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.

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

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.

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