Next generation baking and natural cocktails inspiring Aotearoa’s latest female founders

by | Aug 10, 2022 | News

Secret Kitchen and Finery Cocktails in pick of Aotearoa’s latest female founders to go before judges this month, share insights on the journey so far.

Some of us spent lockdown bingeing on TV shows while others spent it dreaming up new business ideas. Going by the latest impressive line-up of RISE UP finalists, New Zealand’s latest pick of female founders spent the pandemic innovating, problem solving and putting their heart and soul into dreaming up new start-ups.

“I love the fact that most of our finalists’ businesses were born out of lockdown. It demonstrates that creativity and innovation can emerge from our most tough times. We’re excited to help grow the capability of these aspirational female founders and I can’t wait to see what these businesses achieve”, says Soda CEO, Erin Wansbrough.

Soda, the Hamilton-based business incubator and advisory service, created RISE UP to encourage and support ambitious female founders. “For a long time, Aotearoa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem has been male dominated but there are many of us working hard to challenge the bias and balance that gender inequity,” says Wansbrough. “Judging by the number and calibre of entries we received, I’m confident that female entrepreneurship in Aotearoa is moving in the right direction.”

The six RISE UP finalists were announced in June of this year and are about to be judged later this month. All finalists will attend a series of founder-focused workshops before pitching their business to a public audience and panel of high-profile judges at Wintec House in Hamilton on 17 August, to try to win $10,000 to help propel their business to the next level.

Finalists include a diverse group of female entrepreneurs who have developed biodegradable coffins made from cardboard, eco-friendly toothpaste, sustainable cleaning products and an app that encourages healthy spending and saving habits. Two foodie offerings with product set to tantalise the tastebuds are Secret Kiwi Kitchen’s artisan baking mixes, and Finery Cocktails’ ready-to-pour zero alcohol cocktails.


Secret Kiwi Kitchen

Secret Kiwi Kitchen is an artisan food business launched in August 2020 during Auckland’s second lockdown by two local mums, Lulu Taylor and Clare Gallagher. Wanting to make baking accessible and easy for everyone, they created a range of easy-to-make one bowl mixes that feature premium New Zealand ingredients and all-natural ingredients. Having started Secret Kiwi Kitchen from the kitchen table with only a few hundred dollars, their products are now in homes and over 200 stores across New Zealand.

The two entrepreneurs say they started the business after Taylor lost her digital marketing job after Auckland’s first lockdown in the winter of 2020. Gallagher also wanted to get back into the workforce as her youngest had just started school, but with the pandemic on, and so many job seekers, both knew jobs would be hard to find. The lockdown created a unique opportunity – time and opportunity to focus on their shared passion – making and sharing beautiful food. The initial plan was to start selling fudge sauces at the farmer’s market, but realising they needed something to put the sauce on for taste tests, they came up with their own brownie mix.

During Auckland’s second lockdown in August of 2020, Taylor and Gallagher decided to launch Secret Kiwi Kitchen early as they wanted to get people baking mixes while stuck at home. Five weeks later, riding the wave of a renewed interest in home baking, they were selling their mixes nationwide.

Time-crunched cooks

The two had spotted a simple trend. Kiwis have a long tradition of home baking which has historically suppressed demand for premix baking products. But Kiwi kitchens are changing as millennials and young families lack the time or baking knowledge of their parents and have grown up in a more ‘on-demand’ culture. The pair’s research also showed that women over 65 also appreciate the simplicity and ease of pre-mix products. All this came together to create a gap in the market for the pre-mix baking category. “We fill that gap with high-quality, easy-to-make products that empower new bakers and time-crunched cooks. We offer attainable luxury in a simple, satisfying bite”, says Taylor.

The two founders say funding growth has been their biggest challenge so far in the entrepreneurial journey. “As wonderful as it sounds, growing quickly often creates financial pressure”, says Taylor. While Secret Kiwi Kitchen became profitable in its first year, we have chosen to continue to invest our profits towards rapid growth.

