In Founder Focus we introduce entrepreneurs and innovators working on our next generation of new business startups, social enterprises and small businesses.

At a glance

Founders: Michelle Hartley & Momo Martin

Business: Theory Food

Founded: 2018

HQ: Taranaki

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

Theory Food is focused on providing quality corporate catering in Taranaki, with an emphasis on contracts as well as supplying three local cafes.

We have recently diversified in shelf stable condiments and gift boxes. We had clients who had tried our sauces and asked where they could get more. We are gradually adding to the range but as we use the products in our kitchen for catering we are able to show how they can be used. They are available online and are stocked locally at retailers such as Vetro.

Our ethos is also captured in our name, with ‘Theory’. 10% of our corporate catering revenue and 50 cents per jar from our condiments range goes to the Eat a Rainbow Foundation. We helped set up this charity during COVID with our incredible trustees.

The foundation provides nourishing frozen meals to vulnerable families and parents with hospitalised children. Meals are nutritionist approved and use a range of quality ingredients with recyclable packaging. Meals are distributed through charity partners including Ronald McDonald House in Auckland.

What’s the backstory for your business idea?

Michelle and I are both trained chefs and met at culinary school. We had both finished our undergraduate degrees and had been travelling. We kept in touch but pursued different areas of hospitality and food service. Myself with procurement and then into another industry with project management and Michelle went onto work in a high end restaurant before becoming head chef and co-owning restaurants.

We both also had a market stand at the local markets before working together more with catering. We would ‘tag team’, as I would have to travel a lot and organise booking and start prep before flying out and Michelle would complete the order.

What programmes, learning or mentoring have been of assistance so far?

Be open to seeking and receiving advice, and seek assistance in areas that aren’t your strength.

Invest in your brand and marketing. It is an area which you may want to do yourself to start out with to save money but a quality brand can make a huge difference to your revenue.


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