Episode 5: Leveraging local

Liam Dann
New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large
22 MIN

Lockdown of the borders could have been devastating for two businesses reliant on international tourists. But Richard Ussher from Nelson’s popular Cable Bay Adventure Park and Oscar Rodwell from BONZ, a Queenstown based retailer and manufacturer for New Zealand made apparel are two innovative businesses who weren’t going to let a global pandemic cut them off from their customers. Discover how they engaged their workforce, deconstructed their businesses and found creative ways to leverage a domestic audience. Hear their insights as we continue to work through the ongoing impacts of Covid-19.
Hosted by New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large, Liam Dann.

The guests featured in this podcast are sharing their own views and experiences. As this podcast is for general information purposes only, content should not be relied upon as professional advice.  Always get your own independent advice that takes into account your personal situation. If you’d like to access a transcript of this podcast, you can view it online at blog.bnz.co.nz/podcasts.

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Transcript

Liam Dann:

This podcast brings together two innovative businesses to discuss how they’ve navigated change since lockdown, what they learned, and how they are looking to the future. In this episode, we speak to Oscar Rodwell from BONZ, who manufacture, and retail luxury New Zealand made clothing and accessories, and Richard Ussher from Cable Bay Adventure Park, an outdoor adventure destination in Nelson.

LD:

When New Zealand shut its borders to tourists, both businesses were facing a significant challenge. With borders closed indefinitely, how could they forecast for the future? And what would it take to engage a domestic market? For these businesses, engaging their workforce, deconstructing their operations, and finding creative ways to reach their local community has been key to their survival.

LD:

I’m Liam Dann, New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large. Welcome to BNZ Connect SME.

LD:

The guests featured in this podcast are sharing their own views and experiences. As this podcast is for general information purposes only, content should not be relied upon as professional advice. Always get your own independent advice that considers your personal situation. If you’d like to access a transcript of this podcast, you can view it online at blog.bnz.co.nz/podcasts.

LD:

With me from Nelson, Richard, and Oscar in Queenstown. First, I’d like just to get a bit of background on how you’ve ended up here. Richard, if I start with you, you’ve obviously got a sporting background. And maybe even tell us how you then ended up running this business, the Cable Bay Adventure Park?

Richard Ussher:

Yeah, sure. So my background was, I had about 20 years in professional sport, and starting off in skiing, and then moving into the likes of multi-sport adventure racing and triathlon, and for me, I always knew that there was a relatively finite amount of time that you can actually thrive as an athlete. And so, I was actively looking for ways to diversify and get out of purely being a sport’s person, and I set up a number of smaller businesses with varying degrees of success.

RU:

And then, more recently, I’ve taken on a couple of different roles. I ran the Coast to Coast Motor Sport Race and helped with some new structure and sponsors and like around that, and had some time working in Australia with a start up around artificial intelligence and a few other sort of interesting projects.

RU:

But essentially, ended up at the Cable Bay Adventure Park. Was looking for things to keep me in the Nelson region, with a little bit less travel, and just have a bit more of a base, and was trolling through Trade Me looking for business opportunities and came across this park. And I’d been in Nelson about 12 years and had no idea that it even existed, and for me, that was, I guess what sort of spawned the idea of taking on the challenge and the opportunity that I saw, and that was, it was this amazing asset that had very little profile within the region and it all sort of started from there.

LD:

Sure. So tell us, what does Cable Bay Adventure Park offer? What are the different activities that you’ve got there?

RU:

So, our major activity is a giant flying fox, called the Skywire, which is a 3.2 kilometre flying fox experience. Seats up to four people at a time and goes up to about a 100 kilometres an hour. There’s also quad biking, there’s paintball, lots of mountain biking and e-biking, and we’ve got a licensed cafe onsite. We do a lot of functions and events as well, so it’s quite a diverse business.