Reaching out

Taylor says the New Zealand business community is incredibly supportive. Her advice for other female entrepreneurs is to not be afraid to reach out and talk to anyone that can help you on your business journey. “From customers to other CEOs – there are golden nuggets of advice to be gathered”, she says.

Gallagher agrees. “There’s never been a better time for women to stand up as business leaders and get their vision and voices heard. My advice to any woman thinking of starting a business is, don’t put it off another day. Be brave, take the first step! And as Lulu said, there are lots of other women in business who are more than happy to help if you reach out.”

The two entrepreneurs say if they won RISE UP, they would use the money to establish a new sales channel in an APAC country or the USA, bringing them closer to their dream of bringing Kiwi products and Secret Kiwi Kitchen to the kitchens of the world.



Finery Cocktails

Finery Cocktails offers a range of unique ready-to-pour cocktails, including alcohol free options. The Takapuna-based business has been built on brand ethics of promoting moderation and healthy relationships with alcohol while exploring better for you No Alcohol alternatives. Founder Jane Allan says that after competing in a body challenge in late 2018 it became apparent very quickly that “better for you” beverage options were few and far between.

“It didn’t feel right to have to compromise on beverages when I wasn’t having to do the same with food”, says Allan. “So in January 2019 I started working on the business idea casually whilst managing multiple renovation projects.”

In July 2020 Finery Cocktails launched a first to market ready to drink zero per cent adult beverage option to New Zealand supermarkets, handily catching the wave of interest in interesting new low-or-no-alcohol drinks. Today Finery Cocktails exports to Australia, Singapore and Rarotonga, with more international markets in the pipeline.

Allan enjoys receiving feedback from customers about how Finery Cocktail products have changed their drinking habits. She is particularly proud of the company’s zero per cent range. “It’s great knowing we’re making a difference to our consumers wellbeing and helping to normalise a moderated drinking culture for future generations”, she says.

Another bonus is the experience of walking into a store and seeing her product on a supermarket shelf. “Even better when you see a shopper putting it in their trolley!” she says.

Biggest challenge / best advice

Allan says the biggest challenge so far in her entrepreneurial journey has been remembering that Rome was not built in a day. “Being self funded and a very small team there is only so much ground we can cover”, she says. “I try to remember to celebrate the wins no matter how small. To stop and be thankful, then keep on going.”

The best advice she has been given so far is to consider each business relationship the company forms to be a partnership. “To get the best out of each other it needs to work for both of you. If it’s not working or when it stops working, be honest, make a change or move on”, says Allan. Her advice for other Kiwi female entrepreneurs is that you can never do too much planning and research. “Whatever you budget for a start up, plan on that cost tripling, and maybe not working the first time around. Be prepared to pivot, don’t be disheartened, just try again a different way.”

Finery Cocktails is still family owned and operated, now exporting to Australia, Singapore and Rarotonga with the UAE currently in the pipeline. Allan says if she won RISE UP, she would you use the money to solidify the company’s business strategy for investment to fast-track growth in New Zealand and cement global partnerships.


RISE UP 2022

The other RISE UP 2022 finalists are: Becs Bartells of Outside the Box Caskets, which designs and manufactures 100 per cent biodegradable cardboard caskets. Laura Nixon of Solid, a sustainable toothpaste company. Renee Bignell of Fundpay, a budgeting and payment platform, and Charlotte Greer of veto. which offers zero waste, cleaning products.

All six finalists will attend a series of founder-focused workshops before pitching their business to a public audience and panel of high-profile judges at Wintec House in Hamilton on 17 August 2022 to try to win $10,000 to help propel their business to the next level.

The Rise Up Pitch Night is a free event but tickets are limited so please register for tickets at It will be an inspiring night hearing from the six finalists and judging panel which includes experienced entrepreneurs Anna Mowbray, Kelvin Soh, Mike Jenkins, Maree Glading and Kaye-Maree Dunn. The audience will have an opportunity for to vote for their favourite business which will be awarded the People’s Choice winner.

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