Peter Eastwood is the founder of iMake, and built the DIY food company from the ground up into an international exporter with a product range in the thousands and an annual turnover of $25 million.
Eastwood began with home brewing kits (you may remember Brewcraft), but recent successes under the iMake umbrella include Mad Millie home cheesemaking kits (read about our web editor's adventures in mozzarella making over at Good) and their own home cider brewing kit – sure to entice a few budding publicans this summer. He recently talked cheese, wine and design to Josh Martin.
What was the inspiration was behind the first iMake creation and why did you decide to expand on the range?
The first new product under the iMake banner was the cheesemaking under the Mad Millie brand. This came out of an exercise where we looked at what our business was all about and realised we were about helping people to craft their own products at home rather than a wholesaler selling beer and spirit making kits. We then looked at other things we might offer and cheese was our first choice.
How would you describe iMake's process from design through to commercialisation and what was the biggest lesson you learnt along the way?
Up until now I would call it chaotic and very hit and miss. We had some great successes but also some less successful moments. Recently we have learnt that we must be totally concentrated on the user experience of our customers. Intuit call their 'design thinking' programme "design for delight" and I think this is very powerful.
What do you put iMake’s success down to?
Creating working partnerships equally with customers and suppliers and providing best of breed products that customers want.
You obviously don’t have a problem getting the creative juices flowing, but what do companies do that stifles innovation and the creative process?
It is typical that in the early stages of a startup business that the lack of resources, typically funding, ensure an urgency to get products to market. This often means getting products into the market before all the bugs are ironed out but it also forces quick iteration and first mover advantage. As a company grows we add layers within the company to improve and ensure consistent quality. This often means a much slower path to market as every department signs off the new concept or product. It also slows iteration, which is one of the best tools for improvement.
What plans lie ahead for iMake (well, the ones you are willing to share)?
From now on we will think of the world as our market and develop products and supply chains with global supply and support in mind. We will also actively seek out export markets rather than waiting for overseas customers to approach us.
Finally, what New Zealand firms inspire you?
There are so many examples of New Zealand companies that are punching above their weight internationally. It has been a fantastic advantage to be working with NZTE. I guess it might be easier to single out individuals who have been fantastic at disrupting existing industries. Geoff Ross of 42 Below disrupted the spirit industry by taking a completely new approach, Sam Morgan disrupted garage sales and buy, sell, and swap methods to introduce TradeMe. Len Light from Easiyo brought something completely new to the market. I love their stories.