Brit now leading light at Keith Hay

By David Porter

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English-born Steven Farrant relocated from London to Tauranga he was looking for a career and lifestyle change. Photo / George Novak
English-born Steven Farrant relocated from London to Tauranga he was looking for a career and lifestyle change. Photo / George Novak

When Englishman Steven Farrant relocated from London to Tauranga he was looking for a career and lifestyle change.

After management roles in large corporates, first in floor coverings, then in property, he and his Kiwi wife Nicola and two young children relocated to the Bay for family reasons in 2007.

Small business is something I've been very passionate about since I've been in New Zealand. Although I was keen to get back into property, I wasn't looking to get back into a big corporation, and this fits very well into what I want to do.
Steve Farrant

The following year they started and grew successful candle-making business Candles of New Zealand and its retail arm Flicker, before selling out in 2014.

Mr Farrant returned to his first love, property, becoming Bay of Plenty manager for Keith Hay Homes, where his entrepreneurial experience has influenced his approach to the new role.

"I work for a recognised national brand in New Zealand, but the way I run the Bay of Plenty branch is like a small business," he said.

"Small business is something I've been very passionate about since I've been in New Zealand. Although I was keen to get back into property, I wasn't looking to get back into a big corporation, and this fits very well into what I want to do."

Mr Farrant also joined the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce board six months ago and is on the steering committee for the chamber's Small Business Tauranga initiative, which was formally launched this week.

Chamber chief executive Stan Gregec described Mr Farrant as an asset to any team.

Read more: Bay man's battle to find a home

"Steven is one of those people who have buckets of energy and ideas and also get things done," he said. "He combines an impressive corporate track record with small business savvy and street cred. I am very grateful for the support and time he is contributing to helping get Small Business Tauranga off the ground."

Mr Farrant was born and brought up in Kent and studied psychology at the University of East London. He got his first job as a retail trainee for European floor covering giant Allied Carpets Group, where he worked his way around its departments for two years before being assigned to marketing, where he worked his way up to product marketing manager before leaving to join Metropolitan Estates Property (MEPC), one of the UK's biggest property companies.

He helped create a MEPC subsidiary called REALM, which specialised in managing shopping centres and in 2001 became a separate company. He spent the next seven years as a director and head of marketing and communications with REALM, which operated the largest portfolio of designer villages/outlet centres in Britain.

"By 2007, we had a couple of small children and my wife wanted to spend more time with the family in Tauranga and give the boys a Kiwi upbringing," he said.

They arrived on December 1, 2007, and created their manufacturing and wholesaling business Candles of New Zealand the following February. They subsequently opened the Flicker Emporium, with retail outlets and an online candle sales business.

"It happened almost by accident just because we saw a bit of an opportunity and wanted something relatively small we could run between the two of us," he said.

With both Steven and Nicola having backgrounds in marketing and advertising, they created a brand with product line and matching stories before they began manufacturing.

Read more: Three Bay students top whole of NZ in scholarship results for subjects

"Neither of us had ever made a candle before."

Their niche was in gift candles and they built the business to the point where they were supplying to retail outlets throughout New Zealand.

They then turned towards the export markets, and began to set up distribution in Asia, Europe and the US.

However, major New Zealand company National Candles was interested in acquiring the business, and the couple eventually decided to sell.

"It was getting quite big and to the stage where it was going to be about developing the export market," he said.

But the couple wanted to remain focused on family life, and developing the export market would have meant frequent travel overseas.

"At the same time I started doing some consultancy work for people in property, which was always my background and passion. I started to realise I wanted to get back into that."

He accepted the challenge of rebuilding the Keith Hay Homes business in the Bay of Plenty, where the office had been closed for six months.

"The family believed there was a market but wanted someone to make it happen. I was fascinated by the brand and the history and was interested in where they saw the potential for the company going."

Since Mr Farrant reopened the office in May 2014, he has added three staff and the yard now has three fulltime builders.

"In the first six months we sold more in the Bay than in the previous two years and we've doubled that over the past 12 months," he said.

"I'm glad I made the move."

Steven Farrant:

* Role: Manager - Bay of Plenty, Keith Hay Homes

* Born: Kent, England

* Age: 40

* First job: Retail trainee.

* Recently read: Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

- Bay of Plenty Times

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