Business has been good for Wanaka based PURE NZ Ice Cream owners, Brian Thomas and Anna Howard.
Both are experienced in food, hospitality and tourism so buying the award-winning, artisan ice cream business in 2018 was an opportunity too good to miss.
Brian said that with a growing demand for pure and unadulterated foods the potential of the unique offering of genuinely PURE ice cream, gelato and sorbet is huge.
“We handcraft the ice creams and only use natural ingredients with no artificial anything. With 19 flavours split between the five different tub sizes for the ice cream, gelato and sorbets there’s a lot on offer and our customers are loving it,” says Brian.
The premium products, which are certified gluten and peanut-free, are stocked in over 60 supermarkets, foodservice and tourism operations. At the height of summer production, Brian and his team are churning out three-quarters of a ton of ice cream per day – and all by hand.
During the Covid-19 lockdown last year PURE was approached by Domino’s to partner with the pizza company to provide its customers with New Zealand’s purest ice cream. “This has been a fantastic opportunity for us to expand across Domino’s 137 stores nationwide as they increasingly look to offer foods with local provenance,” says Brian.
But when it came time to make some big decisions on the future direction of the business, Brian reached out to Business Mentors NZ for help. He was matched with a Wanaka-based mentor, Mike Henderson last year and PURE NZ Ice Cream is now, well, creaming it.
Sights are now shifting overseas to the export market, with Japan being the first country to experience a truly PURE Kiwi ice cream. “The focus is on quality. We don’t want to be a generic high street brand. It’s all about the quality of the product, the experience and the distributor. The Japanese are very fond of premium New Zealand brands and New Zealand dairy and protein so they are a great fit for our brand.”
With these new sales channels and opportunities, Brian and Anna were faced with some strategic decisions and needed the benefit of some oversight and external input.
With an extensive background in finance, retail, FMCG and having been a small business owner himself, Mike Henderson’s experience was well matched to the task in hand.
“Mike provided a great sounding board and allowed us to have very frank discussions. There are not many people you can have these types of conversations with but knowing that it’s a confidential process and the mentor is truly independent gives great peace of mind that you’re getting high quality and impartial advice and guidance.
“It has been invaluable to have someone that understands the business and elicits strategy and tactical activities to meet our long-term goals. We were able to fast track some of the decision-making and the actions that fell out of that.”
Mike said that while he relocated to Wanaka to retire 17 months ago, he continues to work with around 20 different businesses in a variety of forms.
“I was shoulder tapped by Business Mentors to become a volunteer mentor and it immediately resonated with me. It is time to give something back. Having been in general management and CEO roles across five different sectors for the last 20 years, reporting to boards and being accountable for finance and strategy, I’m now holding others to account,” says Mike.
“Strategy is so important to all businesses and yet it’s amazing how many don’t have a strategic business plan in place. As a business owner you have to ask yourself what are your aspirations? Where do you see your business in five or ten years’ time? And then identify the three strategic moves that are needed to deliver that goal. It’s a matter of setting targets and sticking to them.”
Mike says working with Brian and Anna has been a real pleasure. “They have a great vision, are great mentees, compliment each other and are committed to keeping the momentum going to reach the goals they have set themselves.”
Brian and Anna’s 3 key takeaway points for small businesses:
- Develop strong brand pillars and be loyal to them.
- Think as big as you can and never feel you don’t deserve to.
- Have a strategic plan and someone to hold you to it… say, a Business Mentor!