Down near Kaikoura on a small piece of land there is an emerging family business that has been created from a dream...
Daniel and Sarah Jenkins had experienced the joy of tasting beautifully crafted French Cheeses while holidaying as young adults but never expected that a series of events would lead them to starting up their own Goats Cheese and Yoghurt production and sales business – Kaikoura Artisan Cheese Company. The discovery of a Cheese Makers Course caught Daniel’s eye and so a trek to the North Island to embark on a fact finding mission was agreed between Daniel and Sarah. One condition Sarah placed on the trip was that as money was a little tight Daniel needed to forgo hotel accommodation and take his tent! The Cheese Makers Course captured Daniel’s imagination and the advent of the earthquakes in Christchurch combined to form the catalyst for a life changing decision. They were going to set up home and a business on some family land under the shadows of the Kaikoura Seward ranges. Home was to be a very humble structure and the factory unit would be developed from the conversion of container units.
I first met Daniel and Sarah through Business Mentors New Zealand, an organisation which helps support small businesses by matching experienced, skilled and knowledgeable individuals who give their time voluntarily to act as Mentors. I was immediately taken by their vision, passion and commitment to turn their dream into a reality. With little capital to invest they have forgone many of the usual things we all expect in our lives. Home is a tiny 10 sq metre wooden hut where Mum, Dad and their two young children Pipi (aged 4) and Coya (aged 2)live. No running water or electricity in this home, that is found 100 metres away at the Cheese factory building. Building a goat herd and converting the containers took precedence over home comforts. In just over 18 months Kaikoura Artisan Cheese has achieved huge things. The cheeses are produced towards organic and biodynamic principals with no additives – a natural, healthy food. They include Masterchef Joss Emmett amongst their customers, supplying his Queenstown restaurant Rata. The high quality goat’s cheeses allied to their uniqueness have seen them gain entry into the large retailers such as New World as well as some of the more boutique outlets across New Zealand.
A typical day in the lives of the Jenkins family starts at around 5am with preparations to milk the goat herd. Being a true family business that means all hands to the deck and their girls will often help out with caring for the goats or sometimes just playing with them! After milking and feeding it is down to the serious job of crafting the cheeses and yoghurts, planning production to orders, deliveries and all the other routine business tasks while still managing to protect a rather special family life they have created. The business planning process saw us all sit down and with some sheets of wallpaper jot down a set of ambitions, milestones and actions. It was a big sheet of paper... Their vision includes opening a small retail outlet in Kaikoura, a wide range of soft and hard cheeses, an expanding goat herd and a strong and loyal set of customers. Daniel and Sarah can be seen most weekends at the Artisan Market in Blenheim and the Farmers Markets in Blenheim and in Kaikoura as they connect with their customers, build their brand and sell their range of Labneh and Chevre cheeses, Crème Fraiche and Yoghurts.
Innovative options around how to fund the growth of their business include renting goats”. Finding some investors who are willing to purchase goats and then rent them to Daniel and Sarah will enable the business to focus on what it does best, creating great products and frees up precious capital for other purposes such as the building a hard cheese stocks, marketing and growing the product range. Their Cheeses have received National recognition at the Champions of Cheese Awards where they scooped Overall Champion in the flavoured cheese category in 2013. This recognition will be followed by many more, I am sure. Daniel, Sarah and their children have proved that dreams can come true. Vision, commitment, drive and yes some sacrifices along the way, are all in the mix that creates success. A close family connection with their business, the freedom to create something special and all set in a beautiful environment looking out to sea with a mountain backdrop. I wish them great success as their adventure continues and I am confident they will reap the rewards from their efforts as their dream continues to unfold.
A version of this article was also published in the Marlborough Express on the 21st of February 2014.