LD:

I mean, actually just to jump back, because that sporting career was quite impressive, could you just give us two or three of the highlights there? I know you competed when New Zealand got the Winter Olympics, for example.

RU:

Yeah. So I went to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan for the mogul skiing. I also won a few world titles in adventure racing and multi-sport, and at one time, I was the fastest Ironman in the country as well. The sport was always a passion rather than necessarily a business, so I was always sort of doing things on the side. And I certainly found that, when I stepped away from it, it had got to the point where I was losing the passion and after a new challenge, and business has certainly provided that.

LD:

Sure. And like you said, Adventure Park provides a good fit in terms of being all about those outdoor activities, as well as having the business challenge.

RU:

Yeah. There’s certainly a lot of recreational benefits to have in the park. It’s 500 hectares, so there’s lots. It’s a great big playground, and I think the diversity of the business is something that keeps it really interesting day in and day out.

LD:

Yeah, sure. Look, I’ll switch to Oscar for a minute, because I want to get a bit of background, and then I’ll come back to where you were at with the business when things started to happen with COVID.

LD:

Oscar, tell us a little bit about BONZ, and also your background. I gather you have sort of a tech software background, and so this is high end apparel, quite different really.

Oscar Rodwell:

Yeah, quite different. My background really started in real estate, and I sort of moved into the marketing space in real estate and worked with a few real estate companies here in New Zealand. And I ended up sort of moving into the tech space, and building a couple of start up companies around real estate and for sale by owner, and I got out of the last project a couple of years ago, and moved to BONZ, which was actually a family business, and run then by my mother.

OR:

So I joined the company then really just to try and build an online presence for the business in China, and to try and increase sales to what is our primary customer. And I just ended up loving the business and getting involved.

LD:

Sure. So tell us a bit more about BONZ in detail. So I’ve looked at the website. It’s pretty amazing, jackets and things. We’re talking about high end New Zealand wool and other products, leather products and things. Yeah, take us through that.

OR:

Well, BONZ started with hairnets 35 years ago now and moved into leather garments. So we use a New Zealand local material, called Slink Skin, which is a naturally dying lamb. After they’re all born, at the end of winter there, we get storms through, and it kills a lot of lambs off. All the farmers, now know what Slink Skins are, and we get them processed in Invercargill and we turn them into luxury coats that go all around the world.

LD:

Yeah. And it really is high end luxury stuff. And I guess, to that extent, being based in Queenstown, which is a tourist mecca, and had been just seeing enormous growth in international tourism, had that helped the business?

OR:

Yeah. Look, we’ve had good growth over the years, especially with the Chinese market for the last 10 years. We’ve pivoted, I think, from Japanese to Americans, and now to Chinese. The product is very much orientated toward a tourist customer, which is hard for us now, but it’s good when times are good.

LD:

Yeah. Well, that kind of brings us to the crisis that we’ve all been through. Coming back to you, Richard. So I’m guessing the way that tourism has been going, that the business, you’ve been in it a couple of years, must’ve seen some good growth through to the COVID crisis.

RU:

Yeah, when we took over, it was fair to say that business had very little presence. And so, part of what we did, we rebranded it and put a lot of effort into developing that, and we were growing at about 46% a year, so our biggest problem at the time was actually how to stay on top of that growth. But then, obviously, once the COVID situation hit us, we sort of came to a screeching halt like everyone else in that short space of time. We were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and then all of a sudden, everything got completely shut off.

LD:

Yeah. Can you take us through that, that time? January, February, the news coming out of China just got worse and worse, and there must’ve been a point at which you realised how serious this was. Can you remember where you were and how you felt at that time?

RU:

Yeah. I think Nelson was relatively insulated compared to the likes of Queenstown in talking to friends and operators down in Queenstown over that January, February time, and they were already seeing the major dips in the Chinese markets especially, I think. But Nelson’s quite a unique little market and it’s a little bit off the beaten track. So at least you actually really want to come to Nelson and make an effort, then it gets bypassed by a lot of the mass tourism.

