Saving Students from Themselves

The Facebook superstar set up her Healthy Eating on a Student Budget page in March 2014 after demand from friends grew for more pictures and recipes of Lauren’s inexpensive, Paleo-inspired meals. In less than a year the page’s popularity sky-rocketed, gaining nearly 275,000 followers.

“To tell you the exact reason why it’s got so big, I have no idea,” says the twenty-four-year-old. “I think people connected with the fact that I was a money-strapped student and not a supermodel or a nutritionist telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat.”

Creating magicA Bachelor of Applied Visual Imagery graduate from UCOL, and former Massey student, Lauren developed a passion for food on migrating to New Zealand from her native England eight years ago. Fast forward to the present day and Lauren is totally committed to a diet of the freshest, best-quality, local food that inspired her passion – well, mostly.

“I’ll still eat carbs every now and then. I’m not trying to tell people you can’t have those foods,” Lauren explains. “My friend has celiacs disease and said her life was over because she could never have KFC again. So I came up with a recipe for gluten-free and dairy-free KFC. Instead of saying you can never have that food again I’m saying if you want a healthier option, here it is.”

I’m not sure that parents and older generations really understand how little their kids know

The Paleo diet is a lifestyle that excludes processed foods, dairy and cereals, and encourages people to eat only what early humans could catch, kill or grow. Lauren became attracted to the concept after a long battle with weight loss. “I was a chubby kid, a chubby teenager, and a chubby adult. I know now that I’ll never be the size six I always wanted to be. When I started following the Paleo guidelines it was the first time I’d thought to myself, ‘I’m not doing this to lose weight, I’m doing this to be a healthier person’.

“I was feeling absolutely miserable when I was studying and I thought I’d feel that way forever. But when I changed my eating habits I began to feel so much better mentally and physically. I think people still struggle to see food as an issue – that what you eat affects your mood – but it’s completely relevant.”

Paleo FishcakesLauren rolled her Paleo lifestyle, photography degree, and love of food together when she established her Facebook page from her Palmerston North flat. She posts healthy recipes that she creates for students, along with tips and tricks on how to maximise their food budget.

But the internet phenomenon is generating some big plans for beyond her Facebook wall. “I’m really interested in setting up cooking classes for students. There are so many of them out there who don’t know to boil carrots!” Lauren laughs. “It’s really scary what you see in a student flat. Having come from a home where I was taught how to cook I just assumed people could do the basics like me.

I think people still struggle to see food as an issue – that what you eat affects your mood – but it’s completely relevant

“I didn’t even know that mince on toast was a thing until I moved into my first flat. “I once lived with someone who grilled a sausage on the electric element. No pan, just the element. They thought that was how it was done. I couldn’t understand how someone who was so intelligent, studying something really complicated, could do something so out of this world to me! I’m not sure that parents and older generations really understand how little their kids know.”

The finished productOther projects up Lauren’s sleeve are a recipe book that she wants to be “universal, not just for university students”, and after a successful appearance at Palmerston North’s Festival of Cultures in March, Lauren is keen to get on stage for some more live cooking demonstrations. “It was amazing to have met Nici Wickes and Ray McVinnie at the Festival. I’ve admired them for years. I was cooking just before they were on and I was scared I’d ruin the demo before they came on! I didn’t pass out or burn my food though, so I think I’m good to do more.” Lauren has also been hitting the road, travelling the country and cooking for a very exciting secret project.

This girl is certainly one to keep your eyes on for the future as she continues to dip her fingers into many more (Paleo) pies.


The Flower Seller of South Street

It has been two years since nine-year-old Scott Grady and his Dad, Warwick, decided to sell flowers grown right from their own sprawling suburban garden.

According to Scott, there is a comical story that marks the moment that his project first came to light: a lady surprised the family by appearing in the front yard carrying a kitchen knife at the ready…

Scott and dogOf course it turned out that she had innocent motives. She had just one simple query – could she cut some flowers? Enough to cater for a wedding? She left with buckets brimming, leaving father and son discussing the possibility of selling flowers as a project. “I came up with the idea of it being a cart,” Scott says.

Warwick is an avid gardener; “I do the growing, the cutting and the spraying”. Scott is a busy kid who loves a project. “Scott does the PR, bulk negotiations and accounts.”

The cart is situated outside their home on South Street in Palmerston North, a busy school area with lots of foot traffic. Scott reckons most customers pick up a bunch and leave $2 in the honesty box, and many donate generously. On occasion individuals even buy the entire cartload. Dishonesty is not a common problem for them. “If we get one bunch stolen a month we talk about it, it’s unusual,” says Warwick.

