GRIT ‘N GRACE

KEEP­ING THE FAITH AND PAS­SION ALIVE DUR­ING A RE­LO­CA­TION WAS A TRUE CHAL­LENGE FOR PARNELL STORE OWNER KIM HELAS, WRITES SARAH SPARKS.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - SARAH SPARKS IS AN AUCKLANDBASED FREE­LANCE WRITER. EMAIL SARAHPSPARKS@ GMAIL.COM

S

ome time ago while work­ing as a char­tered ac­coun­tant in the UK, Kim Helas had an un­ful­filled dream. “All th­ese guys came in with th­ese boxes. I thought if they can run their own busi­ness – why can’t I?” That’s where her busi­ness idea all started, she re­calls.

In­spi­ra­tion fi­nally came through a visit to Italy. See­ing the beau­ti­ful sta­tionery sold there pro­vided the nec­es­sary spark to launch Pas­sion For Paper in Auck­land al­most 22 years ago.

Like a typ­i­cal busi­ness owner, Kim does ev­ery­thing ‘hands-on’ – from prod­uct sourc­ing, or­der­ing, pric­ing and ware­hous­ing to mer­chan­dis­ing.

Her rev­er­ence for past tra­di­tions and man­ners in­stilled from a young age around ac­knowl­edg­ing oth­ers were key busi­ness driv­ers. She could see an op­por­tu­nity caused by “ev­ery­thing go­ing elec­tronic”.

“When peo­ple want to write a let­ter or a thank-you note they want some­thing nice – it’s el­e­vated peo­ple so when they do it, it’s more of a cer­e­mo­nial type of process.”

To­day her in­ven­tory sourced from around the globe is all-en­com­pass­ing. Pas­sion For Paper clients also use pa­pers for de­coupage, book bind­ing, and a mul­ti­tude of other cre­ative en­deav­ours. Then there is the ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of premium stock in­vi­ta­tions for wed­dings and par­ties. Kim’s sup­pli­ers are hand-picked, usu­ally from fam­ily busi­nesses span­ning mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions with prove­nance.

“That’s an at­trac­tion for me – I look for legacy with a his­tory be­hind it.”

Four years ago, a his­tor­i­cal fac­tor within her own busi­ness proved to be a test in self-be­lief.

The store orig­i­nally opened its doors in a Vic­to­rian-style Parnell build­ing built in the 1880s.

By 2014 Kim needed to move out to al­low re­fur­bish­ing and earth­quake strength­en­ing.

For 12 months af­ter va­cat­ing, Pas­sion For Paper traded on­line only.

“Af­ter be­ing told it would take a year and then com­ing to the re­al­i­sa­tion in July 2015 it was nowhere near be­ing com­plete, I had to make an­other de­ci­sion on what to do,” she says.

In frus­tra­tion she looked around at other re­tail premises. How­ever, loy­alty to the build­ing kept bring­ing her back to the same lo­ca­tion.

Across the road was plan B. “I se­cured a tem­po­rary lease mov­ing for four months, in the­ory. Two years later I was still there.”

Fi­nally in Septem­ber of 2017 she moved back into her orig­i­nal ad­dress. The land­lord had strength­ened, rewired and re­con­fig­ured all four sto­ries of the her­itage-sta­tus struc­ture. And while the build­ing trans­formed, Pas­sion For Paper had trans­formed as well.

Kim had used the tem­po­rary, larger space to have fun. There were in­au­gu­ral events brain­stormed with other ar­ti­sans, rang­ing from jew­ellers to florists. Tea tast­ings with ed­i­ble gold nib­bles show­cased fine Ital­ian stock­ing fillers.

“For me it’s just an­other ex­per­i­ment that I know I can do – lit­tle ideas come to me,” she ex­plains. “I like col­lab­o­ra­tions cre­at­ing new ex­pe­ri­ences with prod­ucts com­ing to­gether.”

A lo­cal in­sti­tu­tion, Cartier For Flow­ers even cre­ated or­chid flo­ral ha­los donned by pets and pho­tographed on premise to raise funds for the SPCA.

Upon re­flec­tion Kim wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s been the worst three years, yet the best three years of my life,” she ad­mits. The dis­rup­tion strength­ened her pa­tience and taught her how to go straight to the core of an is­sue with­out emo­tion.

Hang­ing in there with grace wait­ing, was the right choice. Cus­tomers flowed back re­ward­ing Kim’s con­vic­tions.

“It proved that I’d made the right de­ci­sion – to al­ways go with my in­stinct even though you nat­u­rally start to doubt it. Espe­cially when things don’t start to pan out as quickly as you want them to,” she says.

The en­ergy of the re­opened build­ing was like a mag­net. The high ceil­ing, the light com­bined with beau­ti­ful prod­uct, mu­sic and fra­grances waft­ing down the road from one of the old­est phar­ma­cies in the world (Of­fic­ina Pro­fumo Far­ma­ceu­tica di Santa Maria Novella), drew fa­mil­iar faces back in. “The amaz­ing thing about be­ing out of that shop for so long was the amount of peo­ple say­ing ‘ thank good­ness you’re back in Parnell – we’ve re­ally missed you’,” she says.

“It was a good re­minder to keep the faith in your own in­tu­ition.”

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