Twenty Years Outdoors

December 12, 2019 is a special day, as twenty years ago John and I were married. We also call it the birth day of Goodbye SANDFLY, because we gave away bottles to all of our guests.

December 12, 1999 was a beautiful, windy spring day at Moke Lake near Queenstown. 

John and I were married, with our outdoor friends and family there to help us celebrate. The wind kept the sandflies at bay, thankfully, and we paddled away in an inflatable canoe to do our wedding photos on the other side of the lake. We came back to happy hour in full swing and a feast.  We self-catered, were gifted BBQs, lamb, crays, and many capable people to pull it off.  Our friends all brought food to add to the evening. We ran it like a giant raft trip, which is how most of us knew each other, as guides. And it was perfect. I felt beautiful. John was so handsome. 

Helena was born 4 years later, our daughter, beautiful with a seeming need for less sleep than an adult. And then 3 years later, Isaac, who slept, thankfully. And the years rolled by. Walks at the beach, baking, Playcentre, picnics, and more snacks than a purse should probably carry at any one time. 

We bottled Goodbye SANDFLY at our kitchen table in the evenings from about 9pm after the third reading of How Many Trucks Can a Tow Truck Tow and the kids asleep. Then we found a contract manufacturer in Auckland (Shieling Labs, thank you) who still make it work for our business.

Each step was a learning curve. How do supermarkets bring on new suppliers and products, and at what terms? How do you look after a shelf as a small supplier with a thimble full of resources compared to our multi-national neighbors on shelf? How do you manage websites, marketing, product development, printers, promotional schedules, taxes, inventory tracking, ordering? How do you consistently and delightfully take care of every single query and person no matter if it comes by e-mail, letter, phone or social media? How do you fund growth?

I’m not sure we’ve been so much entrepreneurial as we’ve been consistent. Running a business is in itself not fun to me. Making great products that do a good job for people, now THAT is fun. It was our belief in the value of the products and the message of wellness that kept us going. If I ever give a talk on how we’ve achieved our success it will be titled ‘No’ means not this year.

It has been a magic thing to look back over the years as we put together our Twenty Years Outdoor video to tell the story. The kids (now 15 and 12) and John and I recently watched the “first steps” videos, the apple picking, seed planting, the baby goat photos, the swim lessons, the sailing. How unbelievable gorgeous they were (and are).

I remember laundry, non-stop. Shoes, socks, towels, everywhere, always product or development or paperwork mixed in with the family life.  I remember tears, tiredness, to be lifted by a sweet song or small hand reaching for a cuddle. I remember the euphoria of a ‘yes’ from a supermarket chain, or a great review, or a new idea. I remember the creative buzz of product development, but really, if I never do another bar code verification that would be ok too.

John and I have weathered the uncertainty of the growth and ability of the business each year, putting in funds backed by our own property debt. We have asked alot of our marriage. We tag-teamed our home, property, and business, then school hours for many years. With the first meeting of the day at 6am as we landscaped the logistics of children, food and biz. We have prioritised kid sport and time away on weekends that had us catching up on Mondays. For this I am proud. We have continued to live a life outdoors.

John and I celebrated our twenty years of marriage two days early because today he needed to take Helena down to Auckland for sailing for the weekend. So, we took 20 hours for 20 years earlier this week. We remembered who we were, how we’ve grown, what we’ve transited, and then we talked about the future. Him, about travel and adventures. Me, about gardening and quiet time to write.

I hope you enjoy the video we made. It tells the story of a family that grew a business, and a business that grew a family.

Thank you for joining us somewhere along the way. Family, friends, customers, suppliers, gardeners, mums. Thank you for believing in our products, in us. It is an honour to show up to you.

Wishing you a peaceful, laugh-filled holidays. 

With love, Bex

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