New Zealand pest provides valuable resource – KiwiKate

Possums. They’re a pest that are destroying native flora and fauna in New Zealand. KCC’s statistics estimate that there are 30 million possums in New Zealand. That makes it 7 possums per person. This army of miniature scavengers will eat 9000 tones of leaves, berries, and fruit every night. Carolyn Aish, a Kiwi native currently living in the UK, knows how to turn these pesky introduced marsupials into warm and stylish clothing. With KiwiKate, Carolyn is helping to preserve New Zealand’s native habitat, and provide warmth and comfort to thousands of people across the world.

A prevalent trait among most Kiwis is their loyalty to New Zealand. “KiwiKate was always going to be about “New Zealand made,’” says Carolyn, who sells products that are manufactured in New Zealand, and shipped to the UK. “I am a proud Kiwi but it’s even more than that. There’s been a big change in the UK with all-things-food in the past two decades, including a big drive about eating locally and buying locally. I wanted to fit in with the quality that it would represent.”

That evolution from a start-up to an established business has seen the majority of KiwiKate’s customers being the “reasonably wealthy, the affluent.” Most purchases are made by the AB, ABC1 demographic group, but it is in no way limited to them. “I have Duchesses, farmers, and fish-and-chip shop owners. I have a few Kiwi customers who buy to send to family here – that’s fab!  Geographically, [it’s] mostly UK, but also Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, or USA.  KiwiKate has sold possum socks to Hong Kong! [even] Greece!”


“Shipping costs are high percentages especially now, but [are] built in to price. I should be negotiating better rates, and have recently done this with one particular logistics company.”

As business owners, we have to deal with sales that fluctuate with the seasons. For KiwiKate, which mostly sells winter commodities, this could be especially problematic in the heat of summer. “The first three years of crashing, from 2008, really didn’t affect KiwiKate, but then 2011 was very noticeable.  Summer here is very slow for KiwiKate. I used to go to a lot of events and shows throughout the year but I have had cut down dramatically. In summer, it would be too hot and no one would buy at the time. There are only so many times that you can call the cost of being at an event ‘marketing’.  Eventually it just feels like a ‘black hole’.  These days I go out far less and use the time to think smarter, and work on analysis and strategy.  I also spend very little when very little is coming in.”

According to the Guardian, most CEO’s wake up between 5 and 6 am, leaving the snooze button untouched. They’re slaves to emails, and servants to money.

According to the 9-5 population, entrepreneurs are the lucky ones who get to sit in their homes drinking coffee and watching their bank accounts gain weight. In all reality, our schedules are very similar, and the rewards aren’t nearly as obvious. Carolyn’s advice to the new entrepreneurs focuses on caution. “Money will pass through your account faster than in paid employment, whether your planned for it or not,” Aish warns, “Understand that you will have to be happy on much less for potentially a very long time.

“Write your business plan, identify all the costs, and do research beyond what you expected to do.”

Do you think 2013 is a good year to be an entrepreneur?

I think KiwiKate will be fine – 2013 has a good vibe about it already. Had the best January ever in seven years, second best February. If you’re starting out though, have a well thought-out plan but don’t be too formulaic. Be different. Insist on quality.

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