Micro-market start-up Morsl recently raised $5 million in a series-A capital round, which will be used to accelerate growth and development. Designed to look like cafes, the brand’s self-service kiosks enable employees to quickly purchase healthy food and drinks at any time. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the business pivoted from the corporate to the industrial sector, and is now located in sites such as Amazon and Officeworks. It recently signed a partnership with Charter Hall, and is loo
looking to expand to 20 new sites as part of its growth plans. Here, we speak with Morsl CEO and founder Karla Borland about how Morsl came to be, why it pivoted and its plans for the upcoming year. Inside Retail: Tell me about Morsl. How did the idea come about, who is the target audience, and how does the concept differ from competitors in this space? Karla Borland: Morsl’s mission is to improve the eating habits of Australian employees via its self-service cafés, otherwise known as micro markets. The markets are fully automated, and are available 24/7, which solves the challenge of employees accessing fresh and healthy food throughout their workday. Morsl was founded to solve a challenge I faced everyday within the office environment – seeking easy access to healthier and fresh food choices throughout the day that was different to the traditional vending machines. Since the launch of Morsl’s micro markets, our service offering has extended to coffee, pantry, breakroom procurement and employee engagement events. This allows Morsl to provide a holistic food and beverage offering for its clients. IR: Can you discuss how the business works? How is food kept fresh, and what is the appeal to buy from vending machines that look like cafes, rather than from cafes? KB: Morsl’s micro markets are unattended with real-time remote monitoring. We provide a regular servicing model to replenish and maintain our markets. The benefit of our self-service cafes versus traditional cafes is that they are available 24/7 and, in a blue-collar environment, our markets provide the same level of service for the night and day shift. Our model is highly adaptable, which allows us to constantly rotate the fresh food offering to avoid menu fatigue, to easily adjust volumes as staffing numbers change, and to provide a contactless, grab-and-go solution that caters to short breaks. Compared to traditional vending machines, we also offer an enhanced customer experience, where customers can view before purchasing and pick up the fresh food. They have access to a greater variety of products, and the offering is tailored to suit the location’s demographics, work and eating habits. IR: How has the business performed since it started in 2018? KB: Morsl has experienced strong growth year on year, with a 342 per cent increase for the financial year ended 30 June 2022, compared to the previous year. The brand currently operates in NSW and VIC, with expansion into Queensland, [which is set] to support an anchor Government client with over 3,000 employees. We have a number of other QLD clients in the pipeline, [which will enable us] to build fast efficiencies with the state. We are passionate about expanding into new sectors such as hospitals to support our essential workers who work long shifts, and require access to fresh and healthy options on a 24/7 basis. IR: Can you discuss how Covid-19 affected the business? Why the need to pivot from the corporate to the industrial sector, and why do you think that proved to be successful? Would the growth of the business be as significant if not for that pivot? KB: Morsl began operating largely in white-collar CBD locations, solving the nutrition challenge within their corporate wellness programs. When the pandemic hit, it forced six of our seven sites to close. The one site which remained operating was our Officeworks dispatch warehouse. This shined a light on a sector which had a significant need for a Morsl food solution. Within the industrial sector, workers often face long, physical and often isolated work shifts, where there are often very limited options available across both the day and night shifts. Our pivot [has] allowed us to have a greater impact on the working lives of our customers, which has ultimately supported the growth of the business. IR: Tell me about the $5 million, Series A capital raising. Can you discuss in more detail what the money will be used for? KB: Following Morsl’s recent $5 million capital raise, our focus will be to execute our current pipeline of over 20 new sites across Australia. [We’re also focused on] the acceleration of our Charter Hall partnership, the expansion into new channels, and hiring of key management positions. Our new locations will be across NSW, VIC and QLD, and our immediate hiring is for five roles which will continue to evolve as the business grows. IR: Can you discuss the process involved in the capital raising? What appealed to the participants involved about Morsl’s plans? KB: Our capital raise commenced in July 2022 and successfully closed five months later. This was a great achievement given the current market conditions, and is a testament to the vision and purpose of Morsl. The raise was supported by Black Bamboo Advisory, who largely targeted Australian family offices and high net worth individuals. We were seeking investors who believed in our vision and who could support the business with their connections and expertise. IR: Can you discuss the partnership with Charter Hall? How did it come about, and can you discuss how significant it is? KB: Charter Hall and Morsl have partnered together to take an industry-leading approach in improving employee health and wellbeing within the industrial and logistics sector. Charter Hall is one of Australia’s largest owners of industrial and logistics property. They are driven by their purpose to deliver long-term outcomes that are positive for all. Within that, their social strategy is to support the health and wellbeing of their partners, customers and their employees. By implementing our Morsl self-service cafes across their national portfolio and development assets, we can create healthier work environments that lead to enhanced health, greater engagement and improved productivity. We are pleased to say, this partnership is already well underway. Morsl is now supporting the Charter Hall tenants, Capral Aluminium and Aramex, with a lot more to come. IR: What will workable wellness solutions look like for employees, why is that important for the brand? How much of the capital raising will be spent on this? KB: Morsl has been developing an employee engagement program to educate and inspire healthier eating choices. With nutrition the foundation to overall health and wellness, our markets can be used as a hub to build a stronger community around wellness. Improvements in knowledge helps individuals make better food choices and provides a foundation to shape healthy behaviours. The persistence of behaviour can, however, decline if the availability isn’t here. That is why education and access must go hand in hand. The funds from our capital raise will support the hire of a dedicated person to manage our engagement program, while also supporting the rollout of a wellness app to scale our program. IR: Can you discuss Morsl’s plans for 2023? KB: During this time we will be laying the foundation to expand the brand into new channels, with our vision to be the dominant player in unattended retail.