When Dave Wrathall bought a bee business six years ago there was one problem, he knew nothing about bees.
"What appealed about the industry was that it was going through a growth phase. I saw a good opportunity to grow a business and deal with people of the land," says Dave.
And as for his lack of knowledge? "I hired the knowledge," laughs Dave.
Dave was looking to get off the corporate ladder and buy his own business, one which would put him back on the road and back in touch with his customers. Under his guidance the business quickly grew, and four years ago he merged with another company to form the much larger Ecrotek.
Dave says his lack of experience in the industry worked in his favour.
"I was coming in with a fresh set of eyes. I told customers that I knew nothing about the industry but that I was here to help."
He used his sales and marketing expertise to figure out how to best connect with his customers and it paid off, with the business almost doubling in size.
"Our growth has been off the back of a huge increase in the interest in bees and honey and Manuka especially. Our team has grown, our capability has grown, our product range has grown," says Dave.
Set in an expansive warehouse facility in South Auckland, Dave has a large team working for him. As well as supplying to the bee industry, they are also investing time and money in research and development.
"We want to give beekeepers new products to make them more efficient, help improve their honey yields and hive health."
The growth of Ecrotek has mirrored the explosion of the honey industry, positioning the company well to take advantage of the surge in global interest. But with that growth has come challenges.
"The biggest challenge has been making sure we have the right product available at the right time and the right inventory. Bees don’t stop working so we need the product there," says Dave.
ANZ bank was able to help by providing a term loan for the merged business and by offering flexible overdraft facilities for seasonal variations in purchasing and sales.—
At the core of Ecrotek’s success is a very simple premise: look after your customers. This is something Dave prioritises.
"I really love being with customers and talking to them about ideas they have and finding out what we can do better."
With innovation at its core, Ecrotek is now looking to expand into international markets.
"There is a huge opportunity in Australia as that market continues to grow and we need to make sure we are constantly staying ahead at home too."
And Dave has some words of advice for others looking to start out in business.
"Have a plan and figure out how your business is different from the competition. Be clear about responsibilities and roles and make sure you hire the best possible people. Oh, and watch your cash flow!"