Isabel Pasch is an owner of Bread and Butter Bakery and Cafe, which has wholesale operations as well as three retail bakeries and cafes in Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Milford.
When and why did you first come to New Zealand?
I first came here in 1999 to do a master's degree in marine microbiology at Auckland University. I really enjoyed myself, and I also met my now husband. I wanted to stay on, but he wanted to do his big OE so we went together to Berlin, which is where I'm from. We both started PhDs, but independently and for different reasons we got halfway through and decided not to continue.
I then did a journalism degree in Berlin and later started a company with another woman specialising in science PR. During that time I also had two children and when our second child was born we decided it would be fantastic for the kids to grow up in New Zealand. So we started planning to come back.
How did you make the transition to the baking industry from science?
Science PR is a niche market, even in Germany, so the other idea I had when thinking about work and coming back to New Zealand was bread. Like most Germans I love bread and in the two years I had lived here it was the only thing - besides friends and family - that I missed. So I thought 'I'll start a bakery'.
During my last year in Germany I worked for a friend who had a large organic bakery in Berlin to get an idea of what it was like. And when we came to New Zealand in early 2010 I soon found a cute little bakery in Ellerslie that was doing organic bread, which we bought. I come from a family of passionate cake bakers, so for the first two years I did all the cake and pastry baking and employed a professional bread baker.
Then in 2011 I met my now business partners in Bread and Butter. They have several cafes and at that time were looking for someone to supply them with specialised products, potentially in a partnership relationship, and by that time I'd outgrown my little shop and was wanting to expand. The timing was right. In early 2013 we opened our flagship bakery and cafe in Grey Lynn, as well as our store in Ponsonby, and five weeks ago we opened a store in Milford.
What have been the major challenges you've encountered with this business, especially related to being from Germany?
The main one is finding good bakery staff. Bread baking is an incredibly hard job; people have to appreciate the beauty of bread and the philosophy of making it, because if you don't have that love for the product most people won't last. But because New Zealand doesn't have this strong bread culture like you find in Europe it's a challenge to find really good staff who have that knowledge and passion.
The other challenge is being organic. For me that's very important; I believe it's not only better for our bodies, but my science background has given me an appreciation of how we need to live sustainably within this closed ecosystem. Organics have really been embraced in Europe, and particularly in Germany; people see the value in it and there are a lot more organic food options available. But it's not been embraced to the same level here yet and a lot of our wholesale customers don't even tell their customers our product is organic. They buy from us because they like our bread, so they don't necessarily see the value in it being organic, which makes it hard to completely recover the added cost involved.
What advice would you have for another entrepreneur coming from Germany setting up a business here?
After running my small bakery for a couple of years I realised that if I wanted to expand I needed structures, systems and guidance. My business partners have a long background in hospitality and a deep understanding of the scene here, which I didn't have coming from overseas, so partnering with them has been essential for me to grow the business so quickly. Unless you have enough money to spend a good amount of time understanding the local market before starting your business, then I'd recommend partnering with the right experts who can help you find and grow your market.