Couple purchase real prize

TESS MCCLURE
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014

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Chances are, if you've presented, seen or worn a prize ribbon in the past few years, it was made by a small factory in Christchurch that has operated for more than 30 years.

Alan Vickers and and Paula Pope bought Ribbons and Rosettes three years ago - just before time for the February earthquake.

Since then, they've had two building changes, and continue on as one of the few ribbon makers in the country.

In an environment where many manufacturers are struggling, Ribbons and Rosettes has experienced growth, and turnover is now approaching $1 million a year.

Vickers says the company has no intention of taking production offshore to cut costs, and believes their local presence is an advantage.

Supplying a "very traditional market" of country equestrian clubs, A&P shows and sport competitions, Vickers says customers prefer to deal face-to-face with local suppliers.

Unlike larger overseas manufacturers, the factory can fill small orders and often custom-design ribbons for clubs .

While the biggest customers are the equestrian competitions and A&P shows, Vickers says the factory creates ribbons for "every kind of club you can imagine".

Rosettes on the factory benches represent the full spectrum of human competitions - from the Machine Knitters' Guild to the Domestic Rabbits Society - and as election time approaches, politicians will return to the factory to pick up their boxes of red or blue campaign rosettes.

The business has gone on strong through recessions and earthquakes, and currently employs 6 staff.

"Even during the hard times, people will still try to send their kids to sports, they still send them off to gymnastics," Vickers says. "It's one of the very last things they'll pull out of."

Vickers' background is in corporate software sales, and Paula had run a small-scale manufacturer business. After time overseas, the pair decided they would like to own a business of their own, and took the time to look for the perfect candidate.

When they found Ribbons and Rosettes on the market, they decided to take the plunge, and with it has come many challenges. "This is the hardest I've worked for a long time," Vickers says.

"There's no fall-back. If we don't do it, it doesn't get done - you can't hide anywhere."

The couple have had to self-teach the financial and design systems, as well as learn their customers' needs and deal with the day-to-day of factory production.

"When you come from the corporate world, so much help is just a phone call away. Here, we do it all ourselves."

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Still the pair say they have enjoyed their challenges so far.

"We have fun. It's hard work, but we do have a lot of fun."

- BusinessDay

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