Matt and Melissa Cooke purchased early childhood furniture manufacturing business Starex alongside Melissa’s parents in 2006.
They came into the role fresh and ready to learn, and have gained vital experience and knowledge about both running a business and the dynamic industry they work in over the past 15 years.
In 2016, they came to the Regional Business Partner Network (RBP) through the Chamber to help gain support and guidance for their business.
They were connected to Growth Advisor Jason Stockdale, whose role is to support local businesses by connecting them with specialist support, contacts and information that builds internal management capability and brings them closer to their goals.
“When I initially met Matt and Melissa, you could tell straight away they worked really well together,” recalls Jason.
“They were incredibly motivated to improve their business and learn as much as they could. I had initial concerns about how a Kiwi-made furniture business would compete with Chinese imports, however when I dug deeper, the quality of the products and the clarity of their vision said otherwise.”
When working with a new business in the RBP programme, a Growth Advisor will undergo an initial discovery meeting to get to the heart of what the business needs to grow and progress with confidence. This meeting is typically held at the business, so the Growth Advisor can get a feel for the company and its team.
Jason says, “I could tell that they had the base ingredients for a good business: Good staff culture, they spent time working on their strategy, they were family owned and could make changes quickly, they had an appetite for growth, they had a clear understanding about what their strengths and weaknesses were, and they were willing to engage and listen to outside support.”
“We met quite regularly with Jason, sometimes even at the factory,” says Melissa.
“It was great to show Jason what we had been working towards, what our growth plans were for the business and how everything was going in general. This seemed to provide Jason with a good scope in which he could suggest areas in which he may be able to offer support.”
Over the years, they have received various offers of assistance in areas such as developing an operations manual to steering them in the direction of IP protection recommendations.
Most recently, they have received funding support for the Lean Manufacturing programme, delivered through Callaghan Innovation.
“Timing was right for us to undergo this programme and our team have thoroughly enjoyed embarking on this journey. It’s been great for our team culture and also empowering staff to have input on how the factory operates on a day-to-day basis.
“It was great to see staff having lightbulb moments during the Lean workshops and discuss this within their teams afterwards. It was also great to see their ideas and observations of ways to improve the flow of the process come to light and, more importantly, being implemented.”
Utilising the new Lean Manufacturing programme, Melissa and Matt are consolidating their processes, the size of the business, and fine tuning and clarity of roles, to help run a more efficient, effective business with a view to increase sales to feed the size of the business.
With the support of Jason and the RBP, Melissa says they have been able to get the direction and support they need to confidently run their business.
“There are always challenges to navigate as a business owner and having a great support network to turn to is paramount. Even if Jason was unable to help directly, he would steer me in the right direction for support. It’s been great working with Jason and he is super helpful!”
The Regional Business Partner Network (RBP) is a gateway that connects New Zealand businesses to the right advice, people, funding and resources.
Our specialist Business Advisors work with owners and / or key managers in a business to identify needs and opportunities to grow with confidence.