Collegians John Heskett (Hall 2005-2009) and Riley Chick (Sargood 2010-2014) are proud to own game-changing agribusiness, Kaipaki Dairies.
It’s a total end-to-end production, processing, bottling, and refilling business on a local Waikato dairy farm, with sustainability at the forefront of every industry decision. Kaipaki Dairies install barista taps and refill stations in various businesses around the country, negating the need for individual bottles in large-scale consumption industries. Currently, Kaipaki Dairies supply milk and barista taps to cafes, and this year will see over 14 hotels using the refill stations. They are well-known regulars at all gourmet produce markets around the Waikato, and their steady supply of loyal customers keeps two million plastic bottles out of circulation annually.
The inception of Kaipaki Dairies began when John stumbled across an asset sale online. After market research, John believed there was a demand for local milk products, but he also uncovered a much bigger problem: plastic wastage in the hospitality sector. This discovery led him to the next arm of the business, installing barista taps and refill stations. John created a preliminary design that would see Kaipaki Dairies install a small, refillable vat with their milk product, and in turn, the customer would receive a sustainable product with far less clutter behind the counter.
“I’m so grateful to the local cafes who bought into the Kaipaki Dairies vision early on. Our partnerships have allowed significant growth within a short time, and we are constantly looking for mutually beneficial ways to improve our processes,” says John.
Having the product and customers somewhat lined up, John reached out to long-time friend Riley, who grew up on a dairy farm, to see if he would be interested in a 50/50 partnership in Kaipaki Dairies. Riley handed in his resignation to his then-employer 48 hours later. They both saw the potential in growing a local brand with a distinct flavour that regulars would become accustomed to. The rest is history.
The duo are fearless in implementing new technology to make the business more efficient. Their latest purchase, the batch pasteuriser, has taken a typical eight-hour pasteurising job down to around one hour through a continuous sanitising system.
Although they now have the capital to improve processing, John and Riley encountered a brutal beginning to their new venture. The day after they launched Kaipaki Dairies in August 2021, New Zealand went into a Level 4 lockdown. With only 24 hours of operating time under their belt, they received no financial assistance from the government and had to ride out the harsh pandemic restrictions. John and Riley persevered with strict rules to ensure Kaipaki Dairies would be worth the investment; there was to be no unnecessary expenditure and no salaries for the foreseeable future.
Fast forward 19 months, Kaipaki Dairies employs 12 staff, including farmers, accountants, truck drivers, administrators, and marketers. They forecast to have over 25 employees by the end of the year.
Reflecting on their years at St Paul’s Collegiate School, John and Riley agree the school taught them resilience, and despite being placed in the low band classes, they take this experience in their stride and encourage others to refrain from letting classroom grading determine their future.
Riley’s main advice: “There’s never a good time to start a business – you’ve just gotta start!”