Founder/s: Melissa and Chester Young
What problems do you solve and what products or services do you sell?
Little Liberty is a plant-based creamery crafting premium frozen desserts free from dairy, gluten, soy, and egg. Our goal has always been to offer individuals with dietary restrictions or particular allergies/intolerances a product that isn’t just an acceptable alternative, but a legitimately delicious one made with the best ingredients with no short cuts or compromise on taste.
Who and where are your target customers?
While Little Liberty caters to the plant-based and dietary restricted demographic, we have always intended for our frozen desserts to be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their food limitations or preferences.
Many of our customers first visited out of curiosity or with a friend or family member who couldn’t have dairy and then returned with other friends because they enjoyed their scoop so much. The repeat customer has been such a positive part of our journey and true validation in what we are creating.
Plans for wider distribution came to halt upon the break-out of COVID so our scoops and tubs remain exclusively available from our Inglewood creamery. We are working on a second location in New Plymouth for the upcoming summer and from there, it’s up to us to figure out where we can go.
How and when did you first come up with the idea for your business?
Little Liberty was born out of necessity. Our two children both were born with intolerances to dairy, gluten, soy, and egg – the very things our ice creams are free from. As a breastfeeding mum, Melissa simply wanted a sweet treat at the end of the day, but she couldn’t because everything she ate would upset our little ones’ tums.
Melissa’s always been an avid baker and when she became fed up with paying a premium for alternatives that didn’t taste great, she hit the kitchen. One day we made ice cream and thought ‘hey, that’s not bad!’. It snowballed from there. We started making more and we shared it with our friends and family. When we had friends of friends asking for tubs we thought, “we might have something here.” What followed was 18 months of intense trialing and recipe development, before opening the doors to our creamery in November 2019.
The arrival of our children has completely changed the way we think about food and sparked a passion to learn where it comes from, how it’s grown and what goes into it. Little Liberty is a direct reflection of this new perspective and we feel that there is growing demand for and interest in both plant-based products and, more generally, food that is well-crafted and free from unnecessary additives.
What are three things about your business that you are proud of?
1) Returning customers – As simple as it sounds, this is key for all small businesses! We know that people with dietary restrictions will enjoy our product but something we are very proud of has been winning over others who have absolutely no reason to seek out an alternative but choose us because they love what we are making.
2) Awards – To be recognised by the New Zealand ice cream industry as making ice cream that’s of a high caliber is huge validation. We’ve won Best in Category in Non-Dairy for two years running and won Best New to Market this year for our Almond Mocha. This was significant as Best New to Market is judged across all categories from non-dairy to dairy and everything in between.
3) Getting Little Liberty up, off the ground and still being here despite the year we’ve all had!
How do you market your business and what advice do you have for others around marketing?
We’re really lucky in Taranaki because it’s such an inclusive region for people starting out. We’ve always felt welcome and supported by our local community, other businesses and organisations such as Venture Taranaki.
Prior to opening our physical space we endeavored to get in front of as many people as possible to introduce Little Liberty and tell our story. We did pop-ups, gave away samples and visited businesses. We also entered the Idea Summit, a new startup competition where we pitched Little Liberty to 4 judges and an audience of 200.
We’ve also actively tried to share Little Liberty beyond our target or captive demographics. Besides social media and word-of-mouth, we’ve been a part of the Taranaki Tastes and Tales food tour, and hosted groups from the Western Institute of Technology (WITT) and Inglewood High School.
Essentially, it’s been about telling anyone who would listen about Little Liberty!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building your business so far?
Running a very hands on business with a three and a six-year-old keeps us busy and the biggest challenge has simply been time and keeping up with demand! We are very thankful to be in such a position, but it does make finding time for forward planning and development difficult. At the moment, we’re trying to get to a point where we can increase staffing to let go of the reins a little so we can get our heads out of the ‘operational trenches’ to think strategically.
What is the biggest entrepreneur lesson you would like to share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?
Don’t buy anything unless you absolutely know you can’t do business without it! We’ve learned that the hard way more than once with capital expenditure. No matter how good of a deal it may be, don’t buy anything unless your business absolutely needs it.