It’s a familiar story in New Zealand: honey business achieves global success with its liquid gold.
However, few appreciate the sheer determination that goes into making a honey business float.
What sets Kai Ora Honey apart is staying true to its Māori values and its focus on connections.
“Real connections do not change in crisis,” chief executive Blanche Morrogh says.
New Zealand’s $49 million honey export market was not immune to the threat of Covid-19 as supply chains and logistics faced significant disruption. Fortunately for the sector, demand for natural food products increased through the period.
Despite the uncertainty, Kai Ora is holding true to its Tikanga Māori values, instilled in Morrogh through her father, who introduced her to beekeeping and the fast-growing Manuka honey industry.
“As a Māori family living in a rural community honey was a realistic opportunity for us.
“Our Māori Culture sets us apart and gives a deep connection in today global markets.”
The business sells about 40% of its products locally and 60% overseas.
While it has seen a steady growth in export demand, domestically, it had been supplying mainly tourist-based locations, so its domestic revenue stream is 90% down on same time last year.
Despite this, Morrogh says its ability to be adaptable and pivot to deliver a diverse range of products from the hive have added value to the business.
Kai Ora has made significant investments recently like creating a natural skincare range, natural sanitiser range and wellness products from the hive.
While these investments are having a high cash burn rate, she expects it to bring significant return soon.
Morrogh says the biggest challenges Kai Ora has faced has been in terms of its structure and investment.
“Taking on investment is difficult without having to manage family. We found once we took away the emotion, culture and heritage links and access who is right for each role – not ‘you have a role because your family’ – we began to fly.”
Morrogh says businesses should think hard about who they partner with.
Kai Ora had support from the Māori Investment Fund and NZTE’s Market Validation Fund. In addition, Poutama has been Kai Ora’s biggest supporter to date not only financially investing in the business, but also investing into its networks to collaborate and expand opportunities for export.
“If you take on investment make sure your values and goals align – especially if you succeed at an exponential rate, success can change perspectives.
“But most importantly, make sure you build an authentic business and good core values that are relative to your product or service.”
She says being a Māori business has had significant advantages.
“Without these cultural principles our authentic and trusted position would be compromised.”
After winning the 2017 Young Māori Business Leader Award, Blanche Morrogh told the crowd, “relationships lead to success, no matter how technical or automated this world becomes, opportunities come through people.”