Entrepreneur James Tucker started young. At age 12 he had two paper rounds and at 14 he was washing dishes at a local restaurant.
‘‘When I was growing up, if we wanted something we had to go out and work for it.
‘‘It’s a good place to start from.’’
The 34-year-old left school when he was 16 with dreams of being a professional sailor.
After a year he decided it was more of a passion than a career and went into partnership with his marine store boss in Wellington.
The pair bought a food manufacturing company and within five years they increased its turnover by 1000 per cent.
Mr Tucker stumbled across Hell Pizza, which was a small business with one Wellington outlet.
He saw the potential and bought the rights to expand in Auckland. Within 18 months he had seven new stores.
‘‘Hell is a really good New Zealand success story.
‘‘I’ve always had a pretty good head for business. It was just something that I always thought I would end up doing.’’
Mr Tucker got the idea for the salad and sandwich bar Habitual Fix while travelling overseas after the sudden death of his business partner.
He and trained chef Tim Benest spent two years developing the menu before launching.
The pair opened the first store in Auckland’s CBD just one week after the 2008 stockmarket crash.
Luckily the food business is relatively recession-proof, Mr Tucker says.
‘‘It was really unfortunate timing. But by then we were well past the point of no return.’’
He is now focusing on food outlet Mad Mex which he owns the New Zealand devel- opment rights to.
Mr Tucker says budding entrepreneurs need to understand the fine line between their dreams and business realities.
‘‘You need to know when to persevere but you also need to know when to give up. Starting a business from scratch can be painful. I’ve been caught up in that as well.’’
But being his own boss is something Mr Tucker won’t be giving up anytime soon.
He loves the freedom that comes with it, such as ‘‘popping’’ to San Francisco last month to visit old yachting buddies who sail in the Team New Zealand and America’s Cup crews.
‘‘I haven’t had a job since I was 17.
‘‘For me, going to work isn’t like going to work for most people – it’s my passion,’’ he says.
‘‘I like being in control of my own freedom.’’