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Five years on - Christchurch business owners share their survival tips

Bealey Ave, one of Christchurch’s famous Four Avenues, is busy today. Behind the traffic and the passers-by stands the Thai Container, a popular takeaway operating out of a converted caravan and shipping container. It catches the eye of many, with its funky, street art facade. In a city that has seen such tragedy, Thai Container is one of a new breed of businesses that have emerged and managed to thrive.

From adversity to business opportunity

Thai Container proprietors Ren and Pavy lost their central city restaurant in the 2011 earthquake. Undeterred, they drew on savings, found a section, and one month later was back in business.

The Christchurch locals have been part of the solution. With many eateries destroyed or abandoned after the earthquakes, many welcomed ‘pop-up’ businesses, and quickly supported them.

It was easy to admire the resilience of proprietors like Ren and Pavy, who, like many others, had lost their home as well as their livelihood. An influx of those working on the rebuild added to their clientele and Thai Container became a much loved part of the urban streetscape.

Five years on, an estimated 80% of turnover comes from repeat business.

The futures looking bright

The future looks good for this hardworking family. Determination to succeed has helped them overcome tensions caused by post-earthquake uncertainty, and they’re now in a position to move their business forward to its next stage – a permanent building on the same site.

Peter Townsend, CEO of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce points out that the post-quake economy offers opportunities. Those taking the chance can grow quickly and develop a great business, he says.

Ren and Pavy look set to continue to generate equity and family income from their unique blend of great food, personal service, and a touch of Christchurch Street smarts.

A few suburbs away, John Lyall has run his painting and decorating business, JL Decorating, since redundancy 11 years ago. A former president of Master Painters NZ, John had good standing in the industry and had no trouble finding clients. He’s encountered few problems in business. “The people surrounding me make it easy,” he says.

Trust is king

Advice from Inland Revenue to use an accountant has paid off too. “It takes a lot of strain off me,” he says.

The boom has declined rapidly since December 2014. John has seen many sub-standard operators go out of business, with clients returning to trustworthy operators like JL.

Trust is one of his underlying principles - so it’s important that he offers clients a choice of male or female tradespeople when quoting a job. “People are picky about who enters their property,” he says.

John offers the same advice: “Don’t try to be everything yourself. Employ independent experts - not family.”

Understanding his limitations as well as his abilities has served John Lyall well: “I’m not trying to be king of everything.” Peter Townsend echoes this sentiment by saying “seek advice if you’re in doubt.”

To find out more about business support services available to you, check out the Chamber of Commerce.

Written by content writer, Andrew Scott

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Information contained in this article is intended as general information only. This article does not take into account your current financial situation, and goals and is not personal advice.

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