We are super excited to be the lead story of NZ Business Magazine's February 2021 Issue!
How hard-hit Kiwi businesses have triumphed during the worst global pandemic and economic downturn in living memory. We report on the stories and lessons of four now-thriving survivors.
By editor Glenn Baker.
When New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown kicked in on March 25th, 2020, there was an air of ‘pinch ourselves’ disbelief among the nation’s business owners. How did we end up here? What does the future look like now? Angst and uncertainty was almost palpable.
The adjective ‘unprecedented’ quickly became the word of choice to describe what was happening around us.
Across New Zealand business plans were hastily recalibrated. We all entered unchartered territory – in desperation the nation turned its collective eyes toward Jacinda Ardern’s government for relief.
Over the past year there have been countless inspirational business stories pumped out by the media. Stories of business owners lifting their enterprises up from the ashes like a phoenix – pivoting and reinventing, relaunching and rejuvenating.
Here’re four remarkable stories of survival we uncovered, and no doubt there are countless others still waiting to be told. They all provide valuable lessons.
1. Secret Kiwi Kitchen: It’s never too late to create
This story is not one of reinvention – more about creation. Secret Kiwi Kitchen’s founders, Lauren ‘Lulu’ Taylor and Clare Gallagher began 2020 full of hope. Lulu was loving her career as a digital marketer. Clare had been looking forward to going back into the workforce, with her youngest of four children starting school. She had previously established a highly successful fudge company in Waiheke Island before selling it in 2016.
Lulu describes Covid’s arrival as a “slow-motion realisation”. Clients slowly dropped away but she knew it wasn’t personal.
“It was scary facing the void of no job. So much of our identities are tied up in the work we do.”
Lulu admits she panicked at first and “came up with all kinds of crazy ideas”.
“That’s when Clare approached me about starting a fudge sauce business. She knew that 2020 wasn’t going to be the easiest year to re-enter the job market. If she wanted to balance work with the demands of a large tight-knit family, it might be wiser to start her own business.
“While ending my pre-Covid work life took a few months to unravel, opening the door to our new business happened instantly,” remembers Lulu. “The moment when Clare asked me and I said “’yes, let’s do it!’
A business plan was already underway during the first lockdown, and subsequently updated.
“Right from the start, we brought our friends and community along for the ride, so we were able to get support and traction incredibly fast,” says Clare.
They launched Secret Kiwi Kitchen during the second lockdown; it was a great time to get product into peoples’ hands. “We couldn’t get to a commercial printer, so we began by glueing paper labels onto our pouches,” says Clare. “Many of our processes were crude and time consuming but while the pandemic brought us challenges it also gave us opportunities to connect more quickly with customers,” adds Lulu.
With both families down to single incomes, this artisan food business had to be bootstrapped. Lulu and Clare worked around the clock – building their website and handling the graphic design, marketing and product development themselves.
Word of mouth within the local community gave the business a quick start. The dream was to sell their artisan baking mixes and dessert sauces into stores and supermarkets New Zealand-wide within a few months.
“A silver lining of Covid-19 was that it helped us access stores quicker than anticipated,” says Lulu. “And thanks to the national swell of interest in supporting local products and small businesses, retail outlets were excited about offering our products.”
There’s always a trade-off between trying to scale a business and banking money, adds Clare. “Our goal was to grow Secret Kiwi Kitchen as quickly as possible in six months; to see if it had the potential to meet our joint income requirements.
“We are tracking well and hopeful that the business will continue to be our full time job in coming years.”
At the time of writing, prior to Christmas, Lulu and Clare had additional new products in the pipeline and a manufacturer on board for a new product – Marshmallow Fluff Sauce. They were looking to grow both retail and online sales, and fielding enquiries from Australia and Asia.
So what have they learnt through all this?
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. We would never have had the success we’ve had if it wasn’t for all the people who cheered us on,” says Lulu. “From customers spreading the word, to business people guiding us and sharing their learnings.
Clare says: “Likewise, it’s a conversation – really listen to your customers and adapt your business to meet their wants and needs. Now more than ever, the country is rallying around small businesses looking at how they can support them and that’s an extraordinary opportunity for business owners.”
Both women have no regrets. “As tricky as lockdown was, it gave us a chance to create something really meaningful and empowering,” explains Lulu. “The realization that it is never too late to reinvent yourself was especially poignant given that we are both mums who at times have put careers on the back-burner to focus on family demands.
“Re-entering the workforce and launching a new career on our own terms, with the opportunity to build something from the ground up, has been incredibly rewarding.”
Read the rest of the article HERE.