Arriving at Suzy and Hamish Hutton’s gorgeous North Canterbury home in the heat of a summer’s afternoon is both peaceful and mesmerising. Mature elm trees keep the front door cool, yet it’s hard to imagine that behind the door reside three boisterous young boys under the age of eight and the busy workplace of an entrepreneurial couple.
Both Suzy and Hamish have marketing backgrounds and thrive on new business ideas. Recently they launched New Zealand’s first ‘online farmers’ market’ called Maker2u and they intend to revolutionise the way we shop.
‘It’s early days yet. We only launched to makers in January. But the feedback has been amazingly positive. Lots of boutique food, healthcare and drink manufacturing companies have been happy to join up and create a store in the market. We hit 80 stores within just three months and it’s still growing,’ Suzy says enthusiastically.
When the couple returned to New Zealand in 2010 from the United Kingdom, Hamish took on a marketing role at Tait Communications, whilst Suzy started her own e-commerce business selling the well-known English Barbour gumboots.
‘I worked in London for eight years as a designer in well-known fashion houses. I always found myself drawn to computers – they have become an increasingly important part of the design process. We had just got married, I wanted to start a family and I was keen to move to New Zealand with Hamish. I had been here once before on a gap year and it felt like the perfect country to raise a family,’ she enthuses.
Now a mother of three young boys – George, seven, Charlie, six, and Louis, four, the family also has three Labradors – Enzo, Bella and Alfie, two horses – Phoebe and Grey, and the children’s 30-year-old pony called Charlotte.
Their rural property is perfect for an active family, with 35 acres to scoot and bike around, and is well positioned between the sea and the mountains to enjoy both. ‘We love taking the boys boogie boarding at Waikuku Beach, or walking up Mt Grey. Once a year we all go on an ‘off the grid’ family camping holiday to Banks Peninsula. Being together in the great outdoors is so important and a perfect way to de-stress after working at home, where we have to set strict schedules around work so we know when to shut that computer lid!’ Suzy chuckles.
When the boys were younger Suzy developed the website for her Barbour business. It was her first experience of e-commerce and she loved it. ‘We used the latest e-commerce technology and we made use of the “Google pay per click” advertising to find shoppers looking for designer gumboots.
‘I learnt a huge amount, but everything is changing so quickly. A lot of what I learnt is already out of date. Social media is king now,’ she explains.
Since she sold that business in 2016 Suzy has collaborated with a small set of website clients in tourism, travel, fashion and retail. Then the Maker2u concept was born and after 12 months’ development it became a reality. ‘I have to juggle work around the boys’ school hours. Hamish’s parents help us out a lot, but whenever I can I try to go riding on my horse Grey. I love to get out on the beach with him.’
Hamish has had a long career in marketing and business development, having started in advertising agencies in London, and more recently he’s worked for Fonterra on projects ranging from marketing to human resource strategy.
Suzy describes him as being an ‘out of the box thinker’ when it comes to business strategy. ‘He’ll see any business problem and his brain starts whirring away until he comes up with an innovative solution.
‘Put simply, he is the “ideas man” and I’m the “doer”, and we also try to involve the kids as much as possible. They get really excited when they see a new “maker” open a store, or when a new product sample arrives at the door which we can all try,’ Suzy explains.
Hamish has been involved throughout the development of the online market, applying the lessons he learned in building digital strategies for large businesses. ‘The aim is to have a single marketplace where New Zealand shoppers can browse all of the amazing artisan products this country has to offer in an easy to use environment.
‘We love small business, but we could see that our friends who were running small wineries and food-making businesses were struggling to succeed in the national market. The margins were too thin, the middlemen were taking too much, and it was killing their businesses,’ explains Hamish.
‘With all the owners of the craft beer, boutique wine, smoked salmon, artisan mueslis and so on that we now represent, shoppers will be able to browse and buy direct from the source knowing that most of the price goes into the pocket of the person building the business and creating those jobs, with a very small fee to the marketplace for providing the service.’
Hamish was hugely influenced by how much of the innovation he saw in the dairy sector came from small players like Lewis Road. He and Suzy are determined that their new venture will help the rich smorgasbord of New Zealand-made food, drinks, health and beauty makers to grow into the success stories of the future.
Amongst the list of companies with stores on Maker2u are the delicious nut butters from Forty Thieves, the standout beers from Bootleg Brewery and the tempting sweets from Laughing Owl Fudge. The list is growing fast as news of the marketplace spreads. Once a shopper makes a purchase their products are packed and delivered straight to their door, so there’s much less handling required and no middlemen adding their margin.
‘We’ve been shocked at the prices New Zealand families pay for healthy, sustainable food in supermarkets. As a family we try to grow as much food on our property as we can and we shop at our local farmers’ market as much as possible, encouraging our boys to eat broadly. I would say our diet is approaching a Mediterranean diet with lots of good oils, and we love helping other Kiwis get access to better nutrition whilst at the same time helping small artisan businesses succeed,’ Suzy explains.
‘We also believe that it is really good for our boys to understand how businesses are created and all the hard work and thought that is involved. We talk about Maker2u with them all the time. They get really excited when we have new makers joining or when we get new followers on Instagram! What better education could we give our boys in this new world of exponential digital innovation?’ concludes Hamish.
For more information, visit Maker2u.
WORDS Georgi Waddy IMAGES Lucy Hunter-Weston