Couple's vision of a little taste of France flourishes

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2013
French market owners Elizabeth and Mike Lind bring a slice of Provence to Parnell.
PHIL DOYLE
LA CIGALE: French market owners Elizabeth and Mike Lind bring a slice of Provence to Parnell.

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La Cigale, the French market named for the cicada from La Provence, lives up to its name.

Every weekend the farmers' market, tucked away on a side street in Auckland's Parnell, is abuzz with activity.

Elizabeth and Mike Lind started the market in a tiny portion of the family textile warehouse in 1997. The couple were inspired by a trip to France earlier that year where they came across rousing clothing, antiques and, of course, food. Elizabeth and Mike came home and wrote up a one-page plan for an authentic French market, which they constantly refer back to.

As the business grew it took over more of Elizabeth's family's warehouse, and 16 years later, the market's bistro, wine cellar, designer homeware store, and food stalls spill out into the carpark. The market has about 38 staff and thousands of visitors every week.

The parents-of-two had to adjust their focus away from high-end clothes and antiques, and more towards food during tough financial times.

However, this was fine with Elizabeth who loves to cook, and released a French cook book last year.

La Cigale is thriving and the Linds don't plan to step away from their baby any time soon.

Why did you become entrepreneurs?

Mike: We trained as lawyers in Auckland but after working in the industry for a while, we both knew it wasn't for us.

Elizabeth: We needed jobs that involved some kind of creativity.

What have been the biggest obstacles for your company?

Elizabeth: Securing funding was difficult. It's hard to start something that's totally new.

Mike: Compliance costs and regulations have also been difficult to deal with. Getting resource consent for the outdoor market stalls and liquor licensing was difficult.

Despite being trained as lawyers, dealing with regulations can be time-consuming and confusing.

What are your business and personal goals?

Mike: We would like to contribute a lasting feature to the Auckland mosaic.

Elizabeth: We didn't build the business up just to flick it off.

We are building it up so it doesn't require our entire time and attention. We have senior staff who are capable of running the business in our absence.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Elizabeth: Know your own strengths, personally and in a business sense.

If you have a good idea figure out who your market is and whether they want your product.

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Mike: In our field you need to have a passion for what you're doing. You've got to test the market before you jump in. Take your idea or product as far as you can to prove to yourself the business is viable before you take on a whole lot of fixed overheads.

What have you sacrificed to be an entrepreneur?

Elizabeth: Financial security. If we stuck to being lawyers, we would've had more security, much earlier.

Mike: On the other hand, we'd probably be divorced.

Are you prepared for failure?

Mike: We accept that you fail from time to time but our focus is on success.

Elizabeth: It's just part of business and you have to get over it quickly and move on, that can be hard.

What would you do if you weren't running your own business?

Mike: Retire.

What do you do in your downtime?

Mike: I ride horses, and we are avid gardeners.

Elizabeth: I like to cook, and I'm five papers away from finishing a degree in art history.

I also do strange things like take my big, standard poodle to dog agility training.

Do you think businesses should "give back" to the community?

Elizabeth: I think it's important to give back and don't leave it until you're on the rich list. Give back as you go, even if it's a tiny bit at a time.

Mike: Our business has grown on the back of a sense of community, so giving back is an important to us.

We admire people who go out and do charitable work around the community, but neither of us are committee people.

Where is your favourite place to relax?

Elizabeth: At home, or our family bach at Langs Beach in Northland. Or in Samoa when we get there.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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