Men­tor­ing helps pair

Manawatu Guardian - - NEWS - By JEMMA BRACKEBUSH CEDA Com­mu­ni­ca­tions

As Amy Fowler and Kelvin Gilbert walked down Ge­orge St early last year, they re­alised their dream of open­ing their own bou­tique de­sign agency could be­come a re­al­ity in Palmer­ston North.

The cre­ative duo, both dig­i­tal artists, met while study­ing de­sign at Ucol be­fore work­ing for a string of com­pa­nies and then for them­selves, based from home.

“We walked past the va­cant shop and said to each other, ‘why don’t we take the plunge and see what it costs’?” Amy said.

Af­ter a phone call to the real es­tate agent and a flex­i­ble land­lord al­low­ing a one-year lease com­pared to an ini­tial three-year lease, which they were hes­i­tant to com­mit to, they signed on the dot­ted line and the space be­came theirs.

To­day, the Ori­gin Eight sign stands out against the cherry blos­som trees that line the street. They have been op­er­at­ing for 16 months and are a prom­i­nent ad­di­tion to the col­lec­tion of owner­op­er­ated bou­tiques that call the quaint Ge­orge St home. Ori­gin Eight is one of 11,700 busi­nesses in the Manawatu¯ re­gion, and one of 51 new busi­nesses that have started since March 2016, ac­cord­ing to MBIE.

“For a long time we have wanted to open our own agency and have a cre­ative hub. We had dis­cussed set­ting up in Welling­ton, but the costs and over­heads would not have been fea­si­ble,” Kelvin said.

They cou­ple say they love the cre­ative cul­ture within Palmer­ston North and at times you just need to scratch the sur­face to find it.

Start­ing a busi­ness came with its chal­lenges. The cou­ple knew their cre­ative strengths, but as their client base grew they needed as­sis­tance with grow­ing their busi­ness skills.

“Start­ing a busi­ness was nervewrack­ing,” said Kelvin, with Amy ad­ding, “There’s a lot to think about all the time and we didn’t imag­ine it be­ing like that when we jumped into it.

“We thought we were just go­ing to do fun cre­ative stuff all the time, but you must be ev­ery­thing: the ac­count man­ager, the cre­ative, the sales per­son, the cof­fee maker,” she laughed.

They be­gan ex­plor­ing men­tor­ing and con­sul­tancy ser­vices that were “mind­bog­gling ex­pen­sive”.

They con­nected with CEDA busi­ness growth ad­viser Brian Sami who helped iden­tify ways they could de­velop their skills.

CEDA’s busi­ness men­tor­ing ser­vice ap­pealed and they were soon matched with lo­cal ac­coun­tant and busi­ness coach Hec­tor Bas­sett. The cou­ple wanted some­one to bounce ideas with, give guid­ance and help them to take cal­cu­lated risks.

Work­ing with Hec­tor led them to pre­pare a money man­age­ment sys­tem and bet­ter client pro­cesses. He also helped them to de­velop ways to de­liver their ideas to clients and be more con­fi­dent when pre­sent­ing and dis­cussing costs.

“We feel like Hec­tor’s not just chal­leng­ing the things we are say­ing, he is vouch­ing for us, too. Know­ing you can rely on that sup­port gives us peace of mind,” said Amy.

To­day, most of Ori­gin Eight’s work is lo­cal, but they have plans to ex­pand into neigh­bour­ing re­gions and grow their team. The con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of high­ways link­ing Palmer­ston North with Welling­ton and the op­por­tu­ni­ties that closer con­nec­tion to the cap­i­tal will bring, is ex­cit­ing for them.

Busi­ness men­tor Hec­tor Bas­sett says see­ing the cou­ple’s un­der­stand­ing of busi­ness growth de­velop is ex­tremely re­ward­ing.

“I’ve been able to help in two ways and that’s driven by their will­ing­ness to ask for help. So many peo­ple don’t ask for help and they were coura­geous enough to know they needed it.”

The big­gest dif­fer­ence now, he said, is their fi­nan­cial aware­ness and their abil­ity to learn and ap­ply ba­sic busi­ness prin­ci­ples which have re­sulted in fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits.

“They have re­alised their num­bers aren’t just a great big hole, they were able to man­age things them­selves with a lit­tle bit of help.”

Hec­tor says men­tor­ing is as much about learn­ing as it is teach­ing.

“It is very sat­is­fy­ing to pass on my knowl­edge and wis­dom and see oth­ers ben­e­fit from it. It is con­trib­utes to my on­go­ing train­ing and de­vel­op­ment; teach­ing oth­ers helps me un­der­stand what I can do bet­ter.”

■ For more in­for­ma­tion on how CEDA can sup­port your busi­ness:


Ori­gin 8 cre­ative duo Kelvin Gilbert and Amy Fowler.

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