Small Business: No keeping a clever deck down

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Entrepreneur's composite decking system proving popular in New Zealand and overseas.

Outdure founder Craig Fountain says there is huge potential in the US. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Outdure founder Craig Fountain says there is huge potential in the US. Photo / Steven McNicholl

It can take entrepreneurs some time to fix on their business idea but everything they do along the way contributes to their eventual destination.

After his industrial design degree at Victoria University, Craig Fountain worked for Peter Haythornthwaite Design and met the LA-based head of BMW's design studio, Chuck Pelly, doing two projects for him in the US.

Back in New Zealand he did boat design for a bit, then went to work at his father's business, Fountain Apparel, a garment manufacturer for companies including Pumpkin Patch and EziBuy.

"I was thrown into the deep end. I did everything, production, quality control, talking with the Chinese, management. He put me on a speed management course," says Fountain.

His conclusion was: "It's not quite my thing." He went on to doing business development at Personalised Plates, then worked on a high-end property development in Kerikeri.

During this time he discovered an impressive composite decking product from Canada.

Fountain became a sales agent for the Canadian product, but it was expensive. "So we researched other composites and decided to develop our own products and brand that suited the New Zealand market."

Outdure was incorporated in 2007. Based in Henderson, the company designs, develops and manufactures decking products for homes and commercial buildings, providing hardwood decking, timber alternatives and solutions for floating decks over membranes.

The raw materials are sourced from recycled materials in China and abroad. Its brands are Eco-decking boards and the Qwickbuild deck frame system, a finalist in the New Zealand Innovators Awards 2012.

With Qwickbuild, decking boards are installed without screws or nails.

"It has a prefab system that is light enough for two to four people to carry so access is not an issue," says Fountain.

"People are still building decks like they have done forever. Now we have completely redesigned the structure of it."

It takes from two to eight days to erect the decks depending on the materials.

"The whole idea was to set up a brand that we could not only build in New Zealand but export," he says.

The potential is huge in the US. "The composite decking market is 25 per cent of the US [decking] market. We get a lot of inquiries from there," says Fountain

"Our offshore projects trump our Kiwi sales," says Fountain. They are projects for resorts, walkways and floating bures in Fiji or the Maldives. Australia and Europe are other big markets. Having projects in both hemispheres works well, as decking is seasonal. Locally, Outdure, with a staff of 10, plus installers, has worked on a range of projects from the penthouse at the Shangri La apartment building in Jervois Rd to schools, the Kerikeri footbridge and Christchurch homes.

The young entrepreneur, meanwhile, has an impressive advisory board for the business he owns with his wife, Lucy, who designed his company website.

It includes his father-in- law, Wayne Brown, the former chairman of the Auckland District Health Board and Mayor of the Far Northern District Council, and his father, Warren. Jeremy Lubeck from Personalised Plates is also involved as well as Lester Haycock, the creator of Future-Proof Building in New Zealand.

The company's turnover is under $3 million. "The goal posts keep shifting. We are growing 100 per cent on last year," says Fountain.


Top Tip:

Something Craig Fountain learned from BMW: you can develop all the products in the world, but if you are not going to solve the problem, people are not going to buy it.

- NZ Herald

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