented their milk feeds with caused them to suffer skin rashes and digestive issues.
By the time she had her son, she decided to do something about it.
Fuelled by her own struggles as well as a desire to help mums everywhere who might be struggling with feeding their babies, in 2016 Ms Pascoe founded her own formula company, LittleOak. “My mission is two-fold: first, to make available to mums everything I wish I had ready access to when my kids were babies, and second, to ensure no child in the world goes to sleep hungry,” she says.
After pouring “all my last life savings” into the business, she gradually built up a following both in Australia and overseas, particularly in the United States where she got the kind of break that only the social media age can deliver: a popular American influencer featured the brand on Instagram, leading to a massive spike in sales. At the time the products weren’t available in parts of the US, so mums began to smuggle LittleOak cans into the country. “And it’s just grown into a sort of crazy cult following,” Ms Pascoe laughs.
Fast-forward to 2022 and she employs a team of 20 people, is gearing up to open her first Perth warehouse in early 2023, the operation’s ninth worldwide, and LittleOak is the fastest growing formula product in Western Australia.
“Where we see the demand, we’ll definitely invest and I’m just really pleased that it’s WA given that it’s my home,” Ms Pascoe says of the push into WA. “So it’s really exciting that we can build the brand out here.”
But the journey hasn’t been without its low points. “There have been points there where I was worried about whether I could even feed my children,” Ms Pascoe says. “I’m a single mum and I threw everything into it. But I just kept (thinking) you’ve got to keep going, because you’re doing a really good thing.”
So what is it about this little Aussie startup that’s led it to find global success in a market dominated by big business?
Ms Pascoe believes it’s their commitment to crafting the most naturally wholesome and nutritional formula possible, a mission that led her to one key ingredient: goat’s milk.
Considered the closest alternative to human breast milk, Ms Pascoe stumbled upon its benefits after using goat milk-based skincare products to treat Freddie’s skin issues. “It cleared his skin up pretty rapidly,” she recalls.
Author – Cy Clayton