Maggie Gray, founder of organic smoothie firm Rawe, talks about operating a moving business and her advice for others wanting to start a new venture.
What does your business do?
Rawe is a food truck, an all-organic smoothie bar. We go round to different events and markets in Auckland selling smoothies and healthy food. I started it 18 months ago and the idea came from a journey to a local park - it got me thinking about how Mr Whippy can pretty much rock up to any park and serve ice creams.
What sparked the idea?
I was a new parent at the time and I wanted to offer a healthier alternative and there was no one at the time, in Auckland, doing this. The idea stemmed from the Mr Whippy ice cream truck. At the time we were drinking smoothies at home and we just loved how you can throw so much stuff into a smoothie and it can be really and yummy and nutritious, and we decided to turn that into a business.
Running Rawe has been a learning curve. You'd think it wouldn't be too hard and that I could do it part time but it has taken a lot more investment of both time and money to grow.
The industry of food trucks is a really cool space to be in at the moment and the benchmark of quality is at its all-time high.
How big is your team?
The business is my baby but my husband Lee is supporting me, he's my advisor and banker at the minute. We do have some part-time staff members that come and go but I lead it. We're going into peak season with it being summer and the really good weather has helped, especially given we sell smoothies. Over Christmas time it's quiet but we kicked off earlier this month. We tend to do two or three events a week but that varies.
How long was the process to get your trailer and kit it out?
There was a lot of imagination which went into the truck. We imported the food truck from China, it came in a big shipping container, and basically, it was a white shell. Through the help of my friend who is a graphic designer we wanted to create something really full of character with a vintage look. Appearance, especially for a food truck, is really important and so the look and feel of what we wanted it to be was really important for me - I had an idea in my head all along of what I wanted.
The food truck arrived in April 2016 and then we had it done and on the road in the August. With Chinese manufacturing their standards isn't quite up to New Zealand standards so we had to do a lot of repairs to it when it got here.
What events have you attended with your smoothie bar?
The General Collective Market is always a fantastic event, the Factory Market in Albany every other month, Urban Street Fest, Wanderlust Festival, the Live Well Festival, Weetbix-Sanitarium events and the Te Atatu Night Markets.
What's the hardest part about running Rawe?
The hardest part is the variables of the business is very seasonal, with summer being the peak. The weather wasn't that great last summer but it's kicking off well this year. The operating months are obviously a lot shorter than an all-year-round job so that's probably one of the biggest struggles. We get a lot of event companies that charge ridiculous amounts to be there and they promise so many people and it doesn't turn out to be like that, so that led us to create Urban Street Fest, a pop-up night market. Getting off the ground and your name out there is also hard.
This is my first business and I've found [running it] a little bit harder than I thought it would be. I've always wanted to own my own business, but often the reality and the dream is very different - it's a lot of work.
Where do you hope your business is at in 5 years' time?
In terms of immediate plans, in the next couple of years, I aim to continue growing the brand and to expand to cater for more corporate events and continue to represent what I believe in - good, nutritious food and drinks at events.
What advice do you give to other people thinking of starting their own business?
Do your homework and have a really strong brand and presence before diving into the deep end as it's really important to attract potential customers. You also need to have a really strong message as to why you are doing what you are doing.