Small business: Kokako Organic Coffee

By Aimee Shaw

Kokako Organic Coffee managing director Mike Murphy. Photo / Josh Griggs
Kokako Organic Coffee managing director Mike Murphy. Photo / Josh Griggs

Kokako Organic Coffee managing director Mike Murphy has been running his coffee business for nine and a half years. In that time he's seen trends come and go, but reckons cold brew coffee is the next big thing to land in New Zealand.

A brief description of the business

We are a specialty coffee company focused on roasting fair trade, organic coffee and supplying that to hospitality and retail customers throughout New Zealand.

What gave you the idea for the business?

The business actually started 15 years ago in 2001 and I purchased the business from the founders in May 2007.

It was already established when I saw an opportunity in both the organic and the fair trade coffee sector to add more of a focus on design and customer experience, so that's been my focus since I've had the company.

How has the business changed since you first took it on?

I think the biggest change would be that a lot of consumers are [now] really aware of the variety of specialty coffee available.

When I first bought the business most people would either order a short black, flat white or a long black, it was quite simple - an espresso-based culture. But now, what we're finding is there's this whole new world of coffee [that people are discovering].

We've seen a rise in consumers understanding where their food comes from and that's extended to coffee as well. Also, the rise of cold brew coffee and nitro cold brew coffee which is really an emerging category within the beverage and the coffee category.

How popular is cold brew coffee?

Just having a look at what's happening in the US, it's actually becoming a really crowded market. As more and more people learn how natural cold brew coffee is (without milk), then we will probably continue to see an increase in sales.

We were one of the first to bring it into the New Zealand market around four years ago and to sell it not only in our own cafe, but through a number of retailers and cafes. We've seen it grow quite considerably over four years and we've also seen more competitors come into the space.

What makes your coffee business different from others?

We're obsessive about innovation, we put innovation and quality at the forefront of everything we do.

Where does the name 'Kokako' come from?

The original founders, Helen and Christian, they were based in the Waitakere ranges and they really cared about conservation and sustainability. Because they were based in the Waitakere they were aware of the kokako (native bird) through their visits and work with an organisation called 'Ark in the Park' - that's where they were inspired for the name.

Kokako's cold brew coffee. Photo / Josh Griggs
Kokako's cold brew coffee. Photo / Josh Griggs

Tell me about your cafe?

The Grey Lynn cafe opened in 2012 and at the time we were looking to re-establish a flagship site for customers to interact with our brand. We wanted a retail site that would showcase to potential wholesale customers our passion for coffee and innovation.

It has enabled us to have all parts of our business on display to both consumers and prospectus customers.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?

Initially I tried to do too many things at once. We had a catering business, a production kitchen, we did food, we did drinking chocolate and we ran a cafe.

Since we have focused on being a coffee specialist that's where we've really seen a lot of growth and strengthened the business. The biggest mistake was thinking we could be more diverse than we are now.

Tell me about Rotoehu Ecological Trust working bee, how were you involved?

Kokako marketing assistant Olivia Coote explains: The Kokako and Rotoehu Ecological Trust working bee was formed when the Kokako team would join Rotoehu Forest for a day and help out with any conservation activities that needed doing.

In 2015 we went down as a team of five and helped clear tracks in the Trust's newly established management area. This year, the working bee expanded to include staff from local Kokako Coffee outposts.

Murphy: This trip was about influencing other small businesses to realise it's not hard to get involved in these types of initiatives.

Team Kokako on Rotoehu Ecological Trust working day.
Team Kokako on Rotoehu Ecological Trust working day.

Getting involved in a community group or doing a community working bee like this is really good for staff morale and allows our team to go away together to do something meaningful that is not just based on doing business - it's an incredibly powerful thing to do.

What advice would you give to other small business operators?

The main thing is to stick to your core values no matter what people may say - don't be influenced by people's opinions.

Understand your margins really well and understand the diversity of your customer base that you can throw your products in to. Have a really good strategic plan as to how you are going to grow in New Zealand and possibly offshore.

Lastly, establish a board. No matter what size business you are, you should have other people outside your business that have more experience than you, that are keeping you in check.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 27 Oct 2016 08:00:20 Processing Time: 1307ms