Having taken a farmer’s market stall to an award-winning business, Well & Truly Artisan Pantry owner Sue Loder is in the running for 2021 NZI Rural Women NZ Business Supreme Award.
Announced in November, Sue applied for the awards in July and won the bountiful table category which puts her in contention alongside six other rural businesses for the supreme award.
“What I loved about the process, more so than winning the award, was having to actually stop and look at your business and reflect on it.
“Quite often, particularly in the days we’re in (Covid), you’re often fighting fires.
“To take the time to be reflective has been a really great reminder of where we have come from and where we are going,” Sue says.
Located in Kaipaki, Well & Truly Artisan Pantry owners Sue and husband Matt bought the small market business three years ago and converted a double garage on their six-acre section into a commercial kitchen.
“We just saw the potential, we loved the product and we could see that we could do something with it,” she says.
“We knew it was going to cost a heap to set up a commercial kitchen and we were fortunate enough to get just about everything second hand at an auction, including an oven.”
Producing gourmet granolas and pantry products, which feature produce from local growers and suppliers, the pair have stuck to the original ingredients but moved towards healthier options; including reducing the sugar content and gaining gluten free certification.
“We wanted to make sure it was a really good healthy option for people.”
Sue takes care of the administration side of the business, including marketing and social media and Matt runs the operational side along with two staff.
The couple’s love of finding work/life balance also extends to their two staff, who are both working mums.
“It’s not just about supporting our family but supporting others as well.
“When we are recruiting, we look for character; skills can be learned but character is everything and so then in return we can offer them greater flexibility.”
Not having been involved in the food industry before and with a few learning curves under their belt, it was a year and a half before they made changes to the original business model and developed their own identity.
“We wanted to be able to expand the range and actually have a brand that said who we were and what we’re about.”
Everything Sue and the team create is with wellness in mind, whole all-natural nutritious food how nature intended, simply made special.
She prides herself on the business being totally artisan.
The entire range is handcrafted, from blending of the ingredients to cooking and packaging. Each part of the process from the measuring of ingredients to the bag filling is all done by hand.
Prior to moving to Kaipaki, the couple had owned and operated a window cleaning business in Auckland.
To nurture their new business, build confidence and get it to the next level they found support with Te Waka business advisor Hayley Smith and Prime Strategies Group associate Brad White.
Hayley provided valuable insight around website development, funding streams, brand identity and social media strategies.
“When we first started Te Waka helped us identify different areas where we could get assistance.
“Because we were so new to the food industry, we needed to be sure we were doing everything right.”
To navigate the first Covid lockdown, Sue again looked to Hayley for support.
“She helped us kickstart the new rebrand and that made a huge difference.
“She was a really great sounding board and also helped us a lot with finding out what funding was available.”
This relationship led to Sue working with Brad; providing expertise in the financial side of the business.
“He really helped us understand things around margins and that sort of thing that you don’t really need to look at so much when you’re washing windows,” she laughs.
“He was really able to help us get a handle on our numbers and to be sure we were going to be profitable and help us look at our forecasting.
“It’s really empowered us to go from – yeah we think this is a pretty sweet business to, we know it is, and we know what we need to do.”
Like many businesses, Well & Truly has been impacted by the Covid lockdowns but Sue took this as an opportunity to take the plunge and rebrand.
Working with Heather Mackey from Frankly Design, they relaunched their new brand in March 2021. The majority of their market had been with the hospitality sector and the first lockdown shone a light on some of their weaknesses.
“We were so completely slammed and that was really challenging.
“We were really grateful for the government subsidy and we recognised we needed to have a spot-on website to communicate with our existing customer base.”
Through the website the couple were able to instil confidence in their customers to shop online. It also saw them move away from relying on the hospitality sector and growing their business with stockists and retailers around the country.
“As soon as we got our packaging changed and we were able to relaunch, we were quite aggressive with our approach towards retail stockists.
“We’ve learned so much and recognised that you can’t do business like you used to.”
Working with Waikato Food Inc and other food producers in the Waikato, Sue is now part of a steering group that is looking to collaborate and undertake promotional opportunities, and more importantly to support each other.
“You’ve got to do life different; you can’t stay in one spot, it’s such a different world.”
With an eye to the future, Sue is already working with a biochemist to develop a new gourmet granola and vitality bar designed to help increase energy levels in peri-menopausal and menopausal women.
The wife and husband team moved to the Waikato in 2015 and left behind a thriving house and window cleaning business in Auckland in search of a better work/life balance. Burnt out by their Auckland business, the pair hadn’t contemplated getting back into another business and settled into jobs working for someone else. In the end, it was the drive to find work that fit with their values that saw them buy Well & Truly Artisan Pantry.
“We’re a bit different, we choose to put people before profits.
“From the high-quality ingredients we choose, to the flexibility we offer our team, to the partnerships with our wholesale customers.
“We believe in building a community that feels supported in their pursuit for a balanced life, which is super important now more than ever,” Sue says
Living in a rural community has played a big part of the balanced life Sue and Matt were looking for when they left Auckland.
“It’s funny most people we meet don’t know where Kaipaki is, but it’s the best kept secret around.
“We have such a wonderful community, and we love being a part of it.
“It’s about getting back to basics, connecting with the people and the land around you,” she says.
It’s been an amazing year for Sue and the team, winning seven silver medals at the outstanding food producers awards and reaching the finals of the NZ Artisan Awards and the New Zealand Food Awards where the winners will be announced later this month.
“Winning the NZI Rural Women NZ, bountiful table award is such an incredible honour, to be amongst such inspirational women, past and present, is such a privilege and truly the icing on the cake (or should I say yogurt on the granola).”
For more information about Sue and her incredible range or products visit her website