‘Business is Boring’ is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.
The Lovely Little Food Company is a lovely, not so little, local success story. You might not have heard that name, but you will know their products. They started out two friends, Maree Glading and Jessie Stanley, at Clevedon Market in 2008.
They made something magical, something touching the very essence of what it means to be a New Zealander, something salving Sunday morning market hangovers. They made a pie. Not just any pie, an I Love Pies pie.
From these beginnings they have expanded to sweet pies, sausage rolls, grocery, specialty food, and export. They were early on the specialty food movement, caring about provenance and ingredients and welfare before this was found in your supermarket. Jessie Stanley, one of the founders of this forward looking company, braved The Spinoff stairs to talk to Simon.
What kinds of things have you and Maree had to level up in along the way, to go from having the idea to now having a very complicated and many-faceted business?
We worked out of our homes and we had little sleepouts that we worked from, literally up until about three years ago.
We recognised that we had the opportunity to take it to the next level. So that meant that we got an office, we hired more people, we bought in more skills to the business. It was a conscious decision for us to invest further into the business. We had a goal: we want to be ten million by 2020. We’d like to write down every three or four years, we have ‘what are our goals?’ and we write it down. And it’s a really great, we’ve done it a few times. Then you look back and we’ve achieved what we’ve set out to do. It’s nice to put it down on paper. It’s kind of a powerful thing to do.
And how have you found the support to grow as well? Because the difficulties around that are funding and getting the right suppliers on board.
We’ve also had really good governance. We got an advisory board started three years ago and that allowed us to transgress into a board of directors, which we currently have, and attract some really great talent within that.
There’s been a lot of learning along the way and lots of ups and downs. But I think for us, on a personal note, we’ve had to make that journey to make sure that we have a good work-life balance as well. Because there have been times where you’re like this is getting a bit too much. So Maree and I work part time, we have families, we try to make sure we have that balance. Because that’s really important when you’re in business. You’ve got to balance it out. You can’t be thinking and working all the time, you just get too exhausted. You do think about business a lot but it’s really important to section that off in your brain and be quite disciplined about that. That’s something I think we’ve learnt on a personal note: you have to have your downtime. To work this hard you’ve also got to have some really good play time as well.
I think the balance has really gotten much better and that’s something you just sorta learn slowly.
Is that about being able to define your own success? So success means not maybe just getting evermore sales but being able to have the4 occasional weekend off?
Yeah definitely. It’s wonderful, Maree and I have been in really similar situations in our personal lives so we’ve both been able to grow it. I think if we hadn’t had families, for example, we would’ve burned out because we really are hardworking and strive really hard but it’s allowed us to be a little bit slower in our approach. Even though we’ve done really well within eight years, it’s been a slow, consistent growth. So it’s allowed us to grow with the business, almost.
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