RU:

And Nelson had been having an absolute bumper summer. I think the majority of the operators here were doing record summers, and it was through February as well. But then, there was this undercurrent and commentary coming from other parts of the country, especially Rotorua and Queenstown, just saying, “Look, there’s a massive thing coming.” But for us, I mean, we were still doing record revenues, and then it was like, dang, into the levels and through.

RU:

And so, we didn’t feel like we had a lot of lead in or we didn’t have a lot time to sort of process that hit, and it hit. And yeah, just completely cut off, and we were fortunate in that way, that we weren’t bleeding before we went into that. Things were good, good, good, gone, but I think it was arguably better than the situation that a lot of the industry faced. Where they’d seen that big decline really happening, and then a lot of the Queenstown businesses obviously got hit by that, all the floods in Milford prior as well, so they had a real double whammy.

LD:

Yeah. How was it looking, from your perspective, Oscar? And from your perspective, being based in Queenstown, as the news of COVID started to grow and the concern must’ve been in the community I guess.

OR:

Yeah. It was an interesting time. We sort of got first wind of the almost halt on tourists coming into Queenstown through our tour guides. We work quite closely with all sorts of inbound operators, and they said that the groups had been cancelled, all their trips had been cancelled, and we still had Chinese coming through, FITs, that were traveling alone.

OR:

But the news that all the tour groups had been cancelled at the end of January, for us, was terrifying, because we stuck ourselves up for Chinese New Year, which is our biggest time of the year, and we’re sitting on a whole pile of product and we sell a lot of it to tour groups. And then, after that news, the Chinese borders closed and we were left with a trickle of Americans and Europeans, and then that dried up too.

LD:

Yeah. Do you remember where you were? And I mean, the kind of meetings you must have had to have with staff when you realised that, in the very short-term at least, things were almost shutting down completely?

OR:

Yeah. Well, I remember vividly a meeting with my store manager here in Queenstown, and he came up to me and translated a message from WeChat. It was from the manager of Ctrip, which is a big inbound tour platform, and it said that all of their tours had been cancelled for February, and they were looking at cancelling them for the next few months too. We sort of scrambled to try and work out how we were going to deal with the whole situation.

LD:

Yeah. I mean, it’s obviously and for so many businesses, but the speed at which you had to take evasive action, an enormous challenge. How did you tackle that? Richard, come back to you on that one.

RU:

What we did to start with was just try and take a deep breath and a bit of a step back, and everyone was in the same situation. In some ways, I found it was quite a productive time, because we had no staff and we had no customers. And so, we spent a lot of time essentially deconstructing the business and putting it back together multiple, multiple times, trying to think of all the different scenarios and trying to work out how we made it work from a financial perspective, how did we make it work from a staff perspective, and I think the hardest thing that I found, and I’m still finding, is trying to work out what the future looks like. So trying to make long-term plans or even medium-term plans are very, very difficult, just because no one knows.

LD:

Yeah. Just so much uncertainty around our borders, obviously tourism, travel. I guess as we worked through alert levels, we started to get a little bit more certainty around the domestic side of things, but it seems to be something that we’re all having to cope with. Oscar, can you run me through what your first steps were when we went into that lockdown?

OR:

Well, we’ve got a manufacturing business in Invercargill as well, and so we have retail and manufacturing. We’re vertically integrated. So the retail was easy, because the staff could go home and we allocated some jobs to them while they were at home, and my marketing teams and admin teams were fine. But for manufacturing, it was a big job to try and work out what they could do, so that we could keep production sort of semi-moving. We’ve got a staff across the board that have been with us for 20, 30, 40 years, so we just couldn’t drop the teams. So I guess, for us, it was just trying to work out how we could maximise the staff across the board and try and offload product.

