Caden­shae is a story about a thriv­ing North­land busi­ness. It’s also about love, fam­ily ties and a life well lived.

In the pic­turesque North­land sea­side com­mu­nity of One Tree Point, Nikki and Adam Clarke are build­ing a fas­t­ex­pand­ing global busi­ness while rais­ing three young chil­dren with a fourth on the way.

To boot they em­ploy all four of their par­ents in the busi­ness and have trans­formed their pre­vi­ous lives as per­sonal train­ers and a former rugby pro­fes­sional (Adam) to start a busi­ness sell­ing ac­tivewear for breast­feed­ing moth­ers.

And this three-year-old com­pany is no min­ion. Caden­shae is on tar­get to turn over $4 mil­lion this year – up from the $300,000 turnover in their first year.

The busi­ness is named af­ter the cou­ple’s el­dest daugh­ter Caden Shae, now aged four. She was closely fol­lowed by an­other daugh­ter Ryan and the cou­ple’s first son Kace, now 18 months old. Nikki was 40 weeks preg­nant and ex­pect­ing a sec­ond son any day when

NZBusi­ness spoke to the cou­ple. It was af­ter Caden was born that the idea for the busi­ness hit Nikki. As a per­sonal trainer she’s an ac­tive per­son, loves to ex­er­cise and she wanted to re­turn to work quite quickly. De­spite sev­eral months scour­ing the In­ter­net, she couldn’t find any nurs­ing bras that suited a young mum want­ing to be ac­tive and ex­er­cis­ing but able to breast­feed as, and when, needed.

And this, she re­alised, was a ma­jor gap in the mar­ket – lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Cue 14 months later and Caden­shae was born, with ac­tivewear, nurs­ing bras and other gar­ments de­signed by Nikki and man­u­fac­tured in China.

They now have three sup­pli­ers in China and while it was hard find­ing the right sup­pli­ers they be­lieve that in some ways their naivety worked well. They ap­proached a huge num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers and had a lot of sam­ples made be­fore de­cid­ing.

It was all done by email. Nei­ther of the cou­ple have been to China, as yet. Nikki

jokes she has been ei­ther preg­nant or breast feed­ing for the past four years so it made a trip im­pos­si­ble, but they have still man­aged to build up strong re­la­tion­ships and trust with their Chi­nese sup­pli­ers through email and Skype.

Two of their sup­pli­ers are smaller com­pa­nies, which means Caden­shae is a big client.

Nikki is proud that their busi­ness means one of the sup­pli­ers is do­ing well enough to now have her chil­dren liv­ing with her in the city, rather than at home with grand­par­ents in a ru­ral area, as is the case with many Chi­nese fam­i­lies.

Nikki says their small sup­pli­ers are very hands-on and will ring if some­thing has gone wrong.

“You do hear some hor­ror sto­ries, but we haven’t had any is­sues.”

The nurs­ing bras and other ac­tive ma­ter­nity wear are sold world­wide. While New Zealand is the core mar­ket, there’re good cus­tomer bases in Aus­tralia, Canada (where they now have an agent) and in­creas­ingly in the US, UK and parts of Europe.

And yes, Nikki is the model grac­ing the Caden­shae web­site. While she had done a lit­tle mod­el­ing, it was a prac­ti­cal de­ci­sion be­cause it’s more con­ve­nient not hav­ing to time the pho­tog­ra­phy and styling around any­one else’s sched­ule. It also saves money.

A fam­ily af­fair

Both sets of par­ents now work in the busi­ness, with Adam’s par­ents hav­ing moved up from South­land. All three cou­ples live within close prox­im­ity and Nikki and Adam have also bought a ware­house just down the road from home.

Adam says all four par­ents have a good eye for de­tail and ad­mits they still get bossed around by the parental units. “We say to them, this is the job, you guys do it how you want to.”

Ini­tially the busi­ness grew much more quickly than ex­pected and with two young daugh­ters in tow “we were all over the place at one stage,” re­calls Adam. They quickly re­alised he was needed in the busi­ness full time too.

Nikki says Adam went from be­ing a pro­fes­sional rugby player, to per­sonal trainer, to chief bra packer in a pretty short pe­riod. His pro­fes­sional play­ing days were spent in his home re­gion of South­land and then in Perth. He re­turned to North­land af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken neck in Perth and, af­ter a stint with the North­land team, be­came a per­sonal trainer.

Nikki’s ca­reer path has in­cluded the Army, Air­force, beauty ther­apy and per­sonal train­ing.

The cou­ple met in Au­gust 2012 in North­land. Caden was born the fol­low­ing Oc­to­ber and in the past six years they’ve only been apart five days. They some­how man­aged to squeeze in a wed­ding last year and love work­ing to­gether and man­ag­ing the chil­dren and house­hold to­gether. Nikki calls Adam ‘Su­per­man’. As to mar­ket­ing, when they started they grew so rapidly they found word-of-mouth was all that was needed. But in the past eight months they’ve started to push the brand out more.

Adam says they are try­ing to be ‘smart’ about growth, as they had peo­ple warn them how im­por­tant cash­flow is in a young busi­ness.

Asked about chal­lenges, Nikki says “the kids” in jest. But lo­gis­tics has been dif­fi­cult.

As a young mum Nikki knew when you buy some­thing on­line you want it de­liv­ered straight away and that wasn’t hap­pen­ing at first. Some­times clients waited two weeks for a gar­ment to ar­rive.

They’ve since brought DHL on board which has a driver go­ing to One Tree Point twice a day to pick up and de­liver. The driver will col­lect the pack­ages in the morn­ing and they’ll ar­rive in Syd­ney or Perth the next day. Quick de­liv­ery is now an­other sell­ing point.

An­other chal­lenge is en­sur­ing the right stock lev­els so man­u­fac­tur­ing keeps pace with sales.

And be­ing in North­land has been a bonus. They don’t be­lieve they would have been able to get the busi­ness off the ground in a larger cen­tre with higher costs and over­heads.

“We didn’t know what we were do­ing and just tried to find the best way of do­ing things that we could,” re­calls Adam.

Nikki ad­vises other start-ups to keep an eye on the end goal and on why you are do­ing it.

“My main rea­son was solv­ing a prob­lem for ac­tive mums,” she says.

It’s been a steep learn­ing curve. Their first ship­ment was held up for a long time at the bor­der as Nikki didn’t know about im­porter codes.

“But if there is a way to do it, in the end if you keep go­ing, you will al­ways get there.”

Adam says it is worth not­ing too that you can have kids when cre­at­ing a busi­ness.

“Any­thing is pos­si­ble with hard work. And hav­ing a smart wife helps as well.”

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