When starting a business, or anything new really, our instincts first tell us to iron out the tangible details; What are we doing? Where are we going to set it up? When will we be able to get it off the ground? These questions are often the easiest, because the answers are black-and-white, easy to explain, both to others and more importantly, to ourselves. But the question of ‘why’ is often much trickier, as at times it’s a question that we struggle to rein in inside our own heads. Our ‘why’ might be constantly changing, beginning as one thing and becoming something completely different months, weeks or even days later. It could be as simple as the need to put food on the table or as complicated as the culmination of an entire life’s worth of planning. General Manager of Angel Delivery Grace Kreft chats with LilyBee Wrap founder Stacia Jensen about how she reconciles with the idea of determining and articulating the ‘why’ in her business, as well as breaking down the tools she has adopted to assist her on her journey, the moments that have lit her inspirational fire and much more.
Grace: Today, we are digging into finding and knowing your ‘why’. Being crystal clear on your values and the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing is so important, but it isn’t always easy to keep in sight when things get a little bit tough.
All of this chat around knowing your why that we’re about to dive into, it doesn’t just apply to business. I have found that being clear on your why and your values, this applies to and helps in so many areas of life. Having kids and parenting, your job, your hobbies or projects you’re working on, exercise and your health, what causes you support, your relationship? Pretty much everything we do in life has a why behind it.
Running a business and all of those things we just talked about, they are fulfilling, satisfying, fun and rewarding. They enrich your life and help you meet amazing people and help social causes and create jobs and so much good stuff.
But as we also know, it can suck sometimes, it can be hard. Every day you feel like you’re putting out fires, challenges that you can’t even imagine come up. And it’s not always the big things, sometimes I find it’s the small things too. It’s those cash worries and paying the bills, the admin, the to-do list, the GST returns and filing of the paperwork. Let’s not even get started on the impact of lockdowns, of course. Having previously run my business, Sweet Bakery & Cakery and now as General Manager of Angel Delivery, I know all of this all too well.
But all of that stuff that we just talked about, that’s not why you got into business or why you’re doing whatever you’re doing. No one gets into anything to deal with all of those niggles, unless you’re a little crazy and maybe we all are a little bit. But the reason that you’ve got into business or whatever you’re doing is your ‘why’; why did you start all of this? What’s behind what you’re doing? What’s driving what you’re doing? There’s always a reason as humans, why we do what we do. And there’s a reason we keep coming back every day, every week, even when sometimes it’s hard.
Chances are that the reason is the same thing that made you start in the first place, or it might have changed along the way, which is really cool. Xero actually carried out some research on this topic and the top three things that small business owners and sole traders love the most about running their own business is being their own boss. Being able to work around life commitments and making their own hours. It’s clear to me from that, it’s all about flexibility and control. It’s about being the master of your own destiny, which is something that I can totally relate to, because I’m a total control freak.
So your why can be a variety of things. It can be about wanting to help people or provide jobs. It can be about wanting to create your own job and escape the rat race and be your own boss. It could be about the thrill of growing, learning and upskilling. It can be about freedom and flexibility or supporting a social cause, doing what you love, building something from the ground up, or maybe it’s about the lifestyle for you.
When you’re trying to decide or figure out what your why is, I think it’s really helpful to ask yourself, what is it that gets a fire in your belly? When you picture it in your head, what is it that makes your tummy flip upside down and gets you really excited? What keeps you up at night, or maybe stops you from getting to sleep because you can’t stop thinking about it? And what is it that you gush about to your friends when you’re talking about this?
When I started my business, Sweet Bakery & Cakery, I think that my why back at the beginning was twofold. I think it was a mix of one, I wanted to do what I loved, which was baking for my job. And secondly, I wanted to be my own boss. And I think those things were what drove me to start the business and pushed me through those really challenging early days of doing it.
And then maybe a few years in, I think my why might have changed a little bit, because when you do what you love for your job, you are bound to lose a little bit of the sparkle along the way. I think that the doing-what-I-love part of my why was maybe not as strong, but it’s interesting because by then I had ignited this love for business, marketing, brand and strategy. I think I was still doing and I was still driven by doing what I loved, but the what had actually changed a little bit.