OR:

So we ended up shifting a lot of the machines that were down in the factory to their homes, so that we could continue production of items that didn’t require moving around the factory, simple products like throws and cushions and hats and gloves and all that sort of stuff. And I had a production manager down there that was sort of running the teams and speaking to them constantly. So all this work was going on as a scramble in the last couple of days before we went into level four. I mean, it was a herculean task to sort it all out.

LD:

Yeah. Were you able to keep operating to some extent through those alert levels?

OR:

Yeah. So we ended up producing a knitted Merino face mask. We’ve got a knitwear department as well down in the factory, and I actually knitted a couple of thousand of them and gave them out to locals in Queenstown for free, because we could see our market was diminishing and we’d never really targeted a local market.

OR:

So we saw  a way in, to try,  I guess, offer them something from us so they could see our quality and maybe better understand our brand, and at least it would get them looking at our website and knowing who we were. So the knitwear department opened up actually a couple of days after we went into level four as an essential service, and we actually continued production right through of face masks, which was an interesting time.

LD:

Can you tell us a bit more about switching to masks, to producing these masks? Which is sort of a high end, nice looking version of something which has now become very crucial in the world.

OR:

Yeah. Well, we’ve got machines from Japan. They’re called SHIMA SEIKI machines, and I got an email from SHIMA SEIKI in mid-Jan with a design for a mask. And at that time, we didn’t realise quite where this thing was going, but we sort of put it on the radar way back then, and I sent it across to the design team and got them to start doing some work on it, because there was the potential for this thing to get well out of control.

OR:

We had a whole lot of yarn leftover from the season, or what was to be the season. And so, in the end, we halted all production of knitwear because there was no place for it to go, and we just went full blown into producing these knitted masks. The Merino we’re using for it is ultra-fine New Zealand Merino. It comes all over New Zealand. It’s 17 microns, so it’s really, really thin and really beautiful, beautiful wool.

LD:

And you’re still producing these? And is there potential to expand it?

OR:

There is potential to expand it. We’re making about 600 a day at the moment, and we’re at max capacity at 600, and we’re selling all of them.

LD:

Richard, coming back to you. Just through the alert levels, did you have to shut down completely?

RU:

Yeah. Once we hit level four, we’re a non-essential service, so we were completely shut. We did try and get a little bit of sort of admin work done for those that could do it from home. But the idea is, it’s a very hands on sort of business and it’s all based around experiences at the park. So when we came out of level four into level three, then we were able to bring some staff that can actually start working towards opening up. But yeah, it was still obviously no customers.

RU:

When we came out of the levels, we were quite nervous about whether the phone was even going to ring or if we were going to see anything come through on the website. It started off very, very slowly, and initially our plan was just open on the weekends. It was just very gradually. Every week would be a little bit more. There’d be an extra inquiry. People would start showing up to see if the cafe was open, or if they could jump on the Skywire. And then, it probably took about four weeks before we were able to get back to where there was that demand to be open seven days a week again.

LD:

Yeah. So, Oscar, with BONZ, it’s probably a bit different around the domestic market, because it really is high quality, luxury type products, and I’m imagining that the domestic market is relatively small for the top of the range jackets and fashion wear that you guys make. Is that making it difficult?

OR:

It is making it difficult, yeah. Look, we’ve seen good support from Kiwis as well. We never really get many sales from Kiwis and we’ve sort of been pushing this New Zealand made story, New Zealand materials, lots of New Zealand stuff. And we’ve been getting customers coming into the shop and saying they’ve heard about us from someone and somewhere, talking about masks, and they are buying some product. It’s a lot less than we’re used to, but we’re grateful for any of it.

LD:

Yeah. So I mean, have you had to shift the product mix a little to tailor it towards a more domestic market? Or is the goal to try, and I guess expand the online side of things?

