Gill South: Design company on winning streak despite hard times

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Lizzi Hines's drive and vision for Spaceworks has led to the company increasing its turnover fourfold since 2006.  Photo / Steven McNicholl
Lizzi Hines's drive and vision for Spaceworks has led to the company increasing its turnover fourfold since 2006. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Shortly before Lizzi Hines took over Spaceworks, the six-year-old office interiors company, in 2006 it looked destined to be taken over by a construction company.

Hines, who had studied the Spatial Design degree at AUT with Spaceworks founder, Jane Eyles-Bennett, and worked at the company for two years, wanted to keep it independent.

"I decided to mortgage my life, and lay myself down in front of ASB. I was 27 and had nothing. I had a bank manager who worked with me to get a deal - every day for a month I came up with a new proposal until he said: 'That will work"," she says.

She sat down and planned what she wanted the business to look like and what other opportunities there were in the market.

"We had only ever completed office design projects before I took over, but it was fairly clear to me that we had to diversify and do anything that involved design, except residential," says Hines.

They won a major retail client, then another, then another. "This carried us through. I think in 2007 we completed three office projects whereas we would usually do anywhere between 15-20.

"We continue to diversify, we have completed offices, bars, restaurants, retail stores, beauty therapy, schools, a gas service station and food courts," she says.

Spaceworks now has five full time designers, four at senior level, one intermediate. There are eight staff in total. The firm offers a complete design and fit out service.

Hines is the sole shareholder and she means to keep the ownership that way.

"I like to reward people and I don't want anyone to have a sense of entitlement," she says.

When taking on new staff she is looking for compatibility.

"We are an all-female team, we are all under 35 and have an incredible passion for all things interior related.We are specialists in this area and like to know everything about everything - including boring stuff like air-conditioning, fire compliance and structure," she says.

Spaceworks' corporate clients include Canon, Lego, Whitcoulls, House of Travel and Universal Pictures. Projects have included the Media Design School in Albert St and the Ferguson Bar at Massey University's Auckland campus.

"Everything needed to be bullet-proof and to look better with age," says Hines of the bar.

The interiors/fitout firm has also started doing some hotels in Fiji and Australia.

Hines plans to have Spaceworks offices in other locations, with a lot of work coming out of Christchurch and Wellington.

Spaceworks will be going to Wellington through Bizdojo, the serviced collaboration space provider which operates in the same Auckland office building in Karangahape Rd.

Hines wants to have more hotel clients and to create Spaceworks' own furniture line. Meanwhile, she says, "the office market is just now starting to get really exciting again".

Spaceworks is currently working with a company which is moving from 500sq m to a 370sq m space. It will do a complimentary spatial analysis for office tenants.

Helping a company reduce its office footprint, can save it tens of thousands a year, she says.

Spaceworks' turnover of $2 to $3 million is four times what it was when she bought it, says Hines.

She takes advice from business consultant Zac de Silva, who she says has been very instrumental for growth.

Hines is expecting company turnover to be $4.5 million by next year.

"We would like to be more international. Australia is part of the five-year plan, Sydney and Melbourne."

- NZ Herald

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