Today My Food Bag (MFB) listed on the NZX/ASX with a valuation of close to half a billion dollars, the largest listing in New Zealand since Genesis Energy 7 years ago.
It is hard to believe that just 8 years ago we were packing our cars full of our first trial deliveries and throwing our heart and soul into the launch of the business.
In fact, My Food Bag’s first deliveries to paying customers was on Sunday the 10th of March 2013, so it seems fitting to be listing in March only a few days off that milestone.
Some of you might have heard the story of how My Food Bag was founded – how James and I had seen the concept in Sweden. How he loves to eat but hates to cook and how I grew tired of saying “What do you feel like for dinner” and him responding “whatever is easy darling”.
At the time James and I were running our childcare company, Au Pair Link with about 650 children enrolled in our service and about 50 staff. I was also pregnant with our first child Thomas who was due in early August.
I hadn’t planned time off for maternity leave, but Tom turned out to be late (he didn’t seem to have inherited his mums prompt gene pool).
Meanwhile James and I had been mulling over the idea for My Food Bag and after lunch with friends of ours, exploring a new business idea they had, I turned to James and said, “I think I should write the business plan for My Food Bag”.
James simple response “You should totally do that darling” set me to work for the next week and I literally clicked save on the business plan at 8 pm on the 9th of August and was in labour by midnight. Tom was born some 20 hours later.
Pacing around the board room with Tom at 4 weeks old in his stroller, we presented the business plan to Au Pair Link’s advisory board who compromised of Theresa Gattung and Dr Lee Mathias. As we left that meeting Theresa (TG) tapped me on the shoulder and simply said, “I’m in”.
The business plan for My Food Bag ended up as two versions. One with celebrity chef Nadia Lim – and one without.
Once we had secured Theresa Gattung as a Co-founder and investor, we immediately approached Nadia stripping the entire celebrity chef version from the plan to ensure we didn’t over emphasize the need of a brand front (all the while desperate for her to say yes)!
It seemed serendipitous that the immediate response wasn’t from Nadia but from her husband Carlos, organising to meet (for what they later told us they believed must be a baby food product). I remember going back to him saying how thrilled I was that they were another husband-and-wife team.
At that point I didn’t know what a pivotal part they’d come to play not just as business partners but as friends and now family.
Meeting Nadia and Carlos proved to be one of our most critical success factors. We realised that Nadia has something special and that Carlos was a bonus that we hadn’t counted on. Nadia captured not just our imagination but our hearts (and the hearts of New Zealander’s) too and Carlos’ brand nous would come to serve the business well.
Of course, the rest is history.
Theresa told us a few years later that many of her friends questioned her going into business with two couples, “what happens if the marriages break up?”, but she trusted and believed in us and was willing to take that risk. After all, co-founder relationships (married or not) break-up all the time. To this day, one of the things we have been proudest of is how close we all remain.
That first week in March 2013 we delivered about 150 food bags and within 3 months we cracked 500 deliveries – an unbelievable achievement. Within 6 months My Food Bag’s run rate revenue tipped 10 million dollars and we were basically profitable from day one. Fast forward 8 years and we have delivered over 85 million meals.
You might think that building a half a billion-dollar business is the proudest moment of all, but for us the milestones came along the way. As Co-CEOs James and I were laser focused on giving back to our community, delivering 10,000 meals per/month to charities across New Zealand.
In 2013, we launched our Christmas gifting programme which has enabled our foodies to provide a box of goodies to people in need at Christmas. 7 years later we have delivered over 100,000 gifts.
We launched, what was at the time, New Zealand’s most generous parental leave programme and put in place an Employee Relief Programme where staff could apply for financial support through times of need. We quickly adopted the living wage standards rather than minimum wage.
Our original vision which had been to “create stronger and healthier communities through changing the way we eat” ringed true every day as we were flooded by positive customer testimonials telling us how we had changed their lives.
While at the same time, we built one of the largest and most profitable food bag companies in the world and by 2016 we were New Zealand’s third largest grocery retailer.
Mostly, we focused on all our people, that is our team, our foodies, and our suppliers. Giving businesses a platform to provide their products on mass to people throughout New Zealand. We launched brands and products inside My Food Bag who had previously only been at farmers markets.
We took young and talented kiwis, gave them responsibility, and watched them fly through every facet of our business. We paired more experienced and senior staff with those who needed mentoring and provided pathways inside the business for them to grow.
It was amazing to see how our Customer Love (CL) team became a talent pool for the wider business, with every single business unit hiring from our talented CL team – from finance, our development kitchen to operations, digital and marketing.
It has been a phenomenal journey.
And ultimately that is what we are most proud of.
So, here is a big thank you to all our people. To every single person who has shared this journey with us. To all our team, our suppliers and our foodies, your support was and continues to be invaluable!
And a special thank you to Theresa, Nadia and Carlos for not just believing in the idea but working so hard to make My Food Bag the success it is. We love you.
My Food Bag is now Your Food Bag as a listed company! Let this just be the beginning for My Food Bags impact on New Zealand.
The My Food bag story is a great example of what can be achieved in NZ and we are inspired to use our skills, experience and capital in new ventures that aim to make New Zealand an even better place.
TOP 5 TIPS TO BUILD A HALF A BILLION $ BUSINESS:
- Solve a REAL problem
- With My Food Bag we knew that millions of kiwis ask the same question every night “what are we having for dinner” and we provided an answer to that question.
- Get the right PEOPLE
- We quickly identified that we needed to surround ourselves with other people to make My Food Bag successful. There is no doubt that without Nadia’s passion for food and her philosophy, Theresa’s business skills and Carlos brand nous we would not have had the same journey.
- Be customer OBSESSED
- Obsess over the customer experience. James and I would dissect every single MFB delivery and make sure we understood the process end to end. We spent a huge amount of time listening to our customers and putting things right. Our Customer LOVE team was coined from our obsession with loving our customers.
- Understand the OPPORTUNITY
- Does the solution to the problem have mass appeal – e.g. is it scalable? While New Zealand’s runway is short with only a population of 5 million, our runway can be “wide” through developing strong customer relationships and selling multiple complementary products.
- Focus on ESG
- Environmental, social and governance matters are not just a trendy way to look at a business – they really count, and your consumers care about them also! At MFB we always focused on our environmental footprint and ensuring we were reducing it as much as possible. We focused on providing social sustainable change and around our board table drove issues around parental leave and pay equity.