A lit­tle bird told me

Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics co-founder Me­gan May talks about how she turned her raw-food hobby into a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, see­ing it blos­som into an Auck­land in­sti­tu­tion

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Raw-food pi­o­neer Me­gan May of Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics shares her busi­ness tips

Kim­chi pan­cakes, ku­mara and co­conut hot­cakes, porta­bello Bene­dict and Si­cil­ian kelp noo­dle salad are just a few of the vi­brant raw-food dishes on of­fer at The Un­bak­ery in Pon­sonby, Auck­land. Since open­ing its doors, the Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics cafe – with its ex­ten­sive of­fer­ing of gluten-free, dairy-free, raw, or­ganic and re­fined sugar-free plant­based sweets and savouries – has be­come a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for those look­ing for a healthy but de­li­cious all-day break­fast and lunch menu.

Chef Me­gan May and her ar­chi­tect hus­band Jeremy Ben­nett founded the brand in 2010 by sell­ing their homemade mac­a­roons and ‘grawnola’ at farm­ers’ mar­kets and health food stores, es­sen­tially pi­o­neer­ing the main­stream raw-food move­ment here in New Zealand. The re­sponse from cus­tomers was such that the pair opened their first branch of The Un­bak­ery in Kings­land in 2012, es­tab­lished a smaller pop-in cafe in Auck­land’s CBD, ex­panded into cold-pressed juic­ing with The Squeez­ery, and launched their own app and cook­book in rapid suc­ces­sion. With Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics achiev­ing suc­cess at such a rate, we asked Me­gan to share some words of wis­dom about trust­ing your in­stincts and never com­pro­mis­ing on your brand’s iden­tity.

You started on the raw-food path when the con­cept was far from main­stream. How did you know you had a vi­able busi­ness?

When I started, I think a lot of peo­ple thought I was crazy. I was really ner­vous about put­ting my prod­ucts out there as there was no es­tab­lished mar­ket for raw food here. It had been a dream of mine since my early twen­ties to have a food busi­ness so there was a lot of anx­i­ety sur­round­ing it for me. I al­most never made it to my first mar­ket (which is really where it all started) as I was so worried about peo­ple not lik­ing my prod­ucts. My sis­ter coached me into get­ting into the car with my mac­a­roons and grawnola and sent me on my way. I sold out of ev­ery­thing really quickly and peo­ple kept con­tact­ing me after­wards, want­ing the prod­ucts. That’s how Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics be­gan. Life changed very quickly as I had to learn to start trust­ing my in­stincts and abil­i­ties to make this into a vi­able busi­ness.

In your ex­pe­ri­ence, what are the key fac­tors in cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness?

Have a core goal that en­cap­su­lates what you’re try­ing to achieve. Know­ing what you stand for and why you’re cre­at­ing the busi­ness is key. It not only keeps you mo­ti­vated when times are tough, but also helps you to keep head­ing in the right di­rec­tion. For us the core goal is to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on our cus­tomers’ health and the en­vi­ron­ment by get­ting peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence eat­ing a more plant-based diet. Ev­ery­thing we do must align with that goal.

How has be­ing a par­ent af­fected your busi­ness and what is your ad­vice on jug­gling the jobs of par­ent and busi­ness­woman?

Be­ing to­tally present with what you’re do­ing is im­por­tant. Be with your kids when you’re with them and the same goes for when you’re at work. That way you don’t feel so stretched and I think it makes you a lot more pro­duc­tive as well.

The most im­por­tant thing is to be com­pas­sion­ate with yourself, lis­ten to your body and your child’s needs. Get­ting as much rest as pos­si­ble to store up en­ergy prior to and after the birth is key. This means you’ll be do­ing less catch­ing up and have more sus­tain­able en­ergy lev­els in the long run, which makes for a health­ier mum, baby and busi­ness.

Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics is constantly evolv­ing. What in­spires you to keep push­ing and cre­at­ing?

Lit­tle Bird is al­ways grow­ing; a suc­cess­ful busi­ness should be constantly evolv­ing. It keeps things ex­cit­ing for the cus­tomers and the staff, but there is a bal­ance that I find is needed. The evolution must hap­pen with the com­pany’s mis­sion at its heart. It’s easy to get caught up with new ideas and trends and be re­ac­tive in the way you grow and put out new prod­ucts. Good things take a lit­tle time, re­flec­tion and plan­ning.

I’m really mo­ti­vated and driven around food ed­u­ca­tion at the mo­ment – the health of our coun­try is shock­ing. There are great peo­ple do­ing amaz­ing things in this area, like Na­dia and Michael Mered­ith, among many others. I’m ex­cited that Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics is part of help­ing peo­ple make pos­i­tive changes around food and health. This is one of the most beau­ti­ful places on earth and it’s just crazy that we are not health­ier as a na­tion and I want to help change that.

What are three things you wished you’d known when launch­ing your busi­ness?

1 There are a lot of great peo­ple out there who will help you. Just ask and keep asking un­til you find peo­ple that are the right fit for you. A busi­ness ad­viser can save you a lot of an­guish. Ki­wis are known for their do-it-yourself at­ti­tude; this is an awe­some trait and gets you so far, but it can also make things a lot harder than they need to be.

2 Big is not al­ways bet­ter. The most im­por­tant thing is to grow your com­pany sus­tain­ably and in a way that res­onates with you. There is no right way of grow­ing a busi­ness, but there are a lot of things you can learn from others’ mis­takes. 3 Know who you are and what your busi­ness is about. Con­fi­dence is so im­por­tant for cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness and en­joy­ing it. Work at build­ing up your con­fi­dence and back yourself, be­cause not ev­ery­one is go­ing to be­lieve in what you’re do­ing or en­cour­age you. You need to be con­fi­dent in your vi­sion.

“It’s easy to get caught up with new ideas and trends and be re­ac­tive in the way you grow and put out new prod­ucts. Good things take a lit­tle time, re­flec­tion and plan­ning”

Above: Lit­tle Bird Or­gan­ics’ Me­gan May and Jeremy Ben­nett in their gar­den with daugh­ter Pep­per.

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