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Decentralizing the Food System with Lisa Booth of Kete Kai

“Centralizing the food system was the largest social experiment that we don’t talk about how much it’s failed. So I constantly think about, it’s not our job — even from Kete Kai’s perspective — it’s not our job to go into community and say, ‘This is what you should do.’ But it’s our job to come in and say, ‘This is the knowledge that we have around creating what we create and why we do what we do. What does that look like for you?'”

— Lisa Booth, CEO + Founder of Kete Kai

In this episode

Meet new SheEO Venture Kete Kai! Lisa Booth joins Vicki Saunders to talk about Kete Kai’s affordable meal kit service, their goal to end hunger in Aotearoa by 2030, and giving customers and community the power to make change.

They also discuss:

  • The need for a change in food systems and distribution
  • Reducing waste, helping farmers, and empowering local communities
  • Creating a transparent technology platform to support this effort
  • Challenges that Kete Kai has faced in building the Venture
  • Warmth and support she’s experienced in the SheEO community

We invite you to join us as an Activator at SheEO.World.

Take action and engage with Kete Kai

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Podcast Transcript:

The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).

Lisa Booth 0:00
Centralizing the food system was the largest social experiment that we don’t talk about how much it’s failed. So I constantly think about, it’s not our job — even from Kete Kai’s perspective — it’s not our job to go into community and say, “This is what you should do.” But it’s our job to come in and say, “This is the knowledge that we have around creating what we create and why we do what we do. What does that look like for you?”

Vicki Saunders 0:24
Welcome to SheEO.World podcast, where you’ll meet women and non-binary folks who are transforming the world to be more equitable and sustainable. I’m your host, Vicki Saunders.

Vicki Saunders 0:41
Good morning, Lisa, how are you?

Lisa Booth 0:44
Very good. Good. How about yourself?

Vicki Saunders 0:46
Very well, thank you. Who are you? Why are we having this conversation? Tell me all the things.

Lisa Booth 0:51
Who am I am? Well, first and foremost, I’m a mother of three beautiful children. I’m a single mom. And I’m also the founder and CEO of Kete Kai, which our is that we want to sort of contribute to helping end hunger in Aotearoa by 2030, in New Zealand.

Vicki Saunders 1:10
Phenomenal. And why you? Tell me about why?

Lisa Booth 1:13
Well, I think because I want to. And because I’m a doer, I don’t think I’m the only one that’s trying to solve this issue. So I don’t want to sit here, I’m definitely not the hero. But I think that what’s super interesting about the way that I view the world or in my team is that we think that customers and communities can have the power to make this change. And so I guess the thing that I bring to the table is having the knowledge and know-how in that consumer space and that sort of food space. That makes us a little bit more unique, I guess.

Vicki Saunders 1:44
So tell us a bit about the model. How does it work?

Lisa Booth 1:47
Yeah, so currently, the way that we’re working is that we kind of, I guess, a social enterprise. So what we think about, is we think about if we have a commercial product that is doing really well, then that can then help fund a model that empowers communities to do things. So when — I know that sounds a little bit vague, but we actually all the research that we did around, you know, how do we feed people? How do we make healthy food affordable for everyone? And then how do we look at systems like entire food systems, it’s not just pulling the price down and making something cheap. It was thinking about, how do we reduce household waste? How will we feed our farmers? How do we empower people that are already in the system. So we landed on meal kits, currently, and that’s our current model. So we have an affordable meal kit. And then we — all our learnings that we get from that meal kit, we are also been working alongside communities to see whether they can curate their own meal kit. And you know, creating their own sort of economic little sort of model as well. Meal kits are also important because it means that people can learn as they’re doing. So they can learn how to cook, because being hungry is not just because you can’t afford the food. Sometimes it’s a knowledge gap, and access. So that’s us.

Vicki Saunders 2:59
That’s really powerful. And this is such a unique model. I mean, I’m obsessed with like new business models and new ways of doing things. And what I particularly find fascinating here is the ability to regionalize, or localize this. And so have suppliers from local communities, prioritizing what matters locally, this is the way that things used to be right? Before we messed it all up by scaling everything.

Lisa Booth 3:25
100%. I constantly think about how we just, that centralizing the food system was the largest social experiment that we don’t talk about how much it’s failed. So I constantly think about, it’s not our job — even from Kete Kai’s perspective — it’s not our job to go into community and say, “This is what you should do.” But it’s our job to come in and say, “This is the knowledge that we have around creating what we create and why we do what we do. What does that look like for you?” And that is an Indigenous worldview, which I’m learning and I think is just really, really cool. Because, you know, it’s about giving them the tools to do what they need to do. And the benefits, like you just touched on, is that they can reach out to local farmers, they can create jobs, that they can do their own marketing or, you know, coordination. It’s yeah, what I’d love to see.

