As part of a series highlighting the 11 businesses entered in this year's Westpac Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, Sophie Preece talks to Shirley Gowans of Gowans Distribution.........
Ten-year-old Max Gowans is such a loyal supporter of Meadowfresh that he puts his foot down if served anything else.
"If he goes visiting and they're not drinking Meadowfresh, he refuses to drink it," says his mother.
Such family loyalty was repaid this month, when Shirley and Russell Gowans were named Goodman Fielder's Dairy and Meats Distributors of the Year at a sales conference in Auckland.
"We have worked very, very hard to get here and this industry acknowledgement is awesome," said Mrs Gowans.
The couple have run Gowans Distribution for three and a half years, delivering Meadowfresh milk products and Goodman Fielder foodstuffs to businesses around Marlborough.
When they were given the opportunity to buy into a route in 2010 they leapt at it, despite knowing there would be plenty of sacrifices along the way, including leaving a teenage daughter at school in Christchurch.
"In the first two and a half years we really felt we were struggling. In this last year we have felt really good about what we have achieved."
Increased confidence led her to enter the business in this year's Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, in part to benchmark their business against others.
"We wanted to see where we were as far as a legitimate business went. We are still very new and we wanted validation that what we are doing is actually OK."
The Goodman Fielder award, which saw the business judged against 110 other distributors, has well and truly done that.
"There is such a high calibre out there, and people who have been doing it for years and years and years."
Goodman Fielder New Zealand managing director Peter Reidie said the Gowans were professional in their approach and never shy to ask for help and take on suggestions.
They showed business foresight by reinvesting in trucks and staff, acknowledging quality is paramount.
"They have a huge desire to eliminate problems for the customer and it's that effort that makes them so popular."
Mrs Gowans was shocked by the win, but is confident they offer a good product and a great service to their 200 customers, with a mix of "quick drop offs" and managed chillers.
"It's about developing relationships and earning trust. You feel like you have friends everywhere. It is just the most amazing thing," she said. "For every customer it's a choice to be with us and we think it's a real privilege to have them."
Both of the Gowans do deliveries, and they have a full time employee for their Picton run.
Their three trucks run out of the Goodman Fielder distribution depot built at the Cloudy Bay Industrial Park last year.
While Mrs Gowans is a passionate purveyor of Meadowfresh milk products, she is not a consumer, having recognised her dairy allergy after one of her clients picked up on her symptoms
Fortunately, they also distribute organic product Nature Soy, so she can stay in her son's good books.
The winners of the Westpac Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards will be announced at a gala dinner on November 15.
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