That’s a little bit about my why in business and why I’m still in business now with Angel Delivery. But we’re also going to hear a really cool story of business, values and why we’re in it. This is coming from the wonderful Stacia Jensen who five years ago founded her now incredibly successful company called LilyBee Wrap, which you’ve no doubt heard of. She started it somewhat by accident, so this is a really cool story.
This is going to be a really good one to hear all about. We’re diving obviously into the why and the question of why we do what we do. So I think that behind LilyBee Wrap, there’s going to be a really great why. Before we dive into the whole why question, maybe it would be a good place to start for you to just fill us in on what you guys do, what your product is just in case anyone hasn’t heard of it, which I know is unlikely, but let’s just set the scene a little bit.
Stacia: I was a burnt-out yoga teacher, which can happen, people are often surprised! We travelled down to Hawke’s Bay and I had some spare time on my hands, as you do when you’re on holiday. We ended up wondering what people did before plastic, because it’s such a massive part of our daily life, but then also a massive problem. It’s more impactful when you realise it’s only been a few decades that we’ve really had it predominantly in our life and making a huge impact obviously.
So I started getting curious and discovered this idea called beeswax wraps. And that’s what we produce. That’s the main bread and butter of what we do, for fun, this was not for a business idea at this stage. We tried some recipes online and thought it had potential but didn’t think it was something I would use myself as the recipe wasn’t quite right.
Because I had this extra time, we teased it out a bit more and ended up spending quite a lot of time getting a recipe that worked. And then we started at the local farmer’s market, which if you’ve been to Hawke’s Bay, is a really amazing farmer’s market and it was a great place for us to start. We ended up getting really lucky with the timing of the product and the tone of the product. It wasn’t so eco feeling that it felt unapproachable. It was fun and interactive and people loved the designs. I think people were also looking for an alternative at that stage.
So I went on to call myself an accidental entrepreneur because when we started, I was pregnant in a one-bedroom cottage and just did it all for fun and it just grew. I felt like I ended up being along for the ride more than anything else.
That’s a long-winded answer to your fairly easy question. If you want an easier version of that, we create beeswax wraps, which is an environmentally sustainable option for wrapping your food in something other than plastic.
Grace: I love that. It’s obviously grown into. You’ve got quite a few people on your team now, haven’t you?
Stacia: Yeah, so pre-COVID, we were actually far larger than I ever anticipated. When we first started hiring people for production, as an American coming into New Zealand, doing business was very different. It was kind of a baptism by fire of hiring people and employment laws and a bunch of different things. We ended up hiring a lot of mums who were wanting to get back in the workforce, but still ideally wanted to be able to drop off and pick up kids. That ended up being a lot of what helped shape our business, which is amazing. So not only are we women-founded, our production team is still a hundred percent women. Men come in and out, but we’ve always been majority women from production all the way through management and founder, which is fascinating to me and inspiring.
Pre-COVID, we had a team of production hovering between 15 and 20 people. Post-COVID, we’re not doing the same internationally, we’re not scaling the same way and we really just are focusing now on the domestic arena. Our team is actually much smaller and I am finding that I prefer that to be honest. It’s not a common thing to hear, but I’m not convinced that bigger is always better.
I’ve just really enjoyed this pace of life as well. It’s not so extreme and all-consuming because it was a few years ago, where it really was just the business and my baby, who’s now almost five as well. It’ll be interesting to see how we continue to evolve.
Grace: What do you think is that number one ‘why’ behind what you’re doing at LilyBee?
Stacia: This was something that I think because I had my yoga background and have a tendency towards a lot of self-reflection. This naturally evolved as somewhat a reflection of my values. But where we started, like being pregnant and looking at the next generation, that was a huge part of what inspired the process of being able to connect with people, being able to do something that was achievable, but it felt like there was a really big environmental impact.