Vicki Saunders 4:12
Well, it’s also you know, I find that because we’ve centralized everything, and because, you know, we, as a consumer, hate that word. And as a person who has money, who wants to go buy stuff to survive, I go out locally, I want to support what is around me. And it’s so challenging, right, because you go into a grocery store. And it’s, I mean, again, there’s lots of food deserts. There’s lots of people that don’t have great grocery stores near them, and how do you find that local piece? And as everything’s been scaling up, we have been removing more and more of that. So I wonder, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced so far? Getting this underway? I mean, it’s not a small problem to take on. So thank you.

Lisa Booth 4:57
The biggest problem has been fun. though, and people getting the vision and understanding it, because I’m a non tech founder and wanting to build technology, because I believe that the key to unraveling this is actually technology or some sort of transparent platform that allows people to trade easily. Because I think, this issue that we’ve got, and we talk about buying locally and stuff, and when we think about people’s lives, these days, we have to move with the times. Like, I don’t have time to go and shop around 30 different local stores, I need a solution that fits my lifestyle. So meal kits make sense, but did that, for me to be able to create a meal kit out of local suppliers is quite difficult. So I need some technology to lift that. So that’s been the biggest problem is people understanding the vision and what we’re trying to do, understanding that corporate sorry — a commercial version of what we’re doing can coexist next to a community version. And the other thing that’s been super interesting, and it’s definitely shifted a lot in the last couple of years, is that we’re willing to work with anybody to anybody that she is original likes what we’re doing, we don’t see anyone as competition. We work with universities, we’re working with lots of different suppliers, we’ve approached a lot of big — we’ve even approach supermarkets, but they just get a little bit nervous of being in the space. Because for us, the more people that are working on this problem, or that can collaborate, like we can move the needle a lot quicker. So those are the biggest challenges.

Vicki Saunders 6:19
Yeah, and we’ll imagine that we can move markets, we can make things cheaper, by buying local without, I mean, and finally counting the environmental cost. But this, I’m so excited, I can’t wait to be part of this. I’m so glad that Activators selected you and I have a bunch of people. I’m a super connector. So I have a bunch of people I’m writing down as we’re talking that I’d love to connect you with. Because this reimagining our system, like there is enough for everyone. It’s just poorly distributed. Right? So finding these distribution process innovations like you have are great. How’s it been? It’s been a couple of days, literally a couple of days that you’ve been in the community. Anyone reaching out and saying anything to you?

Lisa Booth 6:58
Yeah, absolutely. It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind, obviously, working pretty closely with NSPR. And that sort of thing. And we had the retreat over the weekend, which was really cool meeting the other Activators are all just really phenomenal. Like, it’s just, I mean, that’s the thing that I’ve loved about SheEO. From the beginning, though, it’s like, as soon as you open the door, it was like this warmth, that I’ve sort of experienced. And I definitely, that’s what I was looking for, when I first sort of started to really take this business on as the CEO, I really wanted that community around me, because I knew that what we’re doing is really ambitious. And it’s scary. And people don’t get it. And I’m scrapping it together. Well, I’m not alone, scrapping it together, I’ve got a team. So yeah, it’s just that continuous sort of warmth from SheEO has just been epic.

Vicki Saunders 7:42
And is there, so we’re going to get this out into the world shortly. And is there an Ask that you have or any way that people that are listening can support you?

Lisa Booth 7:51
Yeah, I think absolutely. I mean, at the moment, we’re doing a pay it forward campaign for Christmas. So we started off with saying, look, would really love to feed 250 families and give them a Christmas meal, because one of the things that we were learning and when we’re out in the community was that families were literally making the decision on whether to buy presents or food for Christmas Day. So we want to remove that. So anyone that can jump on our website and pay it forward for a family that would just make the world to us. So that’s why.

Vicki Saunders 8:17
Okay well, I’m in Canada, and I’m going to go do that right after this. So thank you for the Ask. And thank you so much for all that you’re doing. It’s incredibly important work. And we’re here with our sleeves rolled up ready to help you so thank you for you.

Vicki Saunders 8:33
Thank you for listening to the SheEO.World podcast. Like, comment, subscribe, and share this podcast with your friends. We invite you to join a global community of radically generous women and non binary folks at SheEO.World.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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