After making lactation cookies as a favour for a friend, Victoria Handley realised there was a market for her products in the local area. In between being a busy mum to her daughter, Harriet, and running a cafe with her husband, she found the time to get creative in the kitchen and produce a range of tasty lactation cookies and other nutritious, milk-boosting treats for breastfeeding mums. Milk it, Baby! now sells its products to women all over New Zealand.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
My friend was due to have her second baby and she asked if I could make her some lactation cookies as she didn’t have time to make them. I loved the challenge of developing a recipe that was packed full of natural galactagogues but also had flavour. As the fenugreek and brewer’s yeast are very powerful flavours on the pallet, I wanted to create tasty treats that weren’t overpowered by them.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
We started making a few batches and putting them on our cafe Facebook page and then word of mouth – local mums started talking and referring breastfeeding mums to us. This made me realise there is a market for them and we decided to start packaging them and having a few packets on our shelf so they didn’t need to pre-order them. To get serious, I needed to work out the nutritional values and labelling that fits the NZ guidelines. I finally got to use my Otago university food science degree which made this process easy for me. I envisioned a bear as my logo so I got one of my mum friends that is a designer to work with me in creating our logo and packaging that would appeal to mumma bears. My husband and I used all our cafe savings to launch this business and created an online shop and we went to the Auckland Baby show in 2018. This was a great way to get noticed and get our product out there. From the show we have gained international recognition of our product and are slowly working towards exporting.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Having proper packaging, labelling and setting up the website www.milkitbaby.co.nz. Finding good influencers on Instagram was key, too. I had never been on Instagram so I had a lot of learning to do fast and really love taking photos so this was fun at the same time. As we own and operate a cafe in Wanganui, it was the perfect place to make and produce our products out the back. My staff really loved our concept and product so it made it that much easier to adapt to our new recipes and the work involved. We are all mums with young children and all had our own breastfeeding stories so they adapted with our new business fantastically.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
I have one beautiful daughter, Harriet, who is 4 and an absolute delight. She goes to kindy 4 days a week and Granny on a Saturday. I have Monday off, which is now labelled “Mummy Monday”, where we go to gym club and go on adventures. If I need to pop back to the shop to do some orders she loves to come and help. My parents have been a fantastic support and when we need a working bee to label our bags, Mum’s friends are only too happy to help. We have never worked on a Sunday so that is a family day, whether it be going to church, walking around our beautiful lakes, making brunch or pottering around our lifestyle block. We have 12 free range chickens that Harriet loves. She is in charge of feeding and collects the eggs daily. We sell the eggs at the cafe and she gets the money for her savings account.
The drive: What challenges have you overcome?
One challenge early on was that once we started posting on Facebook other people in our area started making lactation cookies and selling them.
The only really big challenge is that all the products are handmade. The cookies are each individually pressed by hand so this takes a lot of time. As the business keeps growing, we need to find a way to make them faster and still keep them authentic.
For better or worse: What are the pros and cons of running your own business?
Pros of running your own business: you are your own boss so if you need the day off you can have it, especially if your little one is sick. You are responsible for your actions and you determine your work load. Cons: there is no security in your wages and that is if you even decide to take a wage.
Hopes and dreams: What next?
We are at the stage of looking to export our products so this is exciting and challenging at the same time. I want to help and support as many mums as I can within NZ and overseas.