It's working for families

Dunedin is a great place to grow a family and a business, say Paul and Eloise McGrath (pictured).
Dunedin is a great place to grow a family and a business, say Paul and Eloise McGrath (pictured).

Word-of-mouth is crucial to growing a business in a community like Dunedin, says benchtop manufacturer Paul McGrath.

Hamish McGrath was introduced to the family business at a fairly young age: he was just two days old when mum Eloise took him into see dad Paul at their Mosgiel office.

It's a pretty good example of why the couple -- and many young entrepreneurs like them -- choose Dunedin to set up their home and working life.

"Balance," Eloise says. "As long as we have a balance in our lives, it will work."

Paul grew up in Dunedin and, although Eloise originally came from the UK, she had family roots in the city.

"I love the community feel you get here," she says. "It is a lovely safe place to bring up a family."

Paul agrees: "Dunedin is a great place to grow a family and a business.

People here love to support local. In Dunedin everything depends on word-of-mouth recommendations, and that has really helped us grow our business."

Founding and growing that business has been a five-year round-trip for the McGraths, from Dunedin to Perth and home again.

After working as a benchtop fabricator in Dunedin for more than a decade, Paul decided to move to Perth in 2010 to seek new opportunities, as many Kiwis do.

He soon found his niche, managing a solid surface plant for a small business and working closely with the CEO.

This gave him invaluable experience in running a business.

Within a short time, Paul had built himself a solid reputation around Western Australia as a mastercraftsman.

Following the birth of their second child, Paul and Eloise weighed up whether to put down roots in Perth, but felt the pull of a better life for their children back home in Dunedin.

They moved back in early 2013 and set up McGrath Benchtop Solutions Ltd in Mosgiel.

Like most businesses, getting the name of the business known was somewhat slow, and a new learning experience for the young family.

But after the first six months things started picking up. In a community like Dunedin, reputation is everything.

"For a new business to succeed, not only do you need to have the highest quality products, you need excellent workmanship -- and customer service is key," Eloise says.

The business supplies builders, joiners, as well as homeowners: 90 per cent benchtops and 10 per cent commercial projects such as Dunedin Airport, the University of Otago and shopping malls.

"We have probably serviced over 200 homes in Dunedin alone in the past year," Paul explains, "but being based in Dunedin has a far wider reach than just the city. We are able to service all of Central Otago, and Southland."

After a year in business, they were able to hire their first employee, Tony McFelin, who has seen the business grow and has been able to grow with it. Paul has rewarded him with a management role as the company takes on more employees.

The couple attribute customerservice as fundamental to their success.

"When supplying a customer directly, we often receive an email, phone call, or even photos of their new benchtops, thanking us for the job done, that they love the result and stating we have exceeded their expectations.

"This is always welcomed, as it gives us a great sense of satisfaction to know we are bringing a valuable service to the local community," Paul says.

And that's why young Hamish came to see dad at work. "Family is everything, it would be great to take time off with the family, but deadlines are deadlines," Paul laughs.

- NZ Herald

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