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. This week he talks to Clevedon Buffalo Company co-founder Helen Dorresteyn.
Forty minutes south of Auckland is where you’ll find the Clevedon Farmers Markets. Every Sunday, there’s a bustling collection of local growers, farmers and artisan food suppliers, and while farmers markets are a firm favourite nowadays, it wasn’t that long ago they were but an inkling in the mind of today’s guest.
Helen Dorresteyn had seen the trend towards farmers markets overseas and thought we should be able to do that here, too. She went around the neighbourhood, got support from the locals, and set up the Clevedon Farmers Markets. However, there was one thing she couldn’t find and that was a great local cheesemaker. So her husband – an industrial electrician – put his hand up to fill the gap.
They wanted to try and make that lovely buffalo cheese they’d enjoyed so much in Italy. How hard could it be? Quite hard, it turns out, but very rewarding.
To talk about the journey and making cheese, co-founder Helen Dorresteyn joined the podcast
How did the farmers market come about? What were you doing before that?
I was an art teacher at Papakura High School. I had a family but I couldn’t job-share at that point and didn’t really want to relieve because I liked my little class of kids. So I needed a kitchen table business, something I could work around my children with. We took the kids around the South Island before Hugo started school and ate from all these wonderful country markets. When we came back to Clevedon we started growing a bit of stuff. I couldn’t find good produce and I couldn’t sell my spare produce. [That’s when] I thought ‘bingo’. I’d seen farmers markets overseas and we didn’t have one [even though] we were this wonderful rural community right on the edge of Auckland. It seemed like a no brainer.
How did you go about setting it up?
At the time I think I had about $10,000 saved up because we needed a new kitchen. We’ve still got the same kitchen! [But] I used that money to put ads in all the papers. I got a really good logo – a friend’s husband did it for me for free which was really kind of him – and I [organised] a meeting in the church hall. I just went around the neighbourhood throwing my business card and introductory letter into all these growers’ letterboxes, and blow me down, they turned up! I was nervous as a cat on hot bricks but I managed to convince these people that this was the way forward.