Behind The Business - Mix Media - Moving To A Small Town

Behind The Business - Mix Media - Moving To A Small Town


Behind The Business is a regular series where we chat with our many customers on how they  deal with the everyday challenges of running a business in New Zealand.

What made you start your own business? 

I have been hustling since I was twelve.  Designing logos &  illustrating for friends and family to begin with. Armed with a degree in fashion and some overseas experience in the UK & India, we chanced upon New Zealand while transiting after a honeymoon in Rarotonga. I took on the first job I could find which happened to be in graphic design with a print company.  I fell in love with print & the rest is history, I bought the business and today 15 years on Mixmedia is on a quest to create a clarified landscape for brands to thrive in. It's given us the ability to have creative freedom & the ability to pivot even before pivot was a buzz word. 

 What problem were you looking to solve when starting or buying your business? 

Long before I even had any aspirations of anything associated with print, I have had a life long obsession with organising & stationery. We identified a gap in the boutique gift retail market particularly in the greeting card category which we attempted to bridge with our launch of a paper goods brand '  The Paperface ' made right here in Aotearoa. At its peak we had a presence in most indie gift retailers from Kerikeri to Invercargill.  Since then we have moved to an entirely online model and continued our B2B relationships with preferred retailers while focusing more on branding &  graphic design for a select client base around New Zealand. 

 How has lockdown impacted your business? 

Lockdown has intensified our efforts to optimise and build a knowledge based business rather than just relying solely on our service  offering. We have been early adopters of remote working and collaboration, in and effort to pivot & maintain a work life balance for all involved. If anything it has validated our thinking  &  on boarded our remaining client base to embrace the digital way of life. It has cut down unnecessary travel & increased efficiency  with more time for what matters most. While the face to face meet is on pause we are still intentional in on our approach to stay connected with our clients. 

 How has lockdown changed your outlook for the future? 

Our outlook has  always been one of  staying relevant to the context and the times. Our world & the brand landscapes we traverse with our clients are myriad  with the only constant being change.  We are more  vigilant now and continuously refining processes  to deliver meaningful outcomes while staying nimble. 

 What prompted you to move from a large city to a small town? 

Burn out if I was to be honest and the compelling urge to break away from keeping up with the Joneses. What cemented the decision was being knocked off my bike with a toddler in tow. The allure of provincial New Zealand seemed all the more appealing at that point. 

 What were your biggest fears about moving? 

Our biggest fear was by far, the kids education especially given our prime Auckland central location. So far all our fears have been unfounded.  The kids are having more than an education with an access to the great outdoors sometimes  being taken for granted.  Having been big city people all our lives a healthy  competitiveness  is inbred. We feared opportunities would be limited. I am glad we are proven wrong time and again. 

 What were your expectations vs reality? 

Our expectation was  a slower pace of life. The truth is life can be as hectic as you want it to be. From extra curricular activities to social obligations and the demands of business in between. However not spending copious amounts of time in traffic is always  the cherry on the cake. Life is simpler by far & nestled between 2 national parks just keeps you grounded & appreciative of how blessed we are. How did your family adapt? Timing is everything. Family was the biggest consideration in the move. It did help that the kids were younger.  Children are amazingly adaptable & resilient. It would be hard to pry them out of their social set up now. 

 How Is technology changing your business? ( through competition, distribution, or simply enabling your system / model to exist) 

Our biggest concern when we left Auckland was our reliance on existing supplier networks and established relationships not to mention some in house production. All that changed  very quickly when our  technology partner Canon informed us that they could not support us in our new remote location 50kms out of Nelson. While it did unsettle us, we quickly adopted on demand systems and outsourcing remains a primary component in our workflow. We moved all our accounting online & even retained our account administrator who works remotely 6 years on. All our designers, developers & content creators work across multiple time zones and collaborate over digital systems in realtime. Its almost like we were ready for a lockdown way before it ever happened. 

Who is your business role model (either in industry or in business in general - doesn’t have to be someone famous) 

My business role models are a couple Paul &  Sarah Beisly who have inspired me to rethink the very purpose of being in business . Having founded a social justice business in the the heart of a red light district in Kolkata, India they have gone on to build a brand The Loyal Workshop that stands for freedom from slavery. Modern day slavery is a phenomenon that we should not be prepared to be apathetic about. They believe that another world is  possible; one where sex slavery is relegated to the history books. It’s a  brazen dream but they’re putting it into action in one city, in one  red-light community, with one woman at a time. Their products have a cult following & we are so humbled to be part of crafting their brand story & designing a new range of products. 

What is the biggest lesson you took away from them ?

People before profit. It can have universal application when we value the individual above all. It is counter cultural to corporate greed & liberation for the soul. 

 What was a failure or challenge that set you up for later success?

 Buying a print company meant we detracted from our true calling & purpose 'to bring strategic perspective to brand narratives ensuring meaningful outcomes.'  We could have outsourced from the onset and set up strategic partnerships. It has meant shaking the dross off and focusing on what's  important and where we can best add value with critical design thinking. All our collaborations and partners are valued & retained for not just what they offer but who they are. 

 What would you tell your 20 year old self? 

While it's good to stick at something being inflexible can be detrimental to body, mind and soul.  Don’t overthink it. 

 Are Entrepreneurs and Business Owners Born Or Made? 

A bit of both really.  While genes help, the school of hard knocks is a faithful teacher. Is it better to outsource services or bring them in-house. 'Think' in house 'Outsource' everything else that you possibly can .

What is the biggest lesson you have learned about managing people?

A little bit of affirmation can go a long way. 

 What $100 or less purchase has had a great impact on helping you run your business more effectively? 

 This Human: How to Be the Person Designing for Other People  A holistic view of design that can be applied to several disciplines and applied to a host of business scenarios. It has helped us re frame our approach to brand strategy & effectively demystify the process for our clients with consequential cost & time benefits. 

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  • Mark Redshaw