One of New Zealand’s original influencers is opening a new chapter in the RTD market with an A-list launch next weekend.
Makaia Carr, who made Spy’s Influencer of the Year in 2018 after releasing her book, Keeping it Real - for exactly that - being real in the influence sphere.
In the early days of Covid lockdowns, Carr also made a stand for fellow Influencers to read the room and stop posting about their freebies.
Three years ago the regular attendee at openings of envelopes around Auckland, with a six-figure influencing salary to match her more than 100,000 social media followers, moved to Pāpāmoa.
“I moved with the goal of living a quieter, more settled life by the beach, which ultimately did happen, but unfortunately with a separation and now divorce to accompany it,” Carr tells Spy.
“That journey has been one of the most challenging times, filled with a lot of lessons . . . but also a time of huge self-discovery, self-development and self-love.”
The happily single 44-year-old loves the beautiful beach town, citing the gorgeous beaches, tight communities and stunning weather. She says she is grateful for the incredible group of friends and supporters she has, although she says the life can come with its small-town challenges.
Pāpāmoa gave Carr the room to start her charity Kura Kai that, with the help of hundreds of volunteers and local support, operates in more than 40 high schools by feeding whānau and rangatahi throughout the country.
“Kura Kai is what got me through my separation and became my focus while down here in Pāpāmoa setting up my new independent life. The work was fulfilling and it helped me deal with my own emotions by helping others, surrounded by good people and keeping busy and moving forward.”
These days, Carr remains as the founder and a trustee of her charity. She now has a full-time general manager, Marie Paterson, who runs the day-to-day operations.
Carr continues to dabble in social media influencing, these days preferring to work with long-term contracts and keeping it quite sporadic. She says after more than 10 years of influencing, she’s learnt to live and let live in the space and only follows influencers who are friends and ones who make her laugh.
“Last year I was also kept busy with a couple of investment properties I purchased. One in Manaia/Taranaki (my hometown,) that I spent a couple months renovating - which I loved.”
After a busy but soul-fulfilling and self-discovery year last year, she says she knew she would create a new business this year.
“I could feel the fire in my belly growing - I had set some capital aside and was ready to crack into one of my business ideas.”
That new effervescence has led Carr to launch NZ’s first canned Mimosa called Henlee.
“During brainstorming with friends about business in January - canned drinks came up,” she says.
Carr has been inspired watching Jennifer Lopez and Blake Lively launch and market their alcohol brands overseas.
To find her tipple she thought about a combination of what she loves to drink that could be made easier and more convenient and less messy, to make at the beach, on the boat, camping or at the park and the canned Mimosa won hands down.
The last seven months have seen business planning, brand development and loads of tastings, samples and sales strategies.
Carr worked with local designers on the smart orange and pink brand and packaging.
“Henlee Mimosa is made from Hawke’s Bay sparkling wine and Gisborne orange juice and I am proud the product is produced and canned at The Mount and the business is run entirely by women,” she says.
“We sit in a special little place in the RTD market being a wine-based cocktail versus all the vodka and gin RTDs commonly done by a lot of people.
“Wine drinkers love us, as do RTD cocktail drinkers – and an added bonus is that we come in low sugar and low calories - at less than 40 calories per can.”
Carr visits Auckland often to see her children, who are now 25 and 18, and to visit friends and for work meetings, and this Saturday night she will be back in the glamour zone when she launches Henlee in style.
Carr will entertain media at lunch at Milenta and then move into a larger launch party that evening at private bar Shy Guy at Victoria Park.
Although the brand is on offer at selected retailers, Milenta and Shy Guy will be Carr’s first Auckland bar/restaurant to stock it.
“My goal is that whenever anyone orders a Mimosa in a cafe or bar in NZ - that a Henlee Mimosa is served,” she says.