When a Wellington soccer fan ordered a special shirt online from a company in Germany late one night, he was gobsmacked when it arrived on his doorstep the following afternoon.

Levin man Ingo Schleuss, who made the shirt, couldn't help but smile as he knocked on the man's door and delivered it less than 24 hours after he ordered the shirt.

Schleuss said the pattern of the shirt was sent via computer to his factory, then printed on blank fabric and sewn together. As he was going to Wellington the next day anyway, he dropped it off personally.

"He placed the order on Monday and had the shirt on Tuesday," he said.


Constant evolution and embracing new technology has been the hallmark of Kapinua, a business he and his wife Grit started 20 years ago, and the couple celebrated that milestone with customers and staff in Levin last week.

A quick turn around of product cut down the margin for error too, he said.

"When you deal with a customer everything is fresh in your mind and you have the highest chance to give them exactly what they want...if you wait three weeks, you have to re-remember, and there is a possibility then for an error," he said.

"For us it is a mindset, to keep it short."

Technology had advanced dramatically since the couple first arrived in Levin in 1999 and opened a business originally known as CBS (Company Branding Shop), similar to a business they started in Germany five years earlier.

They came to New Zealand as they were disillusioned with life in Germany. They felt there were too many restrictions and regulations in business and every day life. The climate was cold, and they yearned for somewhere warmer.

Ingo said he was drawn to a tiny magazine article about New Zealand and couldn't believe there were no poisonous snakes or dangerous animals on these islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Not long after that, a colleague returned from a holiday in New Zealand with a slideshow of photos. Then his sister gave him a book about New Zealand for his birthday.


"It was then we decided to book a flight," he said.

Ingo Schleuss - owner of Kapinua in the company's workshop. WGP 16Nov16 - INGO Schleuss - owner of Kapinua in the company's workshop.
Ingo Schleuss - owner of Kapinua in the company's workshop. WGP 16Nov16 - INGO Schleuss - owner of Kapinua in the company's workshop.

They arrived in early April. Within days they were convinced it was the country for them. Ingo said there was a freedom and friendliness in New Zealand that he hoped would never change.

"We were here 24 hours and met people - strangers - that had invited us into their home for bed and breakfast. That would have been highly unlikely in Germany," he said.

On their second night they met a farmer who asked them if they had eaten dinner, and took a leg of lamb from the freezer. They were welcomed into his home and introduced to his four children.

"We were fascinated by this openness and friendliness," he said.

"To have goats...a pig...the freedom to have these things were absolutely not imaginable in Germany." He talked it over with his father when he went home, who told him he should leave.

They packed up and arrived to New Zealand in April, 1999, with an embroidery machine, a printing press and a computer. They were still unsure of where they wanted to settle, but knew it wouldn't be Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

Their home town in Germany had 80,000 people and was 50km away from Berlin, with its population of more than seven million people.

"We didn't want to go to the big smoke," he said.

They had since visited Germany with their children and were surprised to attract looks from people in their old country, but then realised it was because their children were running around in bare feet, as they had always done in New Zealand.

"You don't do that in Germany," he said.

Looking back, he said they were glad they settled in Levin to raise their three girls, now aged between 12 and 19.

"There is nothing not to like...you are five minutes from the river and five minutes from the beach and you don't get the crap weather, it's either further north or further south," he said.

"I can't think of a better place. Queenstown? I don't know, it's got a lake, but I'm a glass half full person. Levin is very similar to my home town in Germany where there is lots of industry and the capital city is just down the road."

"There is a good lifestyle here that you tend to forget. We are not in the big smoke rat race."

Initially they were introduced to Levin business Deco Art through a mutual contact. They worked with that firm for two years before branching out on their own, and the business slowly grew.

They had now won numerous awards.

Dean Kent of the New Zealand Olympic team model the team uniform for the 2008 Bejing Olympics. 30 April 2008 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Glenn Jeffrey NZH 1may08 - PRACTICAL: Dean Kent
Dean Kent of the New Zealand Olympic team model the team uniform for the 2008 Bejing Olympics. 30 April 2008 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Glenn Jeffrey NZH 1may08 - PRACTICAL: Dean Kent

In 2008 they were part of a collective of Levin businesses that joined together to make garments for the New Zealand Olympic team. In 2011, they launched a website that connected the business globally.

"A lot of people are buying online now...we are not sitting on our hands. We want to embrace new technology and are not afraid of pushing the limits," he said.

A core product was business or sports garments that could be tailored to any design imaginable. They could mass-produce a line or make a one-off gimmick design. It was important to keep an open mind to all possibilities, he said.

He saw the business evolving further in the future, where a customer's exact measurements could be scanned three-dimensionally, and that data sent through a computer to his factory, that would in turn make a garment to fit perfectly.

He saw a fully automatic machine being able to make that garment to size for a customer anywhere in the world, who would only have to hit the "buy now" button, and a printer could begin printing the fabric.

"Anything. It's not just clothing. There are no limits," he said.

"The challenge for us is the timeline at customs, and border and trade agreements. Sometimes its eight days to Germany, sometimes its 25 days."

The 20th birthday celebrations held in Levin recently were an opportunity for the couple to thank staff and customers that he said were vital to any success of the business.

At one time they employed 11 staff, although he said that was too many for their business model. They currently employed six people, which he said was a good size,

It was similar in size to an army group or a rugby forward pack, for good reason. Anything larger required another level of management, he said.

Many of their staff were also flexible to changeable hours, which he said was entirely optional, although it meant they were able to address large orders promptly. He said he was always grateful for the efforts of staff.

"They're pretty important. Without them I couldn't stitch a shirt," he said.

Late last night they pulled their sleeves up to get a large order for beer brand Speights out the door. Originally they had made four garments, but soon after began making them by the hundreds when their popularity exploded.

"They couldn't believe that were able to deliver them on time and to show their appreciation delivered half a pallet of Speights to the doorstep as a thank you," he said.

"It was really cool."