The first products made by Artisan baking company Molly Woppy were baked in an oven in the dining room of Kiwi couple Alistair Parker and Hayley Molloy.
Thirteen years later, the pair reflects on what they’ve learnt as they’ve grown from a start-up.
ANZ customer story
Wherever you are in New Zealand, you’ll likely find that your local café is one of the many that sells packages of gingerbread men, biscotti and other baked treats made by the artisan bakery Molly Woppy.
Like many Kiwi businesses, Molly Woppy comes from humble beginnings. The business began when Alistair Parker, a chef and a keen observer of food trends, started baking at home, on top of his full-time job.
He could see a gap in the market for good-quality biscotti, and went for it. After only six months, demand was so high that with his partner Hayley Molloy, he decided to install a commercial oven in their dining room.
When the business expanded further, the couple renovated their garden studio into a commercial kitchen.
Fast-forward to today, and the business employs 22 people and operates from a small factory and warehouse in the Auckland suburb of Avondale. Hayley, a former restaurant manager, looks after administration, marketing and design, while Alistair oversees the kitchen and supplier relationships.
Impressive growth for a small start-up. “We are at a really exciting point, where we are not a start-up any more, and have some great supplier relationships, and a committed team of people. We are now shifting gears to take things up a notch,” says Hayley.
Their bank, ANZ, has been an invaluable part of their journey from birth to expansion, Alistair says.
“Our Business Banker, Patrick, understands who we are and what we are trying to achieve with the business. That isn’t common.”
Growing the business
Patrick Quinlan catches up with the couple regularly, at their factory, in the branch or over the phone. Topics range from getting a loan to fund more growth, to increasing their working capital, to pointing them in the direction of free workshops for businesses run by ANZ.
“We went to a session at ANZ about governance for small businesses and this allowed us to think about what we need to do.”
The challenges now are different to the early years of Molly Woppy. “Our two boys were young back then, and juggling family life and the business was hard.”
“On top of that, we also worried a lot about cash flow, meeting the requirements of jobs to make ends meet and deciding where best to invest time and money. We worried about being able to afford the right people and assets. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we didn’t have solid capital behind us. Luckily if we didn’t know something we weren’t afraid to ask for advice from Patrick, our accountant and others, so that we could fill in our knowledge gaps.”
As the business grows, Hayley and Alistair are clear that they don’t want to dilute the quality of their product, and haven’t changed their recipes.
“We always think about the person who is receiving our product and what they have come to expect out of our baking,” Alistair says.
A committed workforce
A committed workforce is crucial, because Molly Woppy products are artisan and niche, so quality needs to be high. “So we’re really pleased that some of our staff have been with us for 10 years, and many have been with us more than six,” Hayley says.
The couple say they enjoy working together and that’s part of the business’s success.
“We are great friends. We make sure that we take regular time away from the business, and enjoy our joint hobbies of paddle boarding and surfing,” Hayley says.
“We make the most of the time we have out of work, and the time we spend with our boys, who are now 15 and 17 years old,” she says.
And the name Molly Woppy? “We often get asked about that,” Alistair laughs. “Molly Woppy is a nickname that Hayley had growing up, from her surname, Molloy. We think it captures the essence of who we are as a business – playful and innovative.” But its serious play too: as demonstrated by their growth, this is a business that has its sights set on serious success.
Three tips for start-ups, from Haley and Alistair
A good Business Specialist and accountant are invaluable.
Maintain consistent quality in all aspects of your business, from your products to your staff – your customers will respect you for it.
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