Not everything My Food Bag does is an instant success, however. The company entered the Australian market in 2014 and exited in October 2016. Robinson says the rapid reversal wasn’t down to business failure, however, but was executed for personal and strategic reasons after private equity firm Waterman Capital joined My Food Bag as an investor.
“[Waterman Capital’s] clear intention for us is to have us focusing on the New Zealand market,” she says. “There’s more than enough scope for us to continue growing at a fabulous rate over here.”
Besides this, Robinson says that operating a trans-Tasman business with two children under five was not sustainable for her family. The business was meeting its growth targets in Australia, but on a personal level, Robinson wasn’t happy with the level of travel that was required to support its success there. She and her husband decided to prioritise their family instead.
“I think it’s harder as an entrepreneurial person, you tend to want to do everything at the same time,” Robinson says. “There are lots of people who absolutely can do it, and who don’t mind traveling three days a week or four days a week. Neither my husband nor I are those people.”
My Food Bag’s exit from Australia doesn’t mean the company will never return there, Robinson says, but its focus is solidly on New Zealand for the time being. The company is working towards an IPO within the next three years.
Robinson reiterates that there’s plenty of growth left in the New Zealand market, saying that if My Food Bag still looks the same way it does now in two to three years’ time, she’ll be disappointed.
“Look, New Zealand’s a fantastic market. It really is. And people sometimes underestimate the scale of this market as well, and how much impact you can have in a category. We have got a lot of growing to do.”
Robinson feels New Zealand has been relatively slow to transfer purchasing of grocery items online. According to Nielsen’s 2015 report, Trends shaping the future of grocery in New Zealand, fewer than one in 10 shoppers regularly access grocery retail websites.
“The consumer mindset is changing as well, and how they want to purchase is changing,” Robinson says. “Travel has gone online, and 50 percent I think of all travel purchases are made online. But food is just nominal, so we’re really just scratching the surface in that space now.”
At the beginning of May 2017, My Food Bag moved into spacious new Parnell premises intended to take the company through to the next phase of its expansion. The space is fully two thirds bigger than its previous home, with more than 500 square metres available downstairs for a development kitchen with 10 cooking stations and a photography kitchen; and 1300 square metres of office space upstairs.
Moving into the new premises, and finally uniting her 130 staff after spending years spread across three different locations, has given Robinson an opportunity to reflect on how far My Food Bag has come.
“You know, it’s funny, we started My Food Bag four years ago with a young baby, no idea about anything. Naïve about everything but with good business grounding out of Au Pair Link. And when you start a business there’s six of you or five of you, and you do everything within the business.
“You’re the accountant, you’re the one responding to the customer emails, you’re the one dealing with the web developers, you’re the one dealing with every single part of it. And as your business grows… the view of yourself is changed by your team because they look at you and you’re this big business, but they forget where you were four years ago. But you haven’t forgotten.”