Class Act profile: Blair Kippenberger

Blair Kippenberger, pictured at far right with his Delivereasy colleagues, says now is a good...
Blair Kippenberger, pictured at far right with his Delivereasy colleagues, says now is a good time for him and his fellow directors to be in business. ‘‘We’re all in our mid to late 20s and we haven’t got kids or any real responsibilities ... If we’re going to roll the dice, let’s do it now.’’ Photo: supplied.
A former Cromwell Class Act recipient is delivering on his promise, writes Kim Dungey.

Blair Kippenberger and his friend were hung over when they had an idea that would change their lives.

Feeling the effects of "a few too many beers" the night before, the former University of Otago students wanted food but wondered why pizza was the only option easily delivered to their Wellington flat. Knowing there had to be an idea in this, they began thinking about what it would be like to have their favourite restaurant meals turn up at their door.

Blair Kippenberger.
Blair Kippenberger.
A week later a friend returning from London told them about Deliveroo, a company that transported everything from tacos to fries. Then Kippenberger met Foster’s friend, software developer Tim Robinson, and the three of them decided over a beer to "have a crack".

In May last year, Delivereasy made its first delivery in Wellington, using scooters that were easily parked in the busy CBD.

Today, 70 drivers deliver food from 56 restaurants in Wellington and Auckland and there are plans to expand to every major city within 12 months, starting with Christchurch and Hamilton later this year and Dunedin next March.

An Otago Daily Times Class Act recipient in 2007, Kippenberger was head boy at Cromwell College and excelled at rugby, touch rugby, athletics and lawn bowls.

Contact sports were ruled out after he dislocated his shoulders 15 times — sometimes just sleeping in bed — but experiencing the scarfie culture at the University of Otago fulfilled another ambition. He had the time of his life.

After completing a marketing degree and exchanges to universities in Manchester and Milan, he took a marketing role in Wellington with technology company NEC and spent time in Tokyo and Singapore.

"I was interested in getting into the corporate world to travel and to work for a multinational, which is what I ended up doing," he says.

"But I started to realise the things I was doing weren’t really tangible ... and that maybe smaller business was more my cup of tea."

Wet weather, steep hills and no access to transport are some of the reasons people have food delivered, the 27-year-old says. Some want to continue entertaining friends without having to go out for food and in an age where people can get a taxi or order shopping at the tap of a button, it is also about convenience.

The business began with food boxes the trio knocked together from salvaged pallets, three secondhand 50cc scooters they found listed on Trade Me and $2000 for hot food bags and a website domain. In the first few days, they transported only a handful of orders that they had asked friends to place. Three months in, they were still working their normal jobs, then getting on the scooters after work and delivering food until 10pm.

Soon, however, they had quit their day jobs and earlier this year Kippenberger and Foster moved to Auckland, where their company competes with big players like UberEats.

"It’s been fairly slow but the idea of coming up here was always to get a piece of the pie," he says.

"And Uber has made the pie a lot bigger because a lot of people know about food delivery now."

The delivery fee covers the cost of the drivers, who are all independent contractors, and the business makes money by charging restaurants a commission.

Dishes ordered through its website and app range from duck curries, tacos and gourmet pizzas to milkshakes from the legendary Fidel’s Cafe in Wellington. The company does not  have the appropriate licences to drop off the beer and cigarettes some people ask for but does meet other requests: "We get a few people asking things like ‘please write on the pizza, ‘I’m so sorry. I love you’ ... "

Kippenberger, who handles the company’s business development, says dropped pizzas were one of several mishaps early on.

"We had crazy, crazy weather which meant scooters would blow over in the wind and we’d lose all the food. We’d have to call the restaurant and get a remake, which we had to pay for. Then call the customer. But it was all easily overcome."

All three directors had dreamed of being self-employed, Kippenberger having seen his parents work hard at their Timaru freight franchise and enjoy the freedom of being their own bosses.

"We realised we could create our own culture and have a lot of fun along the way ... And if we turn it into something that we can make some good money off, then we can look at other projects."

With small margins, they are still earning less than they did at their previous jobs but are in it for the "long game".

"Because we’ve been down to Otago, lived that life and had a great time, we’re all sort of the same," he says.

"It’s a dream being able to work with your best mates."

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