Gary Rohloff will be hosting a virtual ringing of bell today as the buy now pay later business he founded around the kitchen table with family three and a half years ago lists on the Australian share market.
The former retailing stalwart who has managed well-known brands Number One Shoes, Warehouse Stationery and Ezibuy, began the business in 2017 in this country after a conversation with family about a safe and easy alternative to credit cards to buy a pair of jeans.
"That led us to thinking about how we could use technology to bring the traditional lay-by model into the 21st century."
Laybuy now has more than 5500 merchants signed up to use its service in New Zealand where it has 40 staff, as well as a presence in Australia. And it is on a strong growth trajectory in Britain where the market is double the size of New Zealand and Australia combined.
Its initial public offer on the ASX has seen it raise A$80 million ($86m) though a A$40m primary issuance and a A$40m sell-down by existing shareholders which values the company at A$246 million.
Rohloff, who is managing director, will retain a 30 per cent stake in the business after its listing.
In addition to the capital raising it has also secured a $20 million debt facility with Kiwibank to fund its New Zealand and Australian operations and an £80 million debt facility with US funding provider Victory Park to fund growth in the United Kingdom.
Rohloff is sanguine about not being able to be in Sydney for the bell ringing.
"It would have been really terrific as a family to go across to Sydney and be part of that milestone but hey it's a different world these days."
Asked what it means to get to this point Rohloff admits to it being a little surreal.
"When we see the ticker live on the exchange it will become a reality. But at a personal level for the family we are really proud of what we and the entire Laybuy team has been able to achieve in three and half years.
"For most people who have started businesses, your nose is so close to the glass that you don't often step back and just go - wow - that is pretty cool and we need to do that more often."
Covid-driven lockdowns have proved a boon to buy now pay later businesses as people have been forced to shop online but it also nearly derailed the company's listing plans.
Rohloff came back to New Zealand in January after spending 18 months in the UK to set up the business there. His plans were to enjoy the New Zealand summer and list the company in June.
"I was on our first investor roadshow in mid-March and I had to come back from San Francisco because Covid was breaking out. I was en route to New York."
He came back to NZ and the country went into lockdown. Then the capital markets went into meltdown.
"We postponed our listing to November. Within a month of that meltdown markets were recovering rapidly and our advisers said you really need to pull this forward, we need to list in September."
That has seen an extremely busy time for the business as it prepared for the IPO and raised the two debt facilities.
"Our finance team had three years of accounts to prepare and an audit to manage over three years because that was what was required to list on the ASX, all within three months. Most people do one of those things."
"It's been a heck of a ride for that three month period and in among that the world has been beleaguered with this dreadful pandemic. It's been a heck of learning experience on a whole lot of fronts."
During that time he has also hired 25 new staff and has not met any of them in person.
"I think it has taught all of us, particularly someone like me, who has been in the corporate world for nearly 40 years where you were expected to go to the office every day, clearly we haven't been able to do that.
"It has meant a different way of operating. I always look to hire people for attitude and values. That doesn't change."
Rohloff is now focused on expanding into the UK market.
"Our plan when we started the business was always to look to dominate the New Zealand market, demonstrate the portability of what we were doing by taking it across to Australia. And then as quickly as we can get up to the UK because it is white space up there - it was in 2018 - we were only ones doing what we were doing."
Laybuy is now one of only three major players in the UK.
"We see that market as a huge opportunity - it is double the size of New Zealand and Australia combined. It's pretty sophisticated in terms of online shopping as a contribution to total retail - it's ranging at 20-25 per cent versus New Zealand at around 15 per cent post-Covid.
"There is a heck of an opportunity for us and we want to be a dominant player in that UK market. We see that as a springboard into Europe and across the Atlantic because so many retailers in the UK are transatlantic anyway."
Ultimately Rohloff wants to see Laybuy become a global brand like Kiwi businesses Xero or Allbirds.
"We did this as a family because we wanted to see if we could do something similar to Xero and Allbirds to create a global brand from New Zealand. Something to be proud of and to tell grandkids about one day. I think that would be a really cool thing to be able to do."