Zoe Wood, owner of small South Island honey business Forage & Gold, talks roadside shops, expansion plans and what 2020 might have in store.
What does your business do?
I have a honey business called Forage & Gold and we are based in Cromwell. We source all of our honey from Central Otago and the West Coast, and have five varieties of premium quality export-grade honey that we supply to the domestic market.
Forage & Gold launched on November 1. I rebranded post-Covid. I started working on a rebrand and a refresh of my brand during lockdown. It was originally called Lindis Gold Honey and that started 10 years ago, ticking away slowly when my kids were young.
I took the opportunity this year when I had a bit of time and when all my honey outlets were closed to finally see the dream of the rebrand come to life. It had been something I wanted to do for a long time.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I married a beekeeper and became part of an established generational beekeeping business that sells honey in bulk to honey buyers, and when I first got involved there was no outlet for packed honey so I started doing it myself and selling at farmers' markets in the Central Otago area, and then I got quite busy with children and decided to open a roadside honey shop with an honesty box and that went crazy. What I found happen was a lot of people in the area would tell their friends and family and tourists to stop so it got quite a reputation and a lot of repeat purchases.
About 18 months ago I started supplying local shops in the area. We were all closed during Covid and I don't think I realised how many tourists bought my honey so it was in May that my parents contacted me, they had been watching a lot of the news, and they said "We'd like to give you some money to get a website" because I wasn't online at that point. That was what started the ball rolling and when everything changed.
Instead of focusing on what tourists wanted to take home with them, I started focusing on what do New Zealanders in the domestic market want from their produce and food, and how can I share our honey with the rest of the country. I didn't even have a social media account in winter this year.
Has Covid-19 been a blessing in disguise for your business?
Yes absolutely. I don't know if a wake-up call is the right word, but it was a good opportunity to rethink what we were doing and I had to make the decision to either give up or change what I do to make it work and grow bigger. Exporting is always in the back of my mind, there's a great international market for New Zealand product, but it is not a focus now.
How big is your team?
At the moment it is just me and my family help me when I need their help. My husband, my children, and my mum recently came to stay for a week and did a lot of work for me. I connect with other businesses in the area that help me with marketing and photography.
What are your long-term plans?
I think in a one-year plan, and right now I am focused on developing my knowledge, upskilling on all things business and I would like to introduce a couple more honey varieties into our range. I'd also like to develop online sales and grow the wholesale arm. I'm also looking at sustainable packaging and next year we will be trialling a circular system with our honey jars, where locals can return their glass jars to our road side shop and we will clean and sterilise it and use it again to pack honey into.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Don't be afraid to start. Running a business can be overwhelming and sleepless nights come with owning your own business, but if you put in the hard work you do eventually see the reward. Also, find people that can help you and advise you.