Hello, I’m Lucy.
What is your business? What do you do?
Bennetto Natural Foods. We do chocolate.
What did you do before you started your business?
I was a high school English and Drama teacher. I taught in schools in North Shore Auckland, South Auckland, Taupo, England and Dubai.
How did you get started? What is your story?
I started at home on the kitchen bench top in 2010. I was always fascinated by chocolate and spent many many hours experimenting on how to make my own. With very little information on the internet back then about the process, it took me a while but eventually I teamed up with a good Food Technologist in Christchurch. They set me up with a small grinder and taught me some basics. From there it became a little addictive with so many foods and textures to try with chocolate, not to mention the options in bean sourcing. That was the truly fun part as I discovered the world of cocoa bean origin and how vastly different cocoa can taste from one part of the world to the next. I look back at it as so much fun and just one big round-the-world chocolate journey. I became so curious about the origin and ethics behind chocolate that I started using my school holiday breaks to travel to cooperatives in Dominican Republic followed by Peru. Once my recipes were finalised, I manufactured the chocolate myself for a while until the decision was made to outsource this to a factory that was dedicated to using our chosen sourcing of single origin Peruvian and also organic.
Was starting a business easy? If not, what challenges have you encountered on your journey?
No it was not easy. For me it took 100% commitment and dedication. There is also so much sacrifice.
How has your vision for the company changed over the years?
I started out just wanting to make delicious chocolate free of additives and preservatives, and a really clean organic product for a local market. These days we are absolutely committed to our founding values 10 fold. We now have a vision to really make an impact on a global scale by making organic, child-labour free, dark chocolate without compromise for everybody.
How often do you compare your business model to your competitors?
I see my direct competitors as those who are also producing organic and ‘fairly – traded’ chocolate, so to me they are actually fellow missionaries. We are all part of the same movement and I’m always happy to support them.
What do you wish you knew before you started your own business?
I’m glad I did not know how hard it was going to be. ☺
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of going self employed?
Go for it . You will learn a lot more from it than if you don’t start.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you change or do differently having the knowledge you do now?
Nothing. Every lesson I learnt I obviously needed at the time.
What gets you up in the morning? Yoga? Coffee? Pets?
I make sure I make my gym appointments as early as possible. I also like getting up to crack into the working day as soon as I can. I do look forward to sitting down with a coffee which to me is the signal work has started.
What is your why? Why do you do what you do?
Life is short. I feel driven to make an impact- one day.
What other activities do you juggle whilst being a business owner, and how do you stay on top of everything? Any organisational tips you can share?
I permanently keep a large sketch notebook with me. I make sure I scribble every single note, to do list, as well as thoughts and ideas in there. I fill out about two a year.
Is your business only in the NZ market? Or have you branched out into other offshore markets?
There is Bennetto New Zealand and Bennetto Australia. I operate them as separate companies but they are really the same. Both turnover around the same amount of product.
Have you ever experienced burnout, and if so how did you combat those emotions of feeling overwhelmed?
I am quite sure I’ve gone beyond burnout. Overwhelm became my new normal about two years ago. I am definitely able to handle pressure more these days and just keep trucking on.
What’s one piece of advice you would ask the Robinson Duo in regards to starting/managing/growing a business?
I’m looking to employ my first full time employee. What role would you recommend as a first hire; would it be marketing, sales or general assisting, or something else?
Robinson Duo’s Answer
In a small business you can’t afford to have specialists. You need really sound generalists who are keen to roll their sleeves up and get the work done. In any start-up environment (or business environment for that matter) you need to make sure that you hire on attitude. If you hire on skillset, rather than on attitude, you are likely to head down the wrong path. Because you can improve skillset with the right attitude, but it can be very hard to fix a bad or negative attitude.
Good luck from RD