OR:

Yeah, I guess both. We’ve been working on different product. We have been doing some more price conscious fabric type garments, lots of knitwear, cheaper knitwear. That has been selling to locals. And there’s been a huge push for online for us. We’ve been working with the KOLs and all sorts of stuff that we  weren’t doing in China beforehand to try and drive traffic to our website. We moved our hosting of our website to Hong Kong to make it a bit faster for our Chinese customers. And yeah, but it’s been okay for us,

LD:

I guess that the start up experience is probably good in the sense that, in a way, you’re having to sort of rule a line and almost reset the business as like a start up medley from a platform of great product, but the nature of the business is quite different.

OR:

Yeah. Quite different, but it was a good challenge. It was actually quite a fun time in many ways, for us to adapt so quickly in so many different areas. We’ve been primarily retail, and now we’re primarily online. I mean, it’s happened so fast.

LD:

Yeah. Richard, for you, I mean, I guess it’s not such a complete reinvention. But in terms of thinking about resetting the business and the strategic thinking, did you get out for long runs and that kind of stuff?

RU:

Well, I have to confess. It’s not that hard self-isolating on a 500 hectare property. But one of the big changes for us is that, when we took over the company and rebranded it and I guess reinvented it on top of a similar platform, our big focus had been on growth, and growing the brand and trying to, I guess get market penetration in that way. And then, when we sat down and looked at it, and then looked at where we had managed to get the brand and the product to, we’d been able to progress that quite well. But we were obviously worried about cash flow and things like that coming out the other side. And so we made quite a big shift to actually a really lean operation and being really focused on profitability rather than just on revenue growth and trying to grow our brand.

RU:

And as we dug into the numbers, we were able to find a whole lot of really sweet spots within the business that we could bring it back to and give us some nice goals, especially around customer experience and the numbers of customers we’re putting through and at what price points. And my whole lockdown was pretty much based around pulling all of those different parts of the business apart, and then trying to find where was that sweet spot in each area of the business, and then going away and talking to various people about what we’re finding. And it was incredibly useful from the business point of view, and I think it’s going to mean that the business, going forward, is going to be in a really good place.

LD:

Yeah. It’s interesting. I’ll ask you to talk about using the word fun. What a lot of business people have found is that the singular focus at that time, you obviously have that experience from the sporting world of having these big goals in front of you.

RU:

Yeah. I definitely agree with Oscar, that there is a huge element of fun in the business side of it, and I think you’ve just got to treat it like a big game. Obviously, there is certain consequences if you get it wrong, but I found it really, really engaging, and then you get the same reward that you do from achieving in any other field. You just don’t have to put yourself through quite as much physical pain as sport.

LD:

Oscar, now that we’ve moved on a bit, do you feel optimistic about the next few months?

OR:

Yeah. Look, the next few months. I think we’ll be okay. Winter here in New Zealand, we’ll continue to get some sales in retail. After that, as we head into summer wear, we’re a winter product, I mean, our biggest time of the year is our summer, when all the tourists come over from the Northern Hemisphere cold and buy our product. So this pivot to online will no doubt give us some good sales through that period, but if the borders don’t reopen for another year, which looks probably to be the case, then we’ll have a hard time in summer, for sure.

LD:

Yeah. So the pressure to develop that online side will be quite intense, I guess.

OR:

Yeah, really intense.

LD:

Yeah. And how do you deal with that, the fact that there’s that big area where you’ve just got no control, I guess, and you have to accept at the moment?

OR:

Yeah. Well, it’s completely outside of our control. The only thing we can do is just try and adapt and change and hope that we can try and get some borders open. I guess we’re just really focusing on contacting our past customers, talking to them about the new stuff that we’re doing, and trying to promote sales to people that have seen us in retail and that know the brand. Because for luxury, it’s impossible, well it’s not impossible, but it is difficult to find new customers online, so we’re just leveraging our past customers to try and build some sales.

LD:

Yeah. I mean, that idea of using networks, are people being supportive and helpful in terms of the wider business network and community that you deal with?

