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Clever Local #1: Ellen Burns/ We Bar None

At Go Vita Ballarat we are proud to stock a large range of locally-made products and we want you to get to know the clever locals behind them.

To get the ball rolling, we have had a chat with Ellen Burns. Ellen is the tenacious genius behind the We Bar None snack bars. These 3pm go-tos (actually, they can be anytime of the day go-tos) are vegan and gluten free and the packaging is entirely compostable. Mind Blown.

GV: How long have you lived in Ballarat? EB: I've lived in Ballarat almost my whole life! I was born and raised here, moved to Melbourne for Uni and have lived overseas, and moved back here almost 3 years ago. I moved back in with my Mum and stepdad because I knew I could get their kitchen registered, and saving on kitchen and house rent was the only way I would be able to afford the early stages of starting up my business.

Moving back to Ballarat was a no-brainer financially, but I also love living here. We have a really strong community and it's really easy to get involved. Since moving back I have become very involved with the local food and environment scene; I've joined the Ballarat Permaculture Guild and co-founded a volunteer committee called The Hidden Orchard. We harvest unwanted fruit from public and private land (with permission!) and redistribute it to the community. There is so much support in Ballarat for local business and enterprise, my business would not be the same if it weren't for the community here.

GV: Who else is in your family?

EB: My Mum is originally from England but my Dad is Ballarat born and bred so most of my family is here. Being able to spend a lot more time with family is definitely something I love about living in Ballarat. I recently got engaged to my partner, Michael, who lives and works in Melbourne. I stay with him quite a bit and it's very handy to have a base there; a lot of my friends are in Melbourne and I have stockists and suppliers there. He's originally from Buninyong though, so he doesn't mind spending time over here. He's been talking about wanting to move back here with me, I think my enthusiasm about how much Ballarat is improving is getting to him!

GV: How did you get into making the We Bar None products? EB: I've always loved coming up with business ideas and plans. I think that entrepreneurship is something that comes naturally to me. I have a balance of creativity and practicality that I'm told is rare! I always have ideas that I'm really excited about and I really enjoy putting plans together and doing the research. I love the idea of addressing a need and making peoples' lives easier. I think I just got to the point where I was confident enough to just go for it. I had some savings and some work (and life!) experience behind me and just decided to give it a go. There have been times where I've doubted whether I'm being crazy and should just go get a "normal" job, but We Bar None just kept gaining momentum and it seemed increasingly crazy to stop. While there's a next step to take, work to do, and orders coming in, I'm just going to keep on going and see where it takes me!

GV: What is involved in the process of making the We Bar None products? EB: I recently moved to having my energy bars manufactured for me at Springhill Farm in Delacombe. After hand making all of my products for 3 years, I had reached capacity and needed to reach out for some help. Springhill have been incredible to work with and it makes me so happy to still have my bars made in Ballarat, by a family owned and run business that prides themselves on quality ingredients and an allergy-friendly kitchen. After working together to get the recipe right, they now make and package my bars for me, which I then deliver to my customers.

My crackers are still hand-made by me. Because they use an unconventional recipe (no flour, no gluten, no egg!), they are difficult to make and require a bit of love and attention. They're time consuming, and my profit margin on them is almost non-existent, but I'm so proud of the product. There aren't any other low FODMAP crackers out there that I know of, and they're also gluten free, vegan, paleo, and low carb. I really want to continue making them so that everyone can have crackers that they can eat! Plus, they're delicious.

GV: You've just done something pretty amazing and we hope you set the trend for other manufacturers to follow. Tell us about it...

EB: I'm really proud of is becoming the first Victorian business to have 100% certified home compostable packaging. I didn't realise at the time that I was only the third business in the whole of Australia! I moved to my new packaging at the end of July after working on sourcing and designing it since November last year. It was such a long process but so worth it. I'm so proud to be one of the businesses leading the way in the war on waste. Ethical choices is something that I've always been passionate about and it's really exciting to me to see consumers becoming more aware of their impact and wanting to make good choices. I'm out to prove that you don't have to compromise. You should be able to grab a snack that's delicious, nutritious, convenient, affordable and ethical. I've made it my job to tick all the boxes!

You can find the We Bar None bars on the front counter of the Go Vita Ballarat store. If there's any choc-mint missing, you can blame the staff members... (but we can always order more).

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