Secret Kiwi Kitchen is an artisan food business launched in August 2020 during Auckland's second lockdown by two local mums, Lulu Taylor and Clare Gallagher. Wanting to make baking accessible and easy for everyone, they created a range of easy-to-make one bowl mixes that feature premium New Zealand ingredients and all-natural ingredients.
How did the idea for Secret Kiwi Kitchen come about?
Secret Kiwi Kitchen is really a COVID baby. We started the business after Lulu lost her job as a digital marketer after Auckland’s first lockdown in the winter of 2020. Clare also wanted to get back into the workforce as her youngest had just started school, but with the pandemic raging, and so many people looking for work, both of us knew it would be difficult to find a job. We realised that despite these challenges there was suddenly this incredible silver lining - that we had the time and the opportunity to focus finally on our passion - making and sharing beautiful food.
Our plan was to start selling fudge sauces at the farmer’s market, but we realised that we needed something to put the sauce on for taste tests. That’s when we came up with the idea of creating a brownie mix.
During Auckland’s second lockdown in August of 2020, we decided to launch our business early as we wanted to get people our baking mixes during lockdown so that families could use baking as a way of connecting or to keep the kids entertained during Zoom calls. Five weeks later, riding the wave of a renewed interest in home baking, we were selling our mixes nationwide.
The trend we spotted is simply this: Kiwis have a long tradition of proud home baking, which has historically suppressed demand for premix baking products and created a gap in the market for this category. But Kiwi kitchens are changing. Millennials and young families don’t have the time or baking knowledge that their parents did and have grown up in a more ‘on-demand’ culture. Women over 65 also represent a strong demographic for us, and our research shows they appreciate the simplicity and ease of our products. We fill that gap with high-quality, easy-to-make products that empower new bakers and time-crunched cooks. We offer attainable luxury in a simple, satisfying bite.
What do you love most about being a business founder?
Lulu: The constant learning. I am happiest when I am learning new things and skills. I always wanted to know what it took to come up with a product and get it onto a store shelf and now I know - hours of toil and problem-solving! And it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to chart my own destiny!
Clare: Achieving new milestones, setting myself goals and overcoming difficulties. I love the challenge of it. I’m also really proud of how much my self-worth has increased. For a while, I was stuck in an 'I’m just a mum, I can’t do it’ mindset. Now I realise I’m not just a mum. I am so much more. Lulu has really supported me in that journey and I’m grateful to her for that - and my kids are so proud of me.
What has been your biggest challenge so far in your entrepreneurial journey?
Funding growth. As wonderful as it sounds, growing quickly often creates financial pressure. Whilst Secret Kiwi Kitchen became profitable in its first year, we have chosen to continue to invest our profits towards rapid growth.
What’s a business highlight you’re proud of?
We are both really proud of showing our children that when the chips are down you can always fall back on your own resources and create something marvellous and new. We started Secret Kiwi Kitchen with only a few hundred dollars from the kitchen table and our products are now in homes and over 200 stores across New Zealand.
What or who inspires you?
Lulu: It changes daily. Today - Julia Child for bravely reinventing herself at 50 and for making good food accessible to the masses whilst being charmingly humble and totally herself.
Clare: My answer is always the same. My grandfather. Although he left school at 12 to look after his mother and sisters, he worked his way up from nothing to a self-made man. He did this through a steadfast work ethic and astute business acumen. He was a Grain Merchant and I learnt so much from him as I chose to accompany him whenever I could on his visits to farms. He was a great communicator and so much of what I know now is from watching him. One of the things that he’d say if I was ever nervous or unsure about anything work related was “Get in there and make a name for yourself”. It always made me feel a little braver, especially when I have to do something scary like walk into a conference room and make a pitch!
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Lulu: When I need a good dose of encouragement/advice I often think of the Japanese proverb "Fall seven times and stand up eight." Life is always throwing curveballs, whether in business or in your personal life - it’s important to be reminded to never give up hope and to keep striving.
Clare: “Measure twice, cut once” - it applies to so much in life. Also “What’s for you will not go past you” which basically means, if it’s meant to be it will happen.
Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs?
Lulu: The NZ business community is incredibly supportive - don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to anyone that can help you on your business journey, from customers to other CEOs - there are golden nuggets of advice to be gathered.
Clare: There’s never been a better time for women to stand up as business leaders and get their vision and voices heard. My advice to any woman thinking of starting a business is, don’t put it off another day. Be brave, take the first step! And as Lulu said, there are lots of other women in business who are more than happy to help if you reach out.
How do you unwind from work?
Lulu: Cooking beautiful dinners for family and friends, walks by the beach, yoga, making things - watercolours and flower arrangements.
Clare: I love to do long bush walks and climbs. If I can't get to a bush walk I will walk around our village and beaches for as long as I can, listening to podcasts. Some days I rack up 20k and often throw dinner at the kids and head out in the dark. I love looking at the city lights across the water. Oh - and of course, baking! I love baking and then delivering surprise packages to people’s doorsteps.
What three things can’t you live without?
Lulu: Besides my family: cheese, good friends, cheeky getaways with the Mr.
Clare: Aside from my four funny kids and my husband. I’d say my morning workouts - it helps clear my mind and get the positivity flowing. My friends, as we have no family in this country so we have collected our own whanau. And a calculator, because I’m terrible at maths!
If you won RISE UP, what would you use the money for?
Winning RISE UP would help us on our journey to make Secret Kiwi Kitchen into one of New Zealand’s most beloved and trusted food brands. It would also bring us closer to our dream of bringing Kiwi products to the kitchens of the world. We would use the money to establish a new sales channel in an APAC country or the USA.