When we look back, we’ve estimated that we’ve helped save about 55 million metres of plastic from going into the environment. So that’s huge. My kid, I don’t even think he knows what plastic wrap is. Not very long ago, he was asking about it and we’ve heard that from other families. You think about a family’s use of plastic wrap, but then you think of that generational impact and that’s when it becomes really inspiring.
Along the way, I realised that my whys are so much about the good in people. That’s really where we started. When people are given the opportunity, I actually feel people inherently want to do good in the world, right? So connecting with that and understanding. One of our core principles is that when intention meets action, we change the world because I think we all have really good intentions. When you can connect that with an action, that’s really when we can evolve things.
But what I found out is that the environmental part and being eco is important to me, but I feel like, at the core of me, that’s almost becoming secondary. What I mean by that is being environmentally friendly or eco almost should be a given for me at this point. In no way am I saying I’m perfect, we still have plastic in our home. I am still subject to buying things like fast fashion. And certainly, if my child is thirsty and I forget our water bottle, I will buy a plastic water bottle.
We’re not preaching perfection and hopefully, we’re not preaching at all. Our hope is to really meet people where they are on their journey and help support that and inspire them, wherever they want to take that. Letting people know there’s an access point. I’ve often joked that we’re sort of an eco-gateway drug; people try this and then they get inspired to try other things, which is fantastic. That’s what you want is for people to be able to connect in a way that’s meaningful for them.
We’re not here to dictate that, we’re just here to say there’s an option. For me, it comes down to people. Some of our core values are around empowering people, inspiring and connecting. A lot of what we do ends up being put through that lens. It’s been invaluable being able to fall back on some of that.
I think that our whys are important, but I also, I sound silly, but because I didn’t come at it from a business background necessarily, those things are sort of intrinsically woven into our business and who we are, because I didn’t know how to do it a different way. So in that way, we were kind of lucky.
Grace: It all just stemmed so naturally from your own personal values. It wasn’t like you strategically sat down and plotted out what this was going to look like. It seems like it all just flowed really naturally from you, which I guess is why you have such a natural why behind it all.
I love that you’ve allowed that to change a little bit as it’s gone along and that it’s not just the obvious, which would be the eco side of it. I read that you started because you hated using plastic and you were looking for alternatives and you’ve told us that story, but that’s not really what it’s even about anymore. Like you say, that’s a given, and the why is to enable and inspire people to come on this journey. So that’s really cool.
Can you think of any examples along the way where being really in tune with that why has helped you make decisions or keep you on track when things have got difficult?
Stacia: 100% … People ask me what is the most important thing in business or starting your own business and I actually think it’s very universal. If I could give anybody life advice, it is figuring out in some almost codified method of who you are because we think we know who we are because we exist. But we also then take for granted some of our biggest strengths and our biggest weaknesses, because it’s easy to then put that lens on everybody else so that we feel like everybody else should be the same.
So one of the things I really love is a diverse team. My best counterpart is someone who’s actually super focused on details, numbers, finance or the really specific areas, because I know my personality is more of a creator and broad strokes and in some ways more intuitive, but also very practical. I think those balances are so important, because that creates a certain positive tension and you get to this centre point of understanding.
So while I put a lens on the business of my own values, there’s also room for other people to come in and contribute. I think that’s really important. It’s not just me, it’s a reflection of me, but it’s also incorporating those other perspectives and strengths.
Post-COVID, particularly last year where we had really crazy things happen, we were sending an order that was valued at about $100,000 to the States. It was on the water and the company that we were sending it to cancelled it. And people were like, ‘can they do that in New Zealand?’ I was like, ‘They’re a large American company. Yes, they can.’ So we leaned into our values there being really transparent and ended up contacting our suppliers and saying, ‘Here’s the plan, this is where we’re at’. So not only was that cancelled, we had other people who were on say a 60-day payment term, just arbitrarily say that they’re going to pay a 90.
So these hard things for a small business anyway, got a lot harder. And because we had solid relationships with people that were beyond just transactional and beyond the fluff of who we hoped to be or intention. We had connections with people, we were able to say, ‘this is when we think we’re going to be able to pay you. Here are all these things that have happened and we’re letting you know in advance’. And people were willing to cooperate and work with us, which was amazing.
