My name is Leisha, and I’m one half of Bowl and Arrow. Hannah and I thought of Bowl and Arrow almost 5 years ago when we were travelling through South East Asia and wanted a change of career direction from the advertising and PR industry that we were both working in at the time. We got home and were juggling a few jobs each while trying to create smoothie bowl recipes at Hannah’s flat, and work out how to start a business from scratch.
Being only 23 and rather naive about the workload we would be undertaking, we took the plunge and started selling our smoothie bowls at the Victoria Park markets. We had so much traction immediately, and some great interest from brands like Adidas and Les Mills who were super keen for healthy corporate catering options. We got loads of clients through these markets and one year later opened our store in Orakei Bay Village to cope with this and to be able to serve customers daily rather than only on weekends and at events!
Five years (almost) down the track and we now have three stores, Orakei, Westfield Newmarket and the recently opened Commercial Bay in the CBD which are all locations we are so proud to be a part of and to have a Bowl and Arrow there. We also still do lots of catering events for all sorts of businesses and occasions, as well as community wellness events like yoga and journaling - which is something we have always put a massive emphasis on.
What made you get into business?
Hannah and I both worked in a cafe together during uni, that’s how we met and became friends, and loved every part of it from the customers to the practical side of making coffee and managing the cafe logistics. I have always been super interested in nutrition and the health and wellness world and also studied for a year at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition so I knew I wanted to do something in the realm of wellness and using healthy foods to nourish your body. Hannah has an absolute knack for flavour combos and is a real foodie, I think maybe in a past life she was a chef, and she is so passionate about making all our products taste amazing so I guess it just made sense that we would both end up in the hospo industry in some shape or form.
How do you deal with adversity?
There have been many moments in our business journey where we have felt like we are being taken advantage of or where people have talked down to us because we are young females, especially when trying to negotiate or talk through property lease documents or legal matters. This was much more difficult as 23 year olds when we didn’t necessarily know the answers, and the only way this can be learnt is through experience and over time.
I think there are two main ways to deal with situations that seem a bit difficult or tricky. Theres a saying, fake it till you make it, which for me doesn’t mean trying to be someone who you are not, but just to be confident and trust your own gut decisions and to be sure of yourself without doubting.
In saying that, I also think it's important to own it when you make the wrong choice or decision, and this is especially important as a leader. Your team will be looking up to you no matter what you say or do, so it's important to put your hand up and apologise when you’ve made a mistake and you know you are in the wrong, and learn for next time.
What are your top tips for other women wanting to get into business?
I think everyone has a great business idea at some stage in their life, or many great ideas! It just depends on whether you act on it. If you are in a position where you can jump all in and just give it a go, then I would say absolutely do it! There are so many limiting beliefs that can hold us back as women, whether it's with business or in life in general, but life is short so you may as well give everything a try. In saying that, I think you have to really want to give it 110% everyday, and you have to be passionate about what it is you are selling or producing, otherwise you are going to quickly run out of steam or get bored of your business. It is really hard work especially for the first few years (maybe even first 5 years!) so you want to be excited about it!
What is your advice for someone struggling in business right now?
I’m sure there are many people in this position at the moment, including us, which makes me so sad. When I see businesses that have closed down because of the last few months it just breaks my heart because I know how much effort would have been put into that. None of us obviously predicted any of this or what would be happening to the world and I think this is definitely the time to look at your business and make changes so that you can adapt and pivot and be able to offer something that people need in this time. When you own your own business, the great thing (and bad thing) is that there is ALWAYS something you can be improving on or doing better, and if you are in a partnership or you are a sole owner, you will know how many hats you have to wear every week - so that’s an indication of how many different areas there are to make better. Marketing, accounting and tightening up on unnecessary finances, improving your staff and training, looking at making your systems more efficient, all the little things that add up to the big picture. You don’t realise how much this can help your business until you start making tiny incremental changes.
How did Covid-19 affect your business and where are you now?
Just like everyone else, we had to completely shut down over the lockdown weeks and had zero income over this time. The wage subsidy was absolute saviour as it meant we could keep all of our staff employed which was amazing, that would have been so stressful. The closure meant that we could actually focus on a bit of the second priority work that we are forever procrastinating and putting off, so that was amazing. We started working with a business coach and this gave us some focus and accountability for what we were trying to achieve, and some really good motivation to keep pushing and working on the little things that would make a difference once we opened back up again.
In terms of where we are now, its definitely tough being in two big shiny new complexes which were built predominantly for tourists who are not able to get here at the moment, but it is what it is - everyone is in the same boat and we just have to work with what we’ve got and make it through the rest of the year!
What are your future goals for your business?
Our future has become slightly uncertain because of what this year has turned into. Our plan up until now was to get the three stores ticking along really nicely and focus on making them the best possible, so that’s what we are currently working on. Once we have a better idea of the future of the outside world then we can make some decisions as to whether we want to expand or stick with our trio. We are definitely excited to partner with some epic brands and do more events and catering for this second half of 2020 though!