HomeTHE HOTTEST TOPICSGem Retail Hotlist 2019Gem Retail Hotlist: Cheese Cartel serves up a win

Gem Retail Hotlist: Cheese Cartel serves up a win


At the Gem Retail Hotlist, ecommerce start-up Cheese Cartel won the ‘Hottest ecommerce market entry or launch’ award. We asked the team to share what makes it special.

This monthly subscription box started life as a crowdfunding campaign on Pledge Me in late 2018. It took in $20,360, exceeding its target of $18,000, and the business kicked off in March 2019 with three subscription offers: three months, six months or 12 months of cheese, delivered to the recipient on the second Tuesday of every month. 

The five friends founders behind it, designer Jade Tang-Taylor, Sylvia Zuur, Pledge Me’s Anna Guenther, Thankyou Payroll’s Hugh Evans and The Vodafone Foundation’s Lani Evans, have all previously founded businesses in New Zealand with social impact at their core, and the Cheese Cartel is no different. It aims to champion and celebrate small-scale cheese producers and connect them with cheese-loving consumers.

The founders shared more about their fledgling business.

Tell us what prompted you to found the Cheese Cartel. 

Answered by Lani Evans, Social Co-ordinator.

We love cheese! New Zealand has a rich vein of cheese-producing gold that we find so exciting. We want to share that excitement with everyone and the Cheese Cartel gives us the opportunity to do just that, as well as allowing us to work together and promote passionate small business owners who are producing the best cheese in New Zealand (and even the world). Extra bonus, we get to try all the cheese!

What makes the Cheese Cartel different from all the other ecommerce subscription businesses out there?

Answered by Hugh Evans, Logistics Fixer.

Cheese Cartel is a people-sharing-their-passions project. Our goal isn’t to generate huge revenue or focus on scale – our goal is to get customers talking about all the amazing small scale artisan cheese New Zealand has to offer and craving that next delivery of new flavour experiences.

A subscription model is the perfect approach for what we’re trying to do. It allows us to introduce people to cheese they wouldn’t ever encounter, work with and support a wide range of small producers and operate with an immediately recurring revenue model that allows us to plan in advance.  

The subscription model also gives us the opportunity to sell people an experience rather than a product. Our customers trust us to make choices for them because we’re sharing our passion and we work really hard to curate the most delicious experiences.

What’s your five-year goal for the Cheese Cartel?

Answered by Silvia Zuur, Relationships Wrangler.

We want to continue to grow our client base and build a highly engaged audience that is as passionate and curious about cheese as we are.  We want to tell the stories of producers and communicate the art and chemistry of cheese-making. And we want to focus on building an incredibly sustainable business. We’re keen to embed sustainable practice across every aspect of the Cheese Cartel – financial, environmental and, most importantly, personal sustainability for our producers and our founders. Entrepreneurs often work themselves to burnout and we want to model a different form of practice – one that put in boundaries, sets achievable goals and keeps us excited about the work. 

The Cheese Cartel founders all seem to be involved in other businesses as well. Can you share some insight into how multi-disciplinary multi-tasking has fed into the Cheese Cartel?

Answered by Jade Tang-Taylor, Head of Design.  

As a new-ish working mum the struggle of the juggle is real! But it’s so much more fun when you’re doing it with friends that are empathetic, encouraging and understanding. All five of us have founded organisations in the past and we’ve learnt a lot from those experiences – how to prioritise work loads, establish systems, adapt quickly and, most importantly, enjoy the process! We make sure we’re working to the strengths of each individual and we are very conscious about setting and testing boundaries. We’ve found that flexible workloads and honest communication about our capacity has sustained the side hustle thus far!

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 764 October/November 2019.

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