Diane Stanbra founded Picnic Box in late 2011. The Auckland-based firm creates boutique boxed picnic food for functions and events.

Are you currently paying yourself in your business?

Up until 31 October I had a full time job to support myself and the business; I was business development manager for Vision Software, a corporate real estate software company. But I'm now committed full time to Picnic Box and I need to make sure we continue to grow and sell lots of picnic boxes so I can be paid!

What was it like working full time while trying to grow a young company?

There have been lots of highs and lows, but it was necessary to work full time to support and invest in the business. I have to credit my incredibly supportive boss who gave me the flexibility to manage my work life, and I did that using all 24 hours of each day.

The Icehouse also gave me the support, confidence and direction I needed to make sure I stayed on track and focused on the things that mattered for growth. They've taught me to dig in when things are tough and celebrate the successes when they happen.


What factors have made you realise your business can now start paying you?

We've been working to our targets and after exceeding our forecasts consistently over the last six months I decided it was time to dedicate myself 100 per cent to my business. My mentors from The Icehouse and my partner encouraged me to take this big step. I can now answer the question 'what would it be like if I only had to focus on Picnic Box?'. The answer is it's fantastic.

How have you worked out how much to pay yourself?

It's a balance of what the business can afford and how much I need to live on. It's a monthly amount based on the minimum I need to draw to live on, so I had to carefully manage by personal budget. I only draw from the business account when I know it's feasible, which means carefully managing cashflows in all areas of my life - business and pleasure.

What does it mean for you personally to have reached this point with your business?

It was a big personal milestone for me and I feel really energised and excited about the path ahead. We have some fantastic things planned. I wouldn't want to work out my hourly rate though! It's a nice thought to remunerate myself for the time and effort that I put in, but my natural instinct is to manage cashflows strictly and focus on growth and profitability.

Ultimately what kind of job would you like to have in your own company - with according remuneration?

I love looking after our customers and making sure we always exceed expectations by delivering a superior product. It's the incredible feedback from our customers that keeps me motivated more than a salary.

Business Development is a key role for me going forwards, and I spend a lot of time researching new and exciting products available to us in New Zealand.

What advice would you have for other startup business owners about paying themselves?

Get a good team of experts around you to give you advice and support. As I've learnt, there are lots of things to consider around an owner's remuneration - salary, director's salary, drawings, cashflow, tax - and every business will be different. Our accountants and The Icehouse provide an invaluable service to make sure we stay on track.

It's also important to have a clear vision and concise strategic plan. It means you know you have to put in the hard yards to achieve results - such as getting paid - and any short term sacrifices you need to make will be worth it.