OR:

Totally. Yep, totally. We’ve had good support. We focus on a really high end luxury retail experience, so those that come here, they get a full intro to the brand. They then know who we are. We try and assign them a salesperson, so getting in contact with them and saying, “Hey look, we’re having a hard time down here in New Zealand with no tourists. Just to let you know, we’re doing all these new products, and if you’d like to purchase them, we can do custom sizes and all that sort of stuff. But we’re trying to get them to introduce us to their friends and family and stuff too, which is working.

LD:

Sure. And, Richard, for you, have there been people that you’ve been able to rely on in the wider network and business community to bounce ideas for support, I guess?

RU:

Yeah. Nelson’s got a real community, really good little business community up here, and they’ve been really proactive, especially over lockdown. There was a lot of emails and phone calls and Zoom calls going out trying to ensure that everyone was really well connected and had support there. We are part of a little collective up here, called Extraordinary Experiences, which has a number of different operators, and everyone’s been bouncing ideas around and looking at how we can bond and focus offerings on the domestic travellers, and there’s been a lot of stuff that I think has fallen out of that, that will have long-term benefits once the international travellers do come back.

RU:

And then, on the non-tourism side, I think one of the realisations has been just about how interconnected all of the different businesses are, from the hospitality sector, the accommodation sector, the activity sector, and then what it drives into a small place, like the Nelson region.

LD:

And then, on that question of the next few months, great deal of uncertainty about international tourism. But within the parameters that you’re looking at for the rest of the year, how are you feeling about it?

RU:

Yeah. We’re feeling a lot more positive than we were, it’s still very hard to go. “We think, this is going to happen, or, that’s going to happen,” but I guess the thing that gives me a lot of confidence over probably the next six months at least, is that Nelson is traditionally quite a domestic focused market, especially over the summer, where we’re finding it a lot harder to forecast, because once we start getting out of that peak summer period into next autumn and winter and that being potentially the real crux for us in terms of where it’s going to be the most difficult for us in the next period.

LD:

Yeah. That’s where we’d be all hoping that there’s some progress on this whole situation I guess. I would like to ask you both to reflect on the experience, because touch wood, let’s hope that this is a baptism of fire, dramatic extreme business circumstances that you may only have to face once in a lifetime. And so, Oscar, starting with you, are there lessons that you feel like you’ve learned through this process? Are there things that you would consider doing differently if you had the time again?

OR:

Yeah. I mean, there’s been lots of learnings here. We had no stock in the local market before, but I think that Kiwis are interested in buying a locally made product from local materials. So it’s been a good journey and there’s been some good learnings for us.

LD:

Yeah. I mean, in terms of advice that you might give people more generally about coping with that kind of change, do you have any thoughts on what you would say to other businesses going through this kind of thing?

OR:

Well, I don’t know. I guess I just never got pessimistic about the whole situation, and I tried to lift our whole team up and just look forward I guess. We didn’t waste time pondering on how awful the time was and how businesses are falling apart. We just looked at opportunities and keeping the whole team focused on a goal moving forward was really good.

LD:

Sure. Certainly maintaining a sense of momentum seems to be pretty crucial.

OR:

Exactly.

LD:

Richard, how about you? I mean, lessons you’ve learned along the way from the thick of this?

RU:

I mean, the one thing that we always kept in mind is that the issues that were surrounding the business were of our making, and everyone had just been sort of dumped into this pot, this COVID pot, where everything had shut down, and the issues that were happening with the business weren’t fundamentally driven by something we’d done wrong with the business, and I think that helped, I think it helped us really keep quite a positive mindset around that.

RU:

And then, the things that we learned out of it were definitely around understanding our product and our market better. We had grown, grown really fast. And so, look, we were struggling to find time, as much time as we should’ve, to be spending actually on the business and drilling into all those little things and strategising, and we were pretty much just going with the flow because we didn’t have the head space to do anything else.

