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Misfit Garden discovers the beauty in imperfect produce.


In the midst of a global pandemic, Sofia and Jen faced a personal crossroads after being unable to attend their jobs during the initial lockdown. Instead of viewing this as a setback, they saw it as a chance to innovate and make a difference, leading to the creation of Misfit Garden—a pioneering venture aimed at tackling food waste by selling 'misfit' fruit and vegetables that don't meet the beauty standards of traditional retail.


With Sofia's 13 years of culinary experience and their shared passion for sustainability, they recognised a significant gap in New Zealand’s market. No one was addressing the waste of perfectly good produce simply because it didn't look appealing on supermarket shelves. Inspired to make a difference, they founded Misfit Garden with a mission to champion these underdog produce items while supporting local farmers.


Their business model involves sourcing produce directly from growers, ensuring that more produce is utilised rather than wasted. Instead of telling growers what they want, they speak to them each week to find out what is already grown and what needs a home. They then offer everyday kiwis a subscription box of the misfit fruit and veg they deliver straight to their doorstep. A major part of their mission involves educating both consumers and producers about the value of misfit produce. By altering perceptions and demonstrating the viability of these products, Misfit Garden has begun to change traditional food supply chains in New Zealand.


Starting a business in such a niche market came with its share of challenges. As pioneers in this space in New Zealand, they initially found no educated market for their model.  Recognising the need for external support, Sofia and Jen utilised Amplify’s business support services, which helped play a crucial role, as they "brought us back to reality and encouraged us to verify that people wanted to buy what we were selling". Amplify connected them with Kaz at the local market, where they started by selling three different colours of beetroot—a challenging but ultimately rewarding endeavour. From the feedback at the markets, they understood that to change consumer behaviour and carve out a market for their product, their solution needed to be not only sustainable but also easily accessible and appealing. This approach helped Misfit Garden resonate with a wider audience, transforming the challenge of selling misfit produce into a compelling business proposition.


They also sought guidance from Business Mentors New Zealand, which pairs small business owners with experienced business professionals (Mentors) to provide personalised expertise and support, and assist with the challenges of running a successful small business. “Business mentors were great, our mentor became a friend by the end of it”.


As the business grew, another hurdle was managing all aspects of the business themselves, from packing to marketing to customer service, which quickly became overwhelming. The turning point came when they decided to hire their first employee, significantly easing the management of their operations and marking the start of their expansion. "I think the best thing that we did was hiring our first employee. Suddenly, we could sell more boxes and have more time to focus on other aspects. It cost us more, but it was the first real growth phase," says Jen. This strategic move allowed them to scale from a few boxes to 1,500 per week, with plans to double this number as they move to include the whole North Island in their operation.


Sofia and Jen also emphasise the importance of marketing: "You need to spend money on marketing. If you don't have any sales, you don't really have a business. Whether it's word-of-mouth, which is free, or investing in flyer drops or Facebook advertising, marketing is crucial," they advise.


Today, Misfit Garden inspires other businesses, especially those in the sustainability sector. Their impact goes beyond financial success; they have altered how people view food waste and sustainability in New Zealand. Their advice for new entrepreneurs is straightforward: understand your market, make solutions accessible, and actively seek assistance. With the right approach, even the smallest idea can evolve into a thriving business that significantly benefits the community and the environment.




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