Beyond that, we were much, much smaller, but we decided to become a certified Living Wage employer, which means that our production staff gets paid a little bit more and it makes their life a little bit easier. That came from our management team at the time knowing that as a small business we were on limited salaries anyway, but no one wanted to take more until we had even the playing field, at least a little.
For as stressful as business can be, and as stressful as particularly the first say two and a half years was, it has always sat with me really clearly that I didn’t worry about the gas I was putting in my car, and I never worried about feeding my son. Those are two realities that I don’t know that I would deal with very well. Knowing that say $40 a week, or whatever that is, to somebody else is going to make an impact, a bigger difference, that seemed very in line with who we were. Even though it was a stretch for us at the time and continues to be a stretch at times, to be honest.
At the same time, we became a B Corp certified company. Those were two big jumps in a time that was really uncertain and declined, but it’s something that we continue to lean into and continue to benefit from. Those are two examples of leaning into those values of making decisions that financially you’re like, ‘what do you mean we’re going to pay people more at this time?’. But we were able to make it work and still are figuring out how to make that work. But at the same time, I have to really emphasise that finance is one of those really important levers. If you don’t have that working, then you can’t do all the feel-good stuff on the other side. So it’s a balance, always.
Grace: I 100% agree. I think that’s the biggest part about knowing your why, and having clarity around that is that it helps when you’re making decisions and keeps you on track even during those difficult times.
It’s obviously really great to know all these things behind what you’re doing, but then there’s also the other side of it. It’s not all glamorous running a business. What do you think for you have been the biggest things along the way that have got in the way of your why and the whole reason you started LilyBee Wrap in the first place?
Stacia: We started this because we wanted to make a meaningful difference and an impact and that is all very true and legitimate. But there is this other side of business reality and I think that you do have to make compromises and those compromises again, have to be balanced out.
Maybe a good example is we still have to ship things overseas with shrink wrap around it. The pallets are wrapped and we are big people of not using plastic, but we sort of have to use plastic in this sense. So these interesting compromises of where are you going to sit on that line. And that’s when I go back to really needing to know who you are and where that hierarchy of your values sit with those things.
Because for me then getting the message out on a broader scale is more important. Making that compromise of, ‘okay, so to be able to do the shipment, we have to put a lot of plastic around our pallet. So where does that sit on our line?’ Are we very extreme and we’re not going to do that? And so therefore we’re going to only stay at a farmer’s market level. Are we willing to touch more people on a broader scale?
So initially people didn’t want us to go into any chains or any large wholesalers, but I also feel like there’s a thing within the eco industry that I am not a fan of. I don’t feel like being eco should be exclusive. I feel like if you have an eco-product, it should work as well if not better than conventional. There’s a lot of things where all of a sudden, it was great that eco has come into the more mainstream environment, but it also seems to be a bit of a trend or a thing to be seen to be doing, which is fantastic until it becomes exclusionary.
Those are interesting concepts that you have to wrestle with. My comment about, I’m not sure that bigger is always better, for me, I started this to be a lifestyle business. It very much was not for the first three years. Now that we’re smaller, it’s allowed more for weekends. It’s allowed more for a little bit of recreational time that’s consistent. And that feels like a better balance to me.
So knowing that about myself, these are important things that if you don’t, then you wrestle with and it gets really muddy. And knowing why you’re making your compromises when you have to make them, because that’s inevitable. You can come out with a 10 checklist, these are all the things we’re going to do, but there’s just a reality that comes into play. You have to make your choices.
Grace: Absolutely. And nothing’s black and white, there’s always the shades in between.
Stacia: Yeah and that’s very much in a line with our messaging as well. We are not expecting people to be perfect, nor do we claim to be perfect. That’s a big part of understanding, there’s an evolution to who we are as individuals, as well as businesses, and allowing for that evolution to take place and being aware of it. Being conscious of what you’re doing and why.
Sometimes those decisions are strictly just to survive. It’s just figuring out how to survive in that moment and how to make something work and then you’re like, ‘okay. I’m going to keep coming back to wanting to do better each time’. Accepting that there are ups and downs. It’s not always linear.
