Small Business: Kete Kais Lisa Booth on how business can support the community

Founder of Kete Kai Lisa Booth talks to Rahul Bhattarai about her meal kit delivery social enterprise which was launched in June last year.

What does your business do?

Kete Kai is best described as food delivery as a social enterprise.

We sell a variety of meal kits and along with selling meal boxes we also help the community by giving out free meal kits for people in need.

When our customers buy our product, a certain amount of the money we make from it will go back to the community in the form of meal kits.

What was the motivation for starting it?

It has been an evolution of ideas over the last five or six years, and I’ve worked alongside lots of people that have contributed to who and what it is now. The biggest thing that we saw was food waste. We’ve got people that are hungry, and people that don’t know how to cook, so there’s an education gap as well. So we have all these problems that are actually leading into this bigger problem around food poverty in New Zealand, and we thought there’s got to be a better alternative.

What’s your background?

I came into the Kete Kai venture already with experience in the food industry having previously worked with pre-made meal producers Muscle Fuel as general manager of operations. Before finding my niche in the food industry, I was primarily in e-commerce, in a range of different marketing and digital strategy-based roles.

How big is the team today?

We have 10 full-time and part-time contractors, across marketing, business, community engagement, technology and supply chain.

How was your business affected by Covid-19?

Fundraising has been increasingly difficult due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. However, more than 2100 meal kits have been gifted in the past three months via the Pay It Forward campaign.

The more meal kits we sell, the more we can give back – the power of purpose-driven entrepreneurship.

How long has your business been around?

We came together as a team at the beginning of last year and we launched our first product in the Waikato region in June 2020, and then the Auckland region in August 2021.

What’s your focus for the remainder of the year?

Our biggest focus from now until the end of the year is to raise as much money as we can for the Christmas pledge me campaign, as well as launching new products.

Another goal until the end of the year is to produce as many meal kits as we can and from the sales of those products a dollar from every meal kit sold will be given back to the community.

In the last four months, we have raised $140,000 and given it back to the community through meal kits.

What are your long-term plans, and where do you see the brand in five years?

We have plans for new packaging and larger marketing campaigns; the more products we sell the more people we can help!

My long-term vision is to be part of the change that accomplishes Kete Kai’s kaupapa which is to end hunger in Aotearoa by 2030. It may sound like an ambitious goal to those whose daily lives are affected by food insecurity, but given that New Zealand produces enough food each year to feed 40 million people, it seems absurd that so many Kiwis don’t have enough to eat.

Success is zero hunger in Aotearoa, a reduced dependency on food parcels, and people feeling mana in their food experiences. I would love for New Zealand to be seen as the shining light in a new food ecosystem that can be shared with the world.

How does your business stand out in comparison to other businesses in the market?

A lot of what we’re seeing over Covid-19 is that people are really wanting something simple and basic. The feedback we were getting from those who experienced other meal kits was they wanted not only affordability but less complexity. They also don’t want waste, so that’s a big part of it – the packaging.

Our recipes are designed by the Otago University Nutritional Department. Recipe development is a very important part of our work because recipes are our “products” for generating our income towards our kaupapa. The partnership provides the students with a “work experience” alongside Kete Kai with a mutual passion for ending hunger in Aotearoa through education and access to affordable food.

How are you marketing it?

As well as using traditional methods we also find that our customers align with our kaupapa and want to be part of something a little different so they tend to spread the word too!

What advice would you give to people trying to start a new business?

If you have passion, and your mahi has a purpose, you will attract the right people. Be vulnerable and be curious, invite collaboration and feedback. Find your tribe: people who empower you and make you feel strong in your vision. SheEO has been one of the shining lights for me on this journey.

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