Central Hawke's Bay IT business CLAD Online has received a Service Award at the Chiropractors' Association annual conference.

"That was a real buzz for us. We're not chiropractors, of course, so it was nice to be told they see us as allies, supporting them to do their job better," say directors Lisa Metcalfe and Richard Thomas.

"CLAD Online grew out of my work in tertiary education and training in business and computing, and the roles I took on as secretariat for national organisations. Richard began building databases and service modules for that work," says Lisa.

CLAD Online has designed a web-based product called Gecco, which helps professional associations to manage their membership and subscription information, to distribute email newsletters and do their accounts.

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They can also plan conferences from the first call for submissions to bookings and payments, the speaking programme and post-conference evaluation.

They can keep track of members' professional development - more or less all their administration - and Gecco also helps members to engage with the association and other members using various interactive tools.

Metcalfe and Thomas say every organisation has slightly different requirements, and Gecco is evolving to provide more and more services.

"We customise our service," says Metcalfe.

"For example, one of our clients wanted Gecco to manage the donations they receive, which have to be handled separately from subscriptions and other income. Once we developed a module for them, Gecco could offer that to all our clients.

"We're also developing a mentoring module for another client, to record and monitor how each individual is getting on. The more clients we get, the better Gecco gets, and business is snowballing. We can't keep up."

CLAD Online already employs nine people in computer programming and coding, web development and design, database design, and sales and marketing. Some have moved back to live in Central Hawke's Bay after years working in IT in Auckland and Wellington. Three of the staff work remotely.

A new office will soon be opening in the Atrium Building on Ruataniwha St in Waipukurau.

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"We have to expand," says Metcalfe. "We're growing so fast, we have more work than nine of us can cope with. Already this year we've gone from 12 to 20 national organisations who pay us a monthly subscription, and we're on target to double that by March next year.

"We only started marketing ourselves this year, and more and more clients are also coming to us through word-of-mouth recommendations from our existing clients. There are 117,000 registered societies and associations in New Zealand, so there's plenty of scope for us."

Metcalfe and Thomas have structured their business to allow for private investment. "We've sold 35 of the 50 shares on offer for $5000 each. Selling the last 15 shares will pay for the extra staff we need to avoid a backlog."

"Our community is really important to us," says Metcalfe.

"I've lived in Central Hawke's Bay for nearly 30 years now, my kids went to school here, and now they're working for CLAD Online.

"We can offer high-tech jobs based in Waipukurau, serving a national client base.

"We already have highly skilled people moving to Central Hawke's Bay, and we can support that growth by offering work that uses their knowledge and experience.

"People talk about the knowledge economy and how it could raise the average wage. That's us. Farming and service industries have been the mainstay of CHB. Tourism is growing, of course, and we can offer even more diversity to the regional economy."