Grace: Definitely. Sometimes it is just straight-up survival. Just what’s going to get you through the week or the day or the year at that moment.
What practical tools have you found quite helpful along the way? What’s worked best for you as an accidental entrepreneur?
Stacia: Xero was one of those things that I learned about very quickly being here, outsourcing the things that I knew were not my strengths. Having really onto it bookkeepers and people that are going to take care of those details. If you always try to be all things to everyone it just slows things down or bogs things up. I tend to have a really high trust model of the people around me and try to make sure that they’re in roles that really suit them as individuals and that they’re going to do well at or enjoy problem-solving.
I think if you can do that, then it’s not so hard. It doesn’t feel like such drudgery. Things that would be painful for me, I have definitely found that if you can find a way to outsource that to somebody else who enjoys their job or enjoys that element, it’s better than me trying to understand every nuance. I need to know just enough to make sure I can communicate with them and get them what they need and vice versa. Those are some good things to keep in mind.
Grace: Definitely. Yeah. That’s always a risk. It’s Jack of all trades and master of none when you’re a small business owner. Like you said, you’re in this, this is a lifestyle business. This is your life, you want to be doing the parts of it that you enjoy as well, and then you are going to be happier and that’s going to be like a self-feeding cyclical thing in the background, the whole business.
Stacia: But it can take some effort to get on that cycle. It can be a bit of a heavy list initially.
Grace: Yeah, I don’t think anyone’s doing that straight up in the first couple of years of business. That’s a slow grind, but you’re a good example of getting there.
This business started as an interest for you, something that you were doing for fun. I’d really love to hear which part of what you’re doing makes you tingle and gets the fire in your belly and makes you feel the most inspired as you go along?
Stacia: It started more as a solution for the household and then for fun, took it to the farmer’s market. And then we were first a direct-to-consumer business. We actually still have a decent following on Facebook and then moved over to Instagram. We made a video that was really, really popular and that catapulted our business into this very different, much larger realm. And then we pivoted and we did more wholesale sales.
I don’t think that’s the normal trajectory for everybody, but we had this really great community and demographic that we understood really well or we hope that we still understand really well and connect with in a very genuine way. That connection is still super inspiring for me. I think it’s very sweet that I still write blog posts every couple of months and we get really heartfelt responses, which is absolutely lovely.
I still love creativity, I love working with our graphic designers, I like problem-solving. I like working with our team or doing things like this and hopefully inspiring other people to find their own path and journey along the way, because that is so rewarding. I think that can be everything from working a very standard nine to five and having something that you’re passionate about on the other side.
I think that there’s just a huge range of personalities and interests and I don’t think that this pathway is the path for everybody’s happiness and fulfilment. There are so many different expressions of that. Hearing about those things still really lights me up and gets me excited.
Grace: It was really cool hearing you talk about that because I feel like so much of what you said about what still inspires you is still about people. When we were talking about your why, that was basically it; people. And so I just love how those two things have come full circle and it just shows how genuine all of this is for you.
Can you leave us with a bit of advice or maybe a favourite quote that inspires you?
Stacia: I always circle back to knowing who you are. I did a course in my early twenties that got to the heart of who I was and it’s been invaluable. That seed knowledge has seen me through my yoga journey and business journey. That’s the piece I always circle back to because I feel like if you can act in alignment with who you are and you can access that place, that feeling and that guidance has never steered me wrong, ever.
You can go into a situation and be like, ‘whoa, this was not the outcome I wanted’, but it sorts itself out. That’s my big thing and that is the core to hopefully who I continue to be in that place, more and more of accessing that and figuring out how to access it because I think so many people talk about it in this very broad stroke way.
I think most of us think we know who we are, but if you’re able to articulate that and say a sentence and then feel that, it can really be at the heart of everything that you do, whether it’s a really hard decision or just something joyous. And then I think you can layer on the other interests on top of that.
