Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Kiwi Expats Blog

Wild One | Monique Hemmingson's Personal Story and Why She Came Home to Start Her Dream Cafe in Mount Maunganui
3 May 2017
Wild One | Monique Hemmingson's Personal Story and Why She Came Home to Start Her Dream Cafe in Mount Maunganui

Since opening its doors in June 2016, Wild One Wholefoods Eatery has joined the ranks among Mount Maunganui’s most popular cafés. Wild One stands out for its health-conscious and environmentally-friendly ethos, serving up a mean vegan version of a charcuterie board, heavenly cinnamon waffles and killer coffee.

The café is the brain child of Monique Hemmingson, a Waikato native who, for many years, called the Coromandel home. During her years spent travelling the globe, Monique developed severe digestive problems that lead her to discover the incredible healing power of food. She also realised that food establishments catering to those on restricted diets are in short supply the world over.

Monique purposfully moved to the Mount to open her cafe, believing that the local community would suit the business's philosophy well. As she celebrates her first anniversary, it seems locals couldn’t agree more: a healthy and eco-friendly café is an asset in the Mount Maunganui community.

Let’s hear from Monique.

Can you describe Wild One in a nutshell?

Wild One Wholefoods Eatery embraces the little bit of wild in all of us. We serve fresh nourishing food that is good for you and the world around you. We offer healthy alternatives to your favourite foods without sacrificing taste or enjoyment.

Wild One is for everyone: specific diet restrictions or not, vegan or not, gluten-free or not. I wanted people who have negative stigmas attached to this type of food to come along and realise that it’s not so scary or crazy, it’s actually pretty damn good!

I wanted a place of high standards that everyone could enjoy and that encouraged good habits. I believe conscious consumerism is more important than ever and I wanted to create a place that proves it’s possible to eat well without it being this huge, all-sacrificing, preachy battle.

What appealed about Mount Maunganui?

I moved to the Mount specifically to open Wild One: I felt it was a good target audience for a health café. I knew the Mount well from my childhood in the Waikato and I thought it was a perfect balance of lifestyle and it suited the business ethos well.

What I didn’t know at the time was that a large portion of the Mount is run by small businesses; getting involved in this local business community has been hugely positive. With so many small business operators, there is a lot of empathy as everyone is in the same boat. That immediately sets a precedent of respect, which is incredibly important. 

The Mount town is really special and unique and I have been surprised by how close knit the community is here. I like how Mount locals strive for a beautiful work-life balance; I’m trying to achieve that for myself.

Can you tell us about your time overseas?

After getting a degree in journalism and marketing, I worked briefly in journalism before heading overseas. I fell in love with and found a lot of freedom in travel. I spent a year in New York, travelling throughout Canada and America during that time; for six months I travelled across Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia; I lived in London for two years and travelled extensively around Europe and a little of Africa. Travel has been a huge part of my life and it is important to me to always find time for it.

Whilst travelling, I discovered that working long hours in seasonal hospitality roles was a good way to save for more travel, so I gained a lot of food industry experience over those years.

How did your travels inspire Wild One?

While travelling in Asia, I became quite ill with giardia which was closely followed by salmonella. I kept backpacking and didn’t look after myself or my body which, in turn, manifest as a really messed up digestive tract that caused a lot of trouble for years.

It was during this difficult time that the dream of opening this café was born, but I wanted to wait until I was truly ready before jumping in.

My poor digestive health led me to do a lot of research and trial and error to make myself well again. I learnt a lot about what’s really in our food and it's truly terrifying; it blew my mind that it was so normalised and accepted in society.

I found it really hard worldwide to find places where I could actually eat now that I was on this strict elimination diet. All of this contributed to the idea of opening a place where everyone could eat and where everything was made on site from scratch without nasties.

What do you think has attributed to the success of your café?

I believe that a business must have a unique selling point: there’s no point doing something that is already being done well. Because there’s not a lot of food around like Wild One, it has really carved out its own niche market. It helps that healthy eating has become trendy. If I had opened this a few years ago when I first looked at commercial leases at the Mount, I probably would have struggled. I also think that passion is important: people can feel the passion and care that surrounds Wild One, which makes it a nice experience all round.

Plus, the food is ridiculously delicious!

I have an amazing chef who will create anything my rumbling tummy desires and makes it “me friendly”, plus I follow a lot of cafes and foodies from all over the world for inspiration.

How has the business evolved over the past year?

The first few months in business were pretty overwhelming, but the close-knit, supportive community of Mount business owners really helped. As Wild One approaches its first anniversary, I am working on finding more free time and getting more involved in networking.

I have found that business has a funny way of showing you your weaknesses. Learning how to overcome these is a slow process and can be stressful when there is a lot at stake.

What are some of your favourite places to dine in Tauranga?

Eating out is difficult for me due to my dietary restrictions, but I have found a few local places that I really enjoy. Satori Lounge is delicious for dinner, George café and Grindz are cafes with good options for me. I love places with their own vibe and niche, like Spongedrop Cakery.

What do you do to have fun and relax in your new life here?

I’ve turned into a real homebody for the first time in my life. Grounding myself has been nice and I think, in time, I will find a perfect balance. 

Although we don't get heaps of it these days, I love spending quality time with my boyfriend. He works locally as a builder and is an unwavering and solid source of support with an incredibly logical head on his shoulders.

I enjoy winding down at home with a good book and going for evening walks with our puppy down the beach. It’s the little things.


Gets You Thinking Doesn't It?

No-one can tell you when you're ready for a change of lifestyle...but when you are, we'd love to have you in Tauranga!

1. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

2. Subscribe to our montly e-newsletter to receive stories just like this one about people who have already made the big move you are thinking of making. 

3. Have a story to share? We love sharing your sea-change or homecoming stories. Email me at kathryn@priorityone.co.nz to start a conversation.

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz


Looking for work in Tauranga?

Send me your CV and a 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesess who are on the lookout for good people. Priority One is not a recruitment agency, but as the economic development agency for the region we seek to make connections for people where we can. There is no charge for this service.

Email me at annie@priorityone.co.nz.

Annie Hill | Priority One
Communications/Project Manager

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You


Ready for a better work/life balance in a vibrant, growing, sea-side city?

We'd love to have you in Tauranga!


Contact Annie

Contact Annie

Need help? Contact Annie

Send us your 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesses who are on the lookout for good people! annie@priorityone.co.nz

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You


Ready for a better work/life balance in a vibrant, growing, sea-side city?

We'd love to have you in Tauranga!


Visit us on

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About Kathryn

About Kathryn


Kathryn Overall is the friendly voice behind the 'Wish You Were Working Here' stories and Facebook posts.  Each month she chats with returned Kiwi expats,  Auckland imports and New Zealand immigrants who have moved to Tauranga, collecting their stories and advice to share with you. 

CLICK HERE to read her own story of reluctant homecoming!


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