Aunty’s Ginger Tonic

Yarrie Bangura


Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’m from Sierra Leone. I came to Australia in my teens, when I was about 12, as we had to leave due to the civil war.

After leaving Sierra Leone, we managed to live in Guinea for a while, then once our humanitarian visa came through, we came to Australia.

When I arrived here, I actually hadn’t had much education. Due to the war back home, going to school was just not possible for me. So I had to start from scratch: I learned English here, plus I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write. It was a really challenging time for me. My family have always been a big believer of education–we were always told that education is the answer to everything, it was essential–it is the key for a lot of challenges my country is facing. So when I was at school here in Australia, learning the basics at 12 years of age, I started developing this anger. I was supposed to have the opportunity to learn how to read and write from a young age, and yet with the situation back home, I couldn’t. I felt like I was robbed of my childhood.

My teacher saw that, and so she put me in separate sessions with an ESL teacher. And within 6 months with her, I was able to read and write. And after, she sent me to an English intensive learning centre, and I spent about a year there. Then I was able to go straight to Year 8. But thinking back to those years, I realise I never had time to debrief myself and think about what I went through. I was just constantly on the go, learning something new, and then focus on passing exams, and then catching up with the studies. So I had no time to realise how much I went through. And I guess that’s how I trained my brain to multitask, and helped me juggle managing Aunty’s Ginger Tonic with my two other jobs!

How did you get the initial idea to start your business?

I come from a family of dreamers. I’d say the biggest influence came from my grandmother. She always told me to dream big, and don’t be afraid even if it’s a wild dream.

When I had finished my studies and started working, I settled into this life in Australia as a tax-paying, working citizen. But I was always searching for what’s next–what’s the next thing I could do? I feel like I could contribute more to this community my family and I were settling into.

I had spoken to my mother about this intention to contribute and create something more. At the time, she wasn’t very encouraging because she thought it would be really hard starting a business as a Black woman somewhere like Australia. So she wanted to save me from the disappointment. But I remembered my grandmother’s words and continued pursuing this wild dream of starting a business on my own.

In terms of knowing the kind of business I wanted to get into, for me, it was always very clear. Growing up in Australia, I can see how much we love our multiculturalism. So it’s like, what is it that I can introduce to Australia from my home country? I think back to my grandmother and how I always consider her the queen of the herbs! She introduced to me a love for the herbs and spices–among them being ginger. And I happen to love ginger beer myself. So I thought, why not create a ginger drink?

Who is involved in running your business? Who is your business partner (if any), or who works together with you?

My husband Sampelga Abel Nabaloum is my helping hand. Without him, it’s impossible for me to run the business because he looks after the logistics and the distribution of Aunty’s Ginger Tonic. We both work for free, and also invest our own money in this business.

Other than that, I’m also lucky enough to be supported by a team of wonderful professionals, working with me on an advisory capacity. I have someone helping me with all things marketing, and I catch up about once a month with the team and they work with me when brokering deals for Aunty’s Ginger Tonic.

What’s the best part about running your own business?

I just love when clients send me messages–via Instagram, or email–sharing with me how much they love the drink. One person reached out and said they even used it to cook! Or another message I received was that they drank it when they were having a cold. So it’s really nice knowing that something I’ve created has helped people along in some way, and that’s the best part for me.

What’s the highlight so far with running your business?

1. Deal with Harris Farm Markets, and being able to stock Aunty’s Ginger Tonic across their shops!

2. New branding

3. Launch at Canva Space in October 2022

Any exciting future plans you can share about your business?

We are developing 3 new flavours of Aunty’s Ginger Tonic and launching in June this year! So stay tuned and watch this space.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about you and/or your team?

My ambition for Aunty’s Ginger Tonic is to someday become a household name. I’d like for the brand to be stocked in big stockists nationwide–Aldi, Woolworths, Coles. I’d like our name to be far-reaching and find its way into more households across the country, so they can find out more about my story and my culture.