In just one year, a young Te Awamutu woman has gone from baking in her home kitchen to now having a business, a shop front, her treats stocked in eateries around the Waikato and she is already planning to franchise.
Jorja Tarrant, 25, who has no food qualifications, is the mastermind behind What The Food, a small raw treats business that has taken off in Te Awamutu and the Waikato region.
She says when she started baking she never thought of her unrefined and unprocessed raw treats as a potential business.
“It started off as a passion project, baking for myself and family, but then I started to notice other people were really interested,” said Tarrant.
Her menu of morsels is made up of 16 different flavoured cups and slices including caramel queen slice, peanut butter and jelly cups, pretty peppermint slice and nutmaste cup among the bunch. What makes her treats unusual is that they are gluten free, refined sugar free and vegan – without compromising on taste.
What The Food started to take off after her cousin bought her a store spot at a local market in late 2017.
The overwhelming response showed her that there was a gap in the market. By January 2018 she leased a kitchen space at the Waipa Racing Club and started selling to individuals through Facebook and wholesaling to cafes and food trucks in Te Awamutu, Hamilton, Pirongia, Cambridge, Tirau and Otorahanga.
Ten months later, Tarrant’s business was still growing and her dad, John, a Tauranga business manager looked through her books and could see the potential of What The Food. Before she knew it, he was taking her to see available spaces in town.
“He rang me up and was like there’s four buildings for lease so we’re going to go look at them tomorrow, and I just thought it was moving so quickly,” said Tarrant.
“I’d be completely lost without my dad’s support and help though,” she said.
They secured a prime position on Arawata Street right on the town’s central roundabout and after a bit of who-do-we-know and long nights to fit out the kitchen and shop front, the doors to her shop opened in August.
The new space boasts a large kitchen, hanging plants, a mural art wall of all her treats and the cabinet with the goods sitting front and centre. They are open Tuesday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm and on Saturdays from 9.30am to 1pm. Each week she sells more than 1000 slices and cups. The shop also offers build-your-own cakes, smoothie bowls, coffee and organic juices.
Tarrant now has two employees, both working 25-40 hours a week. Ange Pivott started working when the store opened in August and Sam Clarke started at the end of October.
Her biggest struggle with starting the shop was all the accounting that she says she had no clue how to do.
“I’m more creative, so the business side of things is really intimidating,” said Jorja.
Alongside her father helping her out, she also bought on Bridie Osborne, owner of On The Bus hospitality consulting, who helped her get things in order before the big day.
She’s not planning to stop at just a shop. She has plans to franchise to Bay of Plenty within the next year, has just secured refrigerating packaging which will allow for her to send her treats all over the country and is about to launch What The Food merchandise such as t-shirts, hats and aprons.
Looking back now, Tarrant says she never would have imagined that she would own her own business but now that she does she says all it took to pull it off was her passion and some good old fashioned hard work.
“If you’re passionate and excited to get up and do what you want then I don’t see why you can’t achieve it,” she said.