The founder of a well-known baby shoe brand that just turned 30 is helping other small businesses get a foot up in the Covid world.
Chris Bennett started making the soft leather shoes that kick-started the Bobux brand in the garage at home and selling them from a stand at Victoria Park Market in the 1980s.
The shoes, designed to stay on toddlers' feet, were a huge success and became a staple for most Kiwi families.
They appealed, Bennett said, because they were designed to be good for children's growing feet with soft but protective leather - and kids loved wearing them.
The business expanded over the decades with Bennett's children, once models for the baby shoes, growing up and becoming involved in the business.
He has recently stepped away from the day-to-day running of the business to help others starting out in the footwear industry.
"One of the key learnings that I pass on to others starting out is that getting overseas and building relationships is fundamental to the growth and future success of the product," Bennett said.
"Pre-Covid I would easily hop on a plane and meet prospective distributors face-to-face, which is not possible for budding New Zealand entrepreneurs right now – and that's really tough."
Technology means there are always other options and Bennett said adapting is the way to ensure survival in business.
"It is hard to replace in-person meetings but I encourage them to get creative over Zoom and try their best to build relationships there."
Bennett also stresses the importance of having a "brand story" in business.
His own brand story was strong throughout the creation of Bobux.
"We had a story of this lazy father who was sick of tying his kids' shoelaces and went searching for a better option – it resonated with other parents who could relate to the narrative we had created," Bennett said.
Bennett said expanding the customer base by promoting your business overseas was paramount.
"It's also really important to think big, get outside of the New Zealand market as quickly as possible as we are limited by the small number of people here," he said.
"We went with the name Bobux because we knew it would appeal across languages."
Bennett expanded the style of shoes to suit his children as they grew - going from soft leather shoes when they were babies to rubber-soled shoes and sandals as they started to walk.
The shoes are sold in more than 40 countries with a major focus on the UK and western Europe, including Italy.
Bobux has also undergone a significant digital transformation allowing it to navigate a pandemic, and come out stronger than when it went in.
Five years ago Bennett stepped out from the leadership role at Bobux, hired a CEO and appointed a board.
He said it was a great decision, but a difficult one.
"Many founders don't know when it's time to step out – but it can be the best decision for everyone in the business to bring in a CEO who can take the business further than you can," he said.
"It's important to know your limits."
Bennett is still on the board of Bobux and said it is still a true family business.
Despite separating 10 years ago, his ex-wife Colleen still works for the company and their oldest daughter Chloe worked in customer service for 10 years.
Their second daughter Hannah works in the e-commerce side of the business and their son Sam spent some time working in design and in the warehouse.
With no adult line of shoes, the days of Chloe, Hannah and Sam wearing Bobux shoes were over but Bennett said there was a long line of models and future employees in the Bennett family.
"All of the grandchildren wear them and love them," he said.