Caitlin Sykes

Caitlin Sykes is the NZ Herald's Your Business editor

Small Business: Manufacturers - Mark Middleton, Shed Shop

Mark and Lynda Middleton, owners of Shed Shop.
Mark and Lynda Middleton, owners of Shed Shop.

Mark and Lynda Middleton are the owners of Shed Shop, a Tauranga-based manufacturer of garden sheds.

Can you tell me a bit about Shed Shop?

Shed Shop is a privately owned business and has been based in Tauranga for 18 years, with Lynda and I owning it for the last 11. We build fully assembled, custom-built garden sheds up to 10 square metres in size, which therefore don't require a building permit.

Our customers are mainly members of the public who have recently moved and require additional storage. We also provide pump sheds for two swimming pool companies as well as several companies involved in supplying pumps for irrigation and agricultural needs.

Besides Lynda and myself, we have two full-time and four part-time staff.

Why did you want to take on a manufacturing business?

For Lynda and I it has given us the opportunity to make instant decisions where necessary and we now have the flexibility to pursue the lifestyle we desire. Before taking on this business I used to work for a large corporate and this has given me a great amount of knowledge that I've found useful for running my own business, especially in areas such as people management and health and safety.

What's business like for you at the moment?

We have experienced significant growth over the past 18 months and this is in line with a big increase in new houses being developed in our area. We've found opportunities to develop products for specific purposes such as small lock-up sheds for large apartments and dog kennels and we are constantly looking for these kinds of opportunities to grow the business.

One of the key challenges we face is that house sections are becoming smaller and access becomes a problem to deliver a fully assembled shed. In these cases, we can build the shed on site but this takes considerably more time and becomes more expensive for the customer.

What role does innovation and technology play in the business?

Innovation only plays a very small role in the business. We are constantly making small changes to our products but at the same time sticking to the basics, which we believe we do well.

Technology has played a big role in communication with our customers, however. Having an easy-to-use and fully maintained website is crucial in today's environment and it is imperative it can be easily used on smartphones and other devices. The ability to receive instant communications from potential customers and to respond quickly is very important both to us and our customers.

What are some of your future plans for growing the business?

Our aim is to keep ahead of our competitors with a high level of personal service to our customers and have a great amount of flexibility in our products to meet their needs. Our vision is to establish ourselves as the market leader in providing custom built sheds to our customers in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and surrounding areas. We aim to do this by providing a high quality product at competitive prices and a service that meets or exceeds our customers' expectations.

One thing we are very particular about is timeliness. If we tell a customer we will be there at 10am we will be and we always give realistic lead times when customers order their sheds.

Coming up in Small Business: Many blog for love, but do you also do it for money? I'm interested to hear from small business bloggers - if you've got a story to share, drop me a note: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.

- NZ Herald

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