My first company

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

For the first time in my working life, I'm consistently excited about work and it's got nothing to do with the pay check. This is our story about how we started our first company, which is just 41 days old today. 

Let me take a step back and give you some background... after moving back to New Zealand about six months ago, after nine years in the UK, my wife and I were on the lookout to try something new in our careers. We were both fortunate to have solid professional careers in marketing working for good companies and, more often than not, great people. However, we were not particularly excited by the prospect of going straight back into similar jobs to the ones we left in the UK.

We've always talked about having a crack at doing something ourselves and we thought the move would create a great opportunity to try something new. However, when we've talked about this in the past, we've really struggled on what that something might be. So, on the way back home, we took a few months out to travel and hoped that at some point along the way we would have a revelation about what we should do.

Unfortunately, it didn't really happen.

We decided the problem was that we didn't have a passion. We enjoy travelling, hanging out with friends, drinking, good food, watching Netflix and listening to Spotify. However, none of these things are particularly standout. This is the same stuff everyone likes. 

What we lacked was a killer niche passion, something a bit different that would make our decision for what to do a lot easier. We looked at some of our friends who were into things like SCUBA diving or cars and were envious that they had found their passion. If only we loved SCUBA diving, we thought, then it would be clear that obviously we would open a SCUBA diving shop and we would be sorted.  

Anyway, we didn't love SCUBA diving. We have tried it, a couple of times, and like most things we try, it was cool, but not something we were ready commit the rest of our lives to doing.

All too quickly it came time to think about getting jobs in New Zealand. So, we started the process of sorting out CVs, updating references, connecting with recruiters, networking with friends, and friends of friends, applying for jobs etc. After a couple of weeks, we weren't getting anywhere fast so we decided to have another crack at following our passion, whatever that might be. 

We decided that if our passion wasn't going to find us, we would go out and find it. In our case, we took a pragmatic approach of essentially pulling together list of all our random ideas for business opportunities, which we had been collecting over the last few years in an Evernote note. We then sorted these 35 or so ideas, using Trello, into five ascending categories from terrible ideas, of which there were many, to high potential ideas, of which there were only a couple. 

To evaluate the ideas, we simply estimated what we thought was the scalelable potential of the idea vs. the difficulty to execute and test the concept. In other words, if something had great potential, but was really hard to do, it might not be as high on the list as something that has less potential but was significantly easier to do. 

If you're interested in a flavour of the ideas that didn't make it very high on the list, here's a few of my favourites:

  • Ski boots for people with big calves - very niche and we have no sportswear manufacturing design experience. Also, likely a very high cost to enter the market.
  • A duck burger joint that served quackling - potentially appealing to a decent sized audience. However, limited potential to scale without significant investment. Reasonable cost to enter the market. 
  • Kumara (sweet potato) vodka - very competitive market with similar products already in place. No industry experience. 

From this process, we first landed on an idea around launching a new affordable art show in Auckland, New Zealand. I had a cousin in the business and Auckland seemed like a viable market. It also played to our strengths with our backgrounds in marketing, sales and events. However, after a couple of weeks of working on this idea, it became apparent that the timing wasn't quite right and it put the idea in the too complicated box, at least for the time being. 

We then moved onto the next idea on the list, which was initially inspired by some products we had seen on our travels in the US. After some Googling, it became apparent to us that we couldn't get these products in New Zealand and it didn't take us long to find out why. It turns out that local market product requirements meant that the US products weren't suitable for the New Zealand market. Little did we know it, but this was the beginning of HUSKI.

After a couple of months of concept testing and refinement, we incorporated HUSKI Limited on the 31 of May 2017. It's now my full-time job, and my wife's part-time job, to try and make it a successful business. It's early days, but it's been a blast so far. Nearly everything is new and exciting and because it's ours, we really are giving it 100%. The main problem is you never shut up about your business. However, when your business is about trying to help people drink cold beer, most people seem pretty interested 😃

Want to find out more about HUSKI, check out the HUSKI website: www.huski.co.nz

In a nutshell

Starting a business isn't easy and one of the first big challenges is deciding what you're going to do. We were looking for a lightning bolt, love at first sight, aha type moment that would give us the kick-start we were looking for to start our own company. However, that didn't happen. Like most things in life, we found that we simply had to do the hard yards and put in the effort to make it happen. My suggestion, if you're thinking about starting something yourself, would be to tackle it like you would something at work, using a methodical process that should help get the best solution to rise to the surface. For us, that was to follow the process below.

  1. Understand the problem (e.g. we want to start our own business to let us work on something that is ours and hopefully give us more financial freedom)
  2. Brainstorm solutions to the problem (Business ideas list)
  3. Evaluate solutions (Idea prioritisation process)
  4. Test the preferred solution until it becomes infeasible and if it fails, go to the next best idea on your list

Whether HUSKI is going to work out or not, we don't know. It's early days. However, I'm bloody happy we're giving it a decent nudge. 

Tools mentioned in this blog post

  • Evernote (free) - we use it for taking notes, sharing lists and remembering tasks
  • Trello (free) - we use it for managing and prioritising tasks and projects

Business snapshot

  • Days trading: 41
  • Status: Pre-launch
  • Primary focus: Product development
  • Products sold: 3
  • Revenue: $104.97 NZD ($76.37 USD)
  • Expenses: $4,166.53 NZD ($3,031.48 USD)
  • Net position: -$4,061.56 NZD (-$2,955.11 USD)

This is just the beginning. If you're interested in hearing what happened next, please let me know in the comments. If I find people are interested, I'll share some more about how we got to where we are now and where we think we might be going next.

Thanks for taking the time to follow our story.


8 comments

  • Very interesting blog.
    Loved following the decision making process.
    I think come summer and Christmas expect your sales to go wild. Will share after the election.
    Need to change the government first?
    Thanks Simon.

    Karen
  • Nice one guys. Really hope it goes well. Keep the updates coming

    Carl Mesner Lyons
  • You definitely deserve a cold beer! I’m thirsty thinking about it ;) huge feat to achieve to date & long may your passion for cold beer continue!

    Laura
  • Great blog Simon, really enjoyed and loved your approach.
    Wishing you both huge success in your new adventure.
    Please keep us all updated with the progress of Huski.
    Michele x

    Michele Norris
  • This was really interesting to read – thanks for sharing Simon – and very best of luck with your new business. Your passion is obvious …. and with you two on the case … I feel sure you stand a very good chance of success indeed ! All the best, Brendan

    Brendan Dineen

Leave a comment