Grace: That’s such a good way to sum everything up and your whole spirit and everything. Thank you so much for taking us out with that. And thank you for sharing your journey and being so honest about the reasons behind what you’re doing as well. I loved all that.
A big thank you to Stacia for sharing that story. I loved hearing her take on knowing yourself. I think that really came through and also a little bit about how her ‘why’ as well has evolved over time, like me.
In talking all about all of this, I think it’s worth just pausing and asking, why is it such a big deal to know why we’re doing what we’re doing? Why does it even matter? I think the big thing that’s come through in talking to Stacia, and also my own experience, is it really keeps you on course, so that you’re not getting distracted by shiny new things, which I know is always a risk in business.
Knowing your ‘why’ can always bring you back to that and keep you on course to your destination. It can also, in the same way, help you stick with it when the going gets tough, which we know inevitably will. Like we heard talking to Stacia, it helps you make decisions.
We all know in business what decision fatigue is such a thing. You make so many decisions a day and after a while you just want someone to make them for you. But having guiding values and knowing your ‘why’ helps you answer those million questions that come up in business. So we know from all of that, why it’s so important to be crystal clear on your why, but we also know that it really isn’t easy to keep that insight sometimes when you’re bogged down by all those little details that come up day to day. Like we talked about, all those niggles that make you feel like you’re putting out a thousand fires every day.
According to that research that I mentioned from Xero, the things that business owners find tend to get in the way of their why, tend to fall into three camps. Firstly, there’s admin. Admin takes up so much time and it gets in the way of the work that you actually enjoy doing; the bits that you actually signed up for. It also gets in the way of your wellbeing sometimes and your work-life balance and just your enjoyment of doing what you’re doing.
Then, of course, there’s stress. There’s stress about money. That’s a really big one in business and that’s linked to that uncertainty about your finances. And then finally the research really showed that wellbeing comes into this a lot, which makes perfect sense. When we lose track of why we’re doing what we’re doing and we’re working too much and we’re not looking after ourselves. And we’ve got a team that is maybe doing the same, that’s the third camp of what gets in the way of your why.
With all of that in mind, the question is how do we get back to that ‘why’ if we feel like we’ve lost our way a little bit. So firstly, I recommend that you head to Xero’s Why We’re In It hub. They’ve popped together this huge wealth of free information and resources for all business owners to help with this exact question.
Linked to that there’s a couple of areas that I think really help in this and one of them is all about digitising your business. Given that admin is one of those key blocks that we’ve talked about to enjoy being in business, it’s not surprising that digitising your business is a key tool in this area.
Many of those admin tasks that come up in business do not need to be done by you. I know it might feel like that, but they don’t. There are so many cloud-based tools and software options that can streamline some of those tasks that for you would take hours, but would take a computer no time at all. Xero’s research shows that of those small business owners that they talked to, the ones that had adopted digital tools to help ease the load, 73% of them saw an increase in productivity from that. That tells you everything you need to know. I also suggest in this space, there’s something called Digital Boost that you should look up. It is a free government-backed skill training program. So head to digitalboost.business.govt.nz for all of the info on that as well.
The second part of that is all about wellbeing. I know from my own experience that it can be really tempting to push yourself and throw everything into the business. It feels like, especially in the early days, you’re cheating if you take a break and that’s the heart of hustle culture. While I totally value hard work and dedication, just remember that you are no good to anybody if you are burnt out and unhealthy. You are the golden goose in your business and you need to look after your wellbeing and invest in yourself first so that you can keep laying those golden eggs.
Whatever we’re doing in business, life, family, everything, we’re all so much more productive and creative after we take a break. So again, there are lots of resources out there on this and I even found out, when I was digging into the Why We’re In It hub, that Xero actually offer free counselling to owners and employees of Xero businesses and their families via what they call the Xero Assistance Program, which I is really amazing and it’s something that I’ll definitely be checking out, as Angel Delivery is a Xero customer as well.
- Angel Delivery: https://www.angeldelivery.co.nz/
- LilyBee Wrap: https://www.lilybeewrap.com/
- Sweet Bakery & Cakery: http://www.sweetbakery.co.nz/