RU:

And so, that was the most valuable thing that came out of the enforced lockdown, but for us, it was actually having time to peel back all those layers and really critique every part of it, and certainly made all of us involved with the business a lot more financially savvy. We had to understand, with a much greater level of detail, all of those different scenarios and what all the different parts of the financial calculations mean. So just the whole understanding at a much deeper level of the business and what the drivers were and the opportunities.

LD:

Sure. I mean, I think about how tough this was as well. I mean, I’ve never done an Ironman, but I have run a marathon. I know that, in sports like that, there is often moments where you question yourself, dark moments where you’re about to hit the wall and you have to push through it. Were there times like that with this? Or did you feel like the challenge just kept you moving along?

RU:

I think certainly at the very start, it felt quite insurmountable, we’d kinda put our entire life or everything that we had into trying to get the park, and we’d spent two years putting our heart and souls into it. The initial gut reaction was it was all about to just disappear. But exactly on what you’re saying is, I think that’s one of the attributes that you have to have as a business owner, is that resilience and that ability to basically break it down and be objective and reset your goals and your pathways, and then to move forward.

RU:

And we definitely found that in racing. We used to have a saying, “Well, if it’s tough for us, how tough is it for everyone else?” And it was just a way to make you feel a little bit better about what your situation is and to stay positive when you could be a little bit more pessimistic. And I think those are the times when people make the conscious decision to that they’re either going to suck it up and do whatever it takes to make it through, or they’re just going to fold, and those are the defining moments in a lot of businesses I believe.

LD:

Sure. Yeah. I mean, Oscar, I would assume that the hope for you guys is that you readjust the business to be more than just the walk-in traffic.

 OR:

Yeah, exactly. We’ve unfortunately had to do some redundancies and the business has become a little leaner. We’ve only just done them now, because of the end of the COVID subsidy period. But yeah, we have refined our business through this whole thing, and we’ve looked at where the profits are coming from. And we sort of did a big deep dive into who our customers were and why they were buying and what they were buying, so we can refine our product moving forward. It’s been a good time to look at everything.

LD:

That’s great, guys, I’ve got a question that we’ve been asking everybody. If you can reflect on a business or a business person that inspires you, and maybe that you’ve drawn on during this experience?

RU:

Yeah, certainly. So one business that really inspired me over the lockdown was a company called Kaituna Rafting, and it’s run by a guy called Sam Sutton, who’s an amazing kayaker. And they basically were in the same position as what we were, where level four hit, they’re all gone. They actually switched all of their river rafting guides and things like that to building edible backyard planter box and things like that. So totally changed the focus of the business. They’re all kind of handy guys and girls, and I just thought that was a real example of Kiwi ingenuity and just basically doing whatever it takes for the business to survive. I just thought that was something for me that really personified that.

LD:

Great. Oscar, for you, a business that inspires you or a business person that inspires you?

OR:

Well, I guess through this period, we were looking at what global fashion players were doing and how they were coping. For me, I was watching the Kering Group, which is like Gucci, and I’m sitting around and just seeing how they changed their approach. They cancelled all their runway shows and they’re moving into a much more sustainable approach to pitching their product to their customers, which is a first mover, and a good way for fashion to move forward. Yeah.

LD:

That’s great, guys. Richard, Oscar, it’s been fascinating to discuss your businesses. Thanks. Thanks for your time.

OR:

Thank you.

RU:

Thank, Liam.

LD:

This Connect SME podcast was brought to you by BNZ, in association with the Business Herald. Subscribe to the series to hear more stories of SME businesses, who have navigated a sudden change as a result of COVID-19. Hear about the decisions they made and the lessons they learned along the way. Resources, links, and transcripts of this podcast can be found at blog.bnz.co.nz/podcasts.

Liam Dann
New Zealand Herald Business Editor at Large
Liam Dann is one of the country’s most respected business journalists and has been a business editor for the New Zealand Herald for more than 10 years. He writes opinion and commentary covering markets, economics and politics and is host of the weekly Economy Hub video show.