Nikki Croft had only just given birth to her second child four days before a truck, bringing the first shipment of $20,000 worth of specially designed maternity bras from China, backed into the yard of her Whangarei home.

The investment required a massive leap of faith for Nikki and husband Adam Clarke, founders of Cadenshae maternity active wear range, who less than two years earlier had simply been personal trainers and parents.

It was while Nikki, then mother to newborn daughter Caden, was getting dressed one morning for a workout session, that she realised she needed a bra that allowed her to breastfeed on the go.

"I thought to myself, I have nothing to wear… I can't be the only woman with this problem."

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Nikki Croft, founder of Cadenshae, a maternity clothing range based at Marsden Cove. Photo/ Supplied
Nikki Croft, founder of Cadenshae, a maternity clothing range based at Marsden Cove. Photo/ Supplied

Months of research revealed there wasn't any specialised line of maternity sportswear on the market, which was functional, stylish and catered for various body types.

Fourteen months and "thousands of emails" later Nikki and Adam found a supplier in China.

"They took my drawings and turned them into bras," said Nikki.

Although she had no background in fashion, she soon found herself immersed in designs and she was loving it. The name of the company was inspired by the name of their daughter, Caden Shae.

Her second daughter Ryan (now 3) arrived just four days before that first shipment arrived.

"I remember standing in my back yard in my dressing gown, with 4-day-old Ryan in arms.

"I was open on social media about my journey of starting Cadenshae. I wanted to show my friends and community what I was doing. So, I knew that lots of people had been waiting for the products to launch – these were products that could make a difference in women's lives."

EXPORTING
Australia has, so far, become the biggest market, while Cadenshae is now serving markets in Canada, Europe the USA and, of course, across NZ.

"I found the shipping and exporting part stressful. I knew nothing about importing codes or related taxes. I had to learn on the go. It all fell into place," she said.

One of the major hurdles Cadenshae hit in the early days, however, was their first shipping company.

"Our earlier shipping wasn't good – and that lack of good customer service stressed me out. New mothers don't need the added stress of chasing packages."

Nikki said moving to DHL made life easier.

"We had fast shipping and easy tracking and a reliable service. To know that I could send something from Marsden today and it will land in Sydney tomorrow morning – that's great peace of mind. It was a no brainer for us and we've never looked back."

Cadenshae is now exploring new markets and Nikki said this meant looking at breastfeeding culture in certain locations, as well as climate, logistics and import duties and taxes.

Marketing for the company was mainly on social media and online, with Cadenshae often using online influencers.

"We've had endorsements from Olympic athlete Libby Tricket, which was great."

The range has developed, with hoodies, tank tops and leggings, and Cadenshae has over 70 stockists across the globe, many of those online.

The company is about to launch a new range of harem style pants too, but Nikki said the range won't become too big.

FAMILY
Cadenshae is a family business. Nikki and Adam's third child Kace (now 18-months) was born at 11pm, and the pair were back packing orders at 7am the next morning.

Both pairs of grandparents are employed by the company, as packers and childminding champs.

Caden, 4, folds flyers and vacuums the warehouse and no doubt, baby number four, due in just three weeks, will also be part of the team.

"We've since moved to One Tree Point, and Cadenshae is based at a new warehouse in Marsden Point since last year.

"I remember when we were still operating from our garage, and our baby's room was full of cardboard boxes of products, with the cot in the middle."

She said Cadenshae growth was phenomenal, with 70 per cent of business coming from export goods.

"We've grown 100 per cent each year and here we are, shipping goods across the world and living by the beach in Northland."