A business approach that’s all substance
HOME AND LIFESTYLE ACCESSORIES RETAILER REDCURRENT IS A BUSINESS BUILT ON SOLID VALUES. SARAH SPARKS RIDES THE ROLLERCOASTER OF ‘ GRIT AND GRACE’ WITH CO-FOUNDER REBECCA KAIN.
R edcurrent celebrated its 19th birthday in August. From humble beginnings in a shed behind the once farming family homestead, today it has morphed into a national chain of 13 stores (soon to be 14), an online business and 50,000 ‘ Redfriends’.
“We’re all about a little bit of beautiful to take home,” says co-founder Rebecca Kain.
That ethos has obviously struck a chord with a market wanting globally sourced home and lifestyle accessories.
“You could say it’s in the blood. I’m from a long line of New Zealand women, particularly my mother and grandmothers who loved making their homes beautiful – it’s been like osmosis,” Rebecca continues.
It’s evident strong family ties and values are also imbued through the company. The other co-founder is Audrey McHardy and her husband Hamish. Rebecca’s father provided the initial seed capital for the first store in Hawke's Bay.
The loan was repaid in full after the first year thanks to trading in pashmina shawls that “sold like gold” – a popularity that totally mystified the company accountant at the time, Rebecca recalls.
She says “making do with what you’ve got and adding to it” is one of Redcurrent’s signature philosophies.
“We’re not formulaic; telling anyone how to live. It’s all about layering the old with the new.”
Repeat customers, mainly women, continue to snap up items ranging from $10 to $1000. “We’re all about beauty. Even that $10 gift is gorgeously wrapped because we celebrate the small things in life.”
Aesthetics aside, Rebecca’s business approach is all substance. Lessons in the importance of character and tenacity learnt from her pragmatic farming family based in Hawke’s Bay and South Canterbury have strongly shaped the founder’s style.
Some of the toughest times were opening stores whilst heavily pregnant. “I was always having babies and opening stores. It was incredibly difficult,” she says. “The physical and mental stamina required was enormous”.
There were tears, she admits, before quoting Winston Churchill: “I never, never give up”.
“It’s really hard at times – really hard – to have a good business. I’m lucky I have these amazing examples of family around me who have not given up. That’s one of the key strengths of people in business who have done well – boring but it’s true.”
Another testing time was the 2010 Canterbury earthquake which she remembers as “a war zone”. The devastating impact suddenly displaced staff, leaving the business operating from the kitchen table for a period of time.
“When you’re out the other side and look back, you wonder ‘how on earth did I get through that?’ – but you have to,” she says. “The fear of failure was a big driver.”
THE ROLLERCOASTER RIDE
Redcurrent becoming financially selfsufficient has offered moments of ‘grace’ to celebrate.
In one year the start-up loan was repaid, within three years hotel room nights were covered by the company credit card, and by the twelfth year there was capacity to book business class flights.
Taking a bigger picture view, Rebecca mentions how fortunate life has been for her compared to many others and remains humble. “Business is like a rollercoaster – there is no formula that drops out of the sky that says it’s going to be successful.”
Her journey has been a series of challenges and decisions “both right and wrong” she says. “We’ve built a strong culture of staying kind and being honest – they’re really paramount to our business.”
She wants to hear about any mistakes. “We don’t want them covered up. I’ve made thousands of mistakes – it’s how we learn.”
A business is only as good as the values it’s founded on, and judging by its leadership it’s fair to say Redcurrent will steer the course for many years to come.
REBECCA AND AUDREY.