Small Business migrants: Edwina Paddis

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Inspired Food founder Edwina Paddis. Photo / supplied
Inspired Food founder Edwina Paddis. Photo / supplied

Edwina Paddis, Australian founder of Inspired Food, a boutique food business known for its Rocky Road, biscuits and sauces and chutneys.

After working in corporate jobs including the Board of the Australian Trade Commission, having a family, Edwina and her sister set up their own catering business in Sydney. Then Edwina moved with her husband and family to NZ in 2010.

After we moved to NZ for my husband's work in late 2010, I was surprised and excited by a dynamic and vibrant food scene here, with places like the La Cigalle market and food merchants like Farro Fresh.

Through my local neighbourhood connections I was introduced to the owner of Le Monde at Parnell and started working there on a casual basis. I suggested that we offer our customers a sweet treat over Easter, so I cooked up a few batches of my Rocky Road to serve on the counter. Customers loved the product and asked where they could buy the product.

With my passion for food, the buzz of NZ's artisan food scene and my husband's background working for some of Australiasia's most successful FMCG companies, we created Inspired Food.

To date, the entire process has been supported by our local community. Every time I have spoken to someone about my business here, I have found that people are so helpful with advice and leads.

I remember standing on a netball court discussing how I was looking for a kitchen to start my business but just wanted to use a restaurant kitchen during the day to start. Someone overheard our conversation and mentioned that they owned a restaurant and it would be available. I used that kitchen for six months until I recently moved into a commercial kitchen which I now lease.

Again from the kindness of another food producer who was relocating to bigger premises, I was guided to our new premises. I have found instances like this totally overwhelming and personally rewarding to have met such sincere people.

The differences between operating a business in NZ versus Australia.

There is no doubt that establishing a small business in NZ is far easier and simpler than our experience was in Australia, but this extends beyond the simple statutory requirements.

It is the support that we have had from our local community, both personal and business and friends we have made here rallying around us as we looked to embark on this unexpected journey. Our time in NZ was intended to be limited given my husband's work, but the opportunities that have been presented to us and the ability to create and establish our business and a NZ food brand, has motivated us to consider the longer term commitments to NZ with the ability to extend back to Australia in the longer term.

Australia is regarded as egalitarian with the "fair go". Our experience in NZ has shown us "if you're prepared to give it a go, we'll give you an opportunity approach", a subtle difference but one that seems to permeate the NZ business psychology. We love both countries and our experiences from Australia have given us the opportunity to apply our passion, knowledge and skills to the NZ market.

We hope that from these small beginnings we can create a brand that we and other New Zealanders will be proud of and will take what we love about NZ to other markets.

What's really surprised me in terms of running our business in NZ is the support and infrastructure available to small businesses, whether it's our suppliers, packaging, internet, freight companies or retailers. There are always challenges, but you work through it, you're able to focus on what the important elements of your business are, growth and innovation. I expect as we expand and grow therefore the challenges will also expand and grow.

Attitudes toward an Australian running a business here.

Obviously there are limitations, in NZ the size of the market longer term, but in Australia the size of the market can hinder you from starting up in the first place.

I would hope that being Australian is not a disadvantage, and I guess one thing that has surprised me is the love/hate relationship that New Zealander's have toward Australia. When we first moved here all the locals we met were somewhat puzzled that we had made such a move and asked why; our immediate response was why not, it's a beautiful country, wonderful people and a great quality of life. Australia offers great opportunities and a good life, but it's a big complex society, especially Sydney.

I guess that's one thing I really enjoy about Auckland, that it is reminiscent of the Sydney I grew up in, but offers the sophistication and diversity you get in any big city.

In terms of the business community and being Australian, this hasn't impacted negatively at all, in fact I think most people I have dealt with have been curious about our backgrounds and how we have come about to be doing what we are doing.

NZ Government's support for start-up businesses compared with Australia.

When the time comes and we're looking to grow our business into the export markets, we'll definitely be looking to see what incentives are available to expand Inspired Food internationally. Having worked for the Australian Trade Commission, I know the depth and diversity of export programmes and grants available from the Aussie end, so I expect that NZ will offer similar incentives.

The NZ entrepreneurial lifestyle

NZ has given me the ability to start up a business in an environment which has been very pro artisan producers and embraces all that the little players have to offer. People like to try something different, something unique, and something that has a story and passion behind it, which is everything Inspired is.

Even today seeing my product in the Taste magazine gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction. Farro on Facebook asked their consumers to name their favourite Top 20 local brands and having our little Inspired brand come in at 18th was surprising and yet so rewarding. It proves that you don't need to be a big multinational to have an impact.

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