It was a nice thing, you kind of think; even at 3 o’clock in the morning people are out there caring

Despite its surprising popularity, the cart is not a commercial floristry service. After a complaint was filed with the council the cart now displays a permit, which may make Scott one of the youngest registered ‘hawkers’ in the region.

For Scott it is not all about the money he can make for himself. In fact the project has turned him into a bit of a philanthropist. “Originally, the money was going towards my martial arts and swimming lessons, but we were getting too much money,” says Scott.

FlowersInstead he now donates $40 a month to World Vision to sponsor a boy named Christopher from Malawi. He has also sent some of his earnings to Red Cross in support of the Nepal earthquake recovery programme.

While there is much to celebrate, not all has been smooth sailing for the Gradys; in February 2014 Scott’s cart fell victim to a night-time arson attack.

The police arrived to alert the family but Warwick recalls that the neighbours were first on the scene. “People used the flower buckets that were already there, leaving the flowers all tidily set aside, and used the water to put the fire out.

“It was a nice thing, you kind of think; even at 3 o’clock in the morning people are out there caring.”

Naturally Scott was upset about the attack, but he responded with resilience and decided he “would not give up”.

Originally, the money was going towards my martial arts and swimming lessons, but we were getting too much money

In the week after the fire the cart received a lot of support from customers and organisations in the area. Courtesy of a local business, the cart was even given a much-needed facelift. Now beautifully painted in a glossy green, with professional sign writing to match, it makes a grand statement on the street.

The past couple of years have brought the little cart much more attention than anticipated, and business is expanding beyond the front gate. Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School now sells Scott’s flowers in the summer and Scott has also interviewed a potential franchisee.

Scott and his flowers for saleMost of all the Gradys enjoy the hub that the cart creates on their doorstep. “School children and elderly people come to sit on the fence and watch the flowers and the fountains going… there are butterflies flying around, and bees buzzing, it’s quite nice,” says Warwick.

As for Scott, he may have become South Street’s flower cart king, but he is also a kid with many projects on the go, and endless ideas waiting in line up his sleeve. He has a few words of advice for anyone who has an idea brewing: you may end up becoming “pretty famous” but he thinks most importantly you need to be original and come up with your own ideas.

Mabel in the shed

Meet Mabel, the Vintage Caravan Bar

Meet Paul and Kylie Grimmer and the newest addition to their growing family – their 1960s’ Hillcrest Hamilton ‘Silvermist’ caravan, Mabel.

The two are restoring and repurposing a very vintage caravan, taking it from “an immobile derelict sleepout to a stylish travelling bar on wheels”, as Kylie puts it.

Mood board 1Coming to the end of renovating their first home, the couple were looking for “a new and exciting project that we could do together,” Kylie remembers. The pair delight in “taking tired objects and materials and recreating them in an innovative and modern way”, and it was from this love that ‘Mabel’ came into the picture.

Initially the idea was to create a holiday home for their family, just another creative project they could put under their collective belt. But the pair saw a potential business opportunity through Kylie’s experience with event management and marketing. “I believed there was a gap in the local market for boutique and unique goods and services, particularly for the wedding and corporate event market.”

Sandblasting, welding, wiring, painting, plumbing, sewing… the list is endless!

They started their search in 2012 for the right caravan and found it two years later in Whangarei Heads, some 12 hours north.

“The caravan had been located beachside and been stationary for 30 years. Needless to say, she had to be brought back on a trailer, which was a long journey that saw the loss of two windows along the way!”

Old lightsEvery inch of Mabel will be restored from the ground up, “along with a few sympathetic alterations in order for her to take on her new hostess role!”.

“Sandblasting, welding, wiring, painting, plumbing, sewing… the list is endless!”

With their passion for being hands on, Paul and Kylie are planning to do as much of the renovation process as they can themselves. “With the assistance of some talented local engineers and electricians for the tricky technical stuff,” Kylie says.

I believed there was a gap in the local market for boutique and unique goods and services, particularly for the wedding and corporate event market

The hope is to have the finished product looking “classic and romantic with a modern twist”.

Distressed wood, marble and brass – finishes often thought of as strictly ‘permanent dwellings’ – are going to be utilised in creative and refreshing ways.

Mood board 2The ultimate goal is for Mabel to be a “sophisticated and stylish” travelling bar that will be the home and centrepiece of their successful business “Meet Mabel”. Mabel will be ‘met’ and hired for private and corporate events once the renovations are complete, and will be equipped with all the trimmings, “of which many will be built and created by us”. “She will also be available for private photo shoots, dining and select local public events as well.”

“It’s about creating a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!”

Follow Mabel’s journey on here on