An interview with CEO Jan Meyer
Happy International Women's Day Jan, thanks for sitting down with us to chat all things business! Let's jump right into it...
Tell us a bit about Rutherford and Meyer? How did it start?
My mother and her best friend started Rutherford and Meyer in 1996. They were both from farming families and experienced a surplus fruit harvest that summer, instead of discarding the fruits they worked together to create what is now our Fruit Pastes.
What inspired you to take over Rutherford and Meyer?
I had trained in the hospitality industry before going back to university to do a degree in Human Nutrition which was followed with a stint working for a nutrition company as territory sales manager. I always knew that I wanted to own a business and that it had to be in food. We looked at numerous restaurants and cafes, in fact my old manager even came with me to a few places. When the opportunity to buy R&M from the original founders came up, I liked the idea as I believed there was room for growth not just within New Zealand and internationally as well.
How did you get started in the food industry?
While I was in my last year of school I worked part-time in a restaurant at night before applying to be an apprentice chef for a hotel chain. Fortunately, I didn’t get accepted. I came to CIT and did a Hotel and Catering Management course before doing the usual Kiwi OE in Japan & Europe. In both places I worked in the fitness industry where I developed a love for nutrition. This drove me to return to NZ to do a degree in Human Nutrition. Both periods of study and subsequent work have been of benefit to running a food manufacturing company.
Have you had many challenges being a woman in the industry?
Yes & no. The one area that has been challenging was with the banking industry. My male counterparts were invited to different events that I was not, the expectations put on me were different. We are now with a bank where this does not occur. For the most part though I just get on with the job at hand, if I come across someone that is a chauvinist or puts barriers in the way then I make the choice of either engaging with them or moving on.
Do you have any advice for women wanting to start a business?
Don’t be afraid to get help. Look to learn from EVERYONE that you work with, you can learn from everyone whether they are the cleaner or the CEO. I read a lot so learn this way as well as with the help of the team around me.
What are your secrets to a successful business?
Treat people with respect, take a genuine interest in your team, give people opportunities to grow to their potential- I’ve yet to come across someone who doesn’t have ambition. Ambition takes many forms and needs to be recognised by managers and supervisors. Let team members take ownership of their role by providing support and advice when required. Oh, and don’t forget to thank people.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
No one person in particular, I love reading or hearing about people that have overcome adversity to achieve. For example I listened to a piece on Mate Rimec, a Bosnian refuge now living in Croatia who owns an electric car factory. Truly amazing story.
If you could pick one quote to live by, what would it be?
“I’m not bossy! I have skills…… leadership skills. Understood?”
Actually a better one is “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.
What does the average day for you look like?
It’s pretty normal - I start around 5.30am going to my local gym, SWET, or doing some form of exercise. I’m at work around 8am. Then home to do the usual mother duties- cook dinner which is eaten around the table, do the washing and in to bed early to read.
And lastly, In the world of Rutherford and Meyer what is next for the company?
Continue down the path of Upcycling and Sustainability. I believe that Upcycling is going to be huge.