Proud Wiradjuri woman Tara Croker has had an incredible journey since launching her business, Yaala Sparkling. Yaala means ‘the present moment' in Wiradjuri language – and Tara's mission is to bring ancient Aboriginal wisdom to the present through its sparkling water products infused with native botanicals.

Twelve months in development – and over 80,000 years in the making. When Wiradjuri woman Tara Croker saw an opportunity to share the tastes of native plants and increase First Nations representation in the food industry, her business Yaala Sparkling was born.

Australia's native goods and botanicals industry is estimated to be worth up to $50 million a year, but Tara was shocked to learn how few of the businesses operating in the space were Indigenous-owned.

"First Nations representation in the food sector is less than two percent, which is mind-blowing. That's of traditional knowledge that is used, and I wanted to change that," she says.

Tara and her mum Mel founded Yaala Sparkling in early 2022. The business creates premium, healthy drinks using ingredients sourced from Indigenous wild harvesters and local farmers. The products are naturally sweetened and available in flavours like Lemon Myrtle and Native Blossom, and Davidson Plum and Waratah.

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Tara has a strong marketing background and Mel has worked in product development, so combined they bring a strong set of skills to the table to help scale the business as they shine a light on Indigenous ingredients and their stories.

"Mum and I have always had an interest in plants, and especially our native plants. We were using these ingredients at home to make teas, which is how the idea came about to turn them into a product we could share with more people"

"But from the start it hasn't been just about the product. We wanted to create a beautiful conversation starter and share the story about where our native ingredients are from, while appreciating the land we are all a part of."

Sustainability is also a key focus for Tara, Mel and Yaala Sparkling, as well as growing close relationships with suppliers, farmers and harvesters of their ingredients.

"We believe in sustainable growth, from how we harvest and use our plants, to our business practice. All our ingredients are ethically, sustainably and locally sourced, so it's important that as we grow, our relationship with them grows as well, and we continue to work with community to share that journey with them. It will always be a collective approach," Tara says.

Since their soft launch earlier this year, they've gone from strength to strength. In September, Yaala Sparkling was featured on an episode of Channel 10's Shark Tank, where they received a $125,000 investment from two of the investors on the show.

"That whole experience was really incredible. We're really excited to have some outside knowledge to help take our business to the next stage. Since it aired, we've had so many inbound enquiries, whether it's for media interviews, or just people supporting us and believing in the vision of what we want to do," Tara says.

Tara was also named a finalist in the Women's Agenda Leadership Awards in the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year category. The program recognises an exceptional cohort of women trailblazing their way across a variety of sectors, paving a path for future generations.

"It's been amazing to connect with the other finalists, who are all remarkable women in their own right. It's a beautiful thing to see women supporting women, and I feel so lucky to be a part of this whole experience."

Taking the well-deserved recognition in her stride, Tara has big plans to continue the growth of the brand.

"Next, we'd love to be more accessible for people, and get the product into more retailers, and expand out of our online presence. We're hoping to have some progress with that by the end of the year, and then into next year we're excited to launch two brand new flavours, both of which will have unique Indigenous designs on the bottles, like our existing products.

"The past 12 months have been a whirlwind, but it shows that as an Indigenous owned business the appetite for our product is out there, so we're looking forward to what the future has in store for us," Tara says.

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