“I started studying and actually didn’t enjoy the degree. It wasn’t until I did a biochemistry paper that I realised food science and food technology was this huge world of science, analytics, everything that I wanted but way more hands-on, way more exciting and way more focused.”
After transferring to Massey, working for a food technology start-up company and graduating with a Bachelor of Food Technology with Honours, the COVID-19 disruption brought Margie an opportunity to start her own company Soochi.
“Soochi started because I was contacted by Tina, Soochi’s Chief Executive, who knew people in my network that was looking for a food technologist. She wanted to create a product from a plant that grows really well here in New Zealand, is very nutritious but doesn’t taste great. It was a huge risk to take on.”
Margie says the idea of creating a drink was based on a product she created during her study at Massey, a collagen drink.
“Soochi’s founding team included Tina, Naz and I. We all worked on improving the drink. We also added the gut health element because that was what the whole business stemmed from. What came out that was a functional drink that doesn’t compromise on taste. Our products merge the science of nature, taste and innovation to deliver on functional benefits for skin, body and mind.
We started with drinks first instead of collagen powder as they are more accessible and mainstream for people who don’t have the mean to buy premium products.”
Not only did her Massey degree offer practical knowledge and skills that she can apply in her business, but it also presented networking opportunities, she adds.
“This is a very practical degree. A lot of what I learned in my fourth year about product development has really helped now.
I also really liked the fact that we had people who work in the food technology sector coming into class as guest speakers. As this is a small industry, it was a great opportunity to chat with them and ask them for help.”
Apart from Soochi, Margie is a member of the Asia NZ Foundation network. Established in 1994, the Foundation is a non-partisan and non-profit organisation dedicated to building New Zealanders’ knowledge and understanding of Asia.
“It is all volunteer based. The point of this network is creating connections and bringing people together. I can see people in other countries who also work in the food technology space and connect with them. There are a few of us and we help each other out. I’m surrounded by some incredible people in that network.”
Margie’s best advice for food students would be finding networking opportunities while you still study.
“Get to know people in the industry as much as possible while you’re studying, get involved in organisations such as the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology because it’s such a small industry. If you need help with anything, everyone is so lovely and wants to help you out. It’s a really neat group.
At the end of the day, it’s not about how perfect your work is or how diligent you are, it’s about how you interact with others and network so that you can ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to have all the answers because you can’t be a specialist in every area. Just ask for help!”