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What ‘Supporting Small’ Means in New Zealand

2020: The Year That Changed the World

2020 was a crazy one – wasn’t it? The world was taken over by the pandemic COVID-19 and all of our lives – the way we lived, socialised, worked and travelled – dramatically changed. Forever. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to being ‘how it was before’. In many ways, this is a good thing. Some things, however, will definitely be missed.

Like many people, my business was ‘not essential’ and so I had to stop making whilst in levels 4 and 3 of lockdown. I continued to work on my business when I could, and became an at-home teacher to my daughter.

Once we got back down to level 2 in May (I think?! It’s all a blur now!), I was able to start making and selling my jewellery again, as I was able to have contactless pickups.

We're all in this together

Curlicue NZ experienced a big surge in orders over the following few months – which was wonderful! It was so lovely to see people buying online and supporting small businesses – whether their products were crafted by hand or machine made.

Open Spiral Cage Earrings with Swarovski Crystals

Leaf Cuff can be adjusted to fit wrist

Worldwide Importing & Supply Issues

What did come to a halt was importing materials and supplies from overseas. As I could no longer get some of my materials (or they took too long to get to NZ with the restrictions on airlines and shipping) – I started to look around within New Zealand.

Shop, Eat, Enjoy Local

Around this time, there was a big ‘push’ towards buying local and supporting the small businesses throughout New Zealand.

After all, money staying within the local economy helps to keep it strong. Also, most New Zealanders are ethical people – meaning we’ve realised the harm some big businesses have on the world (socially, environmentally and economically).  Whereas when you buy a product made in New Zealand, you know it will have been made by someone earning a fair wage, in good conditions.

Obviously some raw and formed materials have to be imported from overseas – as they’re not formed or made here. But using these materials, most New Zealanders will then use their creativity and learned skills to create something awesome!

I had also come to this conclusion, that I really should be buying my recycled Sterling Silver from a NZ company (rather than the Australian one I used) – as it IS manufactured here.

Two different companies in Auckland recycle Sterling Silver and Gold, along with some other metals; Regal and Morris & Watsons.

Different round wires

Their prices are fairly similar, though constantly changing – however –  the Sterling Silver from both companies was more than double the price, compared to what I had been paying for it from Australia – even with the exchange rate! Ouch! 😱

Over the following few months, I started doing a stocktake of my current supplies, and looking at what I needed more of.

In the past, I have bought my cultured freshwater pearls directly from Hong Kong, China (mostly), or Japan – directly from the people who make them. Technically you ‘can’ buy them here – but they are not made here, so they’ll always be imported from overseas.  I had thought I would need to ‘get in early’ – in terms of how long shipping might take – to re-purchase the pearls that feature in some of my most popular designs.

However, I was quite surprised (and disheartened) to learn that the blue and ivory diamond shaped pearls, and the ivory oval shaped pearls were no longer available. I messaged the shops I had previously bought from, but the fact is – they are no longer being made – at all!

Set of blue diamond shaped pearl jewellery
Diamond shaped Pearl Collection
Ivory cultured pearl drop long chain earrings with eco sterling silver
Oval Ivory Pearl Earrings

Therefore, I’ve had to make the decision to delete those collections. 😕

I still have a “few” left – so will soon be updating the website with stock numbers and availability for these items… but they will be very limited. So – if you’ve coveted them a while, you will need to get in quick before they disappear completely.

I will, however, continue to buy my round freshwater pearls from overseas – at this stage, from China, as that is where they are made (cultured by hand). I continue to look for the highest quality that I can, whilst still maintaining affordability for you.

Round Pearl Wire Wrapped Earrings_main image

Strands of peacock round freshwater pearls

What Constitutes a Small Business?

Small enterprises are firms with fewer than 20 employees. They make up the majority of businesses in NZ and are the backbone of our economy. They employ 29% of our workforce and contribute over a quarter of our GDP.  

97% of businesses in New Zealand are small businesses! Nearly half of new jobs are created by small businesses. When small businesses grow and succeed, they raise employment and incomes. Sustainable jobs change lives.’   ~ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Small business make up in NZ

Curlicue NZ is a small business. I have zero employees, there is just me. I wear all the hats and do all the different things – though not always very well! 😂

I may not employ other people – or have the inclination to go in that direction, but what I DO do, is support many other NZ small businesses.

Apart from the freshwater pearls I talked about above, I now buy all of my materials from other NZ businesses. I do still have materials (such as necklace chains and some earring hooks) purchased from overseas – and will continue to use them for some designs until I have no more. But after that (and apart from the pearls), where possible, I will only buy from within New Zealand. 🇳🇿

How does Curlicue NZ ‘Support Small’ & ‘Buy Local’?

For many of the materials and packaging supplies I use, I already purchased from several other NZ businesses.

Supporting small business

Below I have listed who they are (with links – and no, they are not in any way affiliated with me), and what I usually buy from them:

  • Sterling Silver fabricated wires from Morris & Watsons
  • Sterling Silver wires, equipment and tools –  hammers, files, and other small findings (such as clasps and butterflies) from Regal Castings Ltd.
  • Other tools such as pliers, punches, cup burs, organza bags and magnetic clasps from Warburtons
  • Swarovski Crystals, lava beads, Mother of Pearl & Paua shell and some wooden beads I buy from Auckland Beads
  • Good quality acrylic, resin and glass beads and elasticated nylon threads – that I use for the kids bracelet kits; I get from a few different places: The Bead Hold, Craft Runner, and Rhinestonz and beads.
  • Tissue and wrapping paper, packaging and cotton cord from Ribbon N Blues
  • Compostable Courier Bags and paper tape from R3 pack
  • I initially bought my Biodegradable zip lock bags (now used for bracelet kits) from Warehouse Stationery. I also bought some snack sized compostable bags from Eco Bag
  • For couriers and post, labels and some packaging both within New Zealand, and around the world, I use NZ Post and ParcelWings
  • Eco (Paper) Labels, some were done through Pinc and some were done through Sticky

Why Should You Support Small Businesses?

Most small businesses in NZ are made up from Stay-At-Home Working Mums and/ or Dads. Your support, quite literally, means ‘the world’ to them. If a small business is the main income in a family, it really does mean you are helping to feed, clothe and upkeep the homes of these families.

When a small business is an additional income, it still has huge meaning.

It may not be quite so serious in terms of whether or not a family eats! But, it gives a huge sense of purpose and value to those who are running them. It may also give enough additional income to allow for holidays, extra curricular activities and entertainment.

Each time an order comes in (to a small business) – someone actually does a ‘happy dance’!

happy dance

As for Curlicue NZ, I love to help people, and making beautiful jewellery as gifts or treasures to keep, is my way of doing that. I’m definitely not in it for the money – as I don’t make much at all! 😬 But it keeps me happy, and occupied – and, as someone who suffers from chronic pain and other illnesses, it keeps me ‘working’.

One day, I hope to earn enough to pay for a family holiday – or even just to pay for the jewellery course I do 😂 (or other courses – maybe woodworking, stone carving – in the future! 🤔)

You don’t always have to buy from a small business to support them either. You can like, comment on and share their social media posts. Help them to reach a wider audience.

With products that are carefully crafted by hand, the love and passion someone has for their craft, is quite literally poured into each piece.  Handmade pieces take time – and not just to make! But to think, consider, design, create and make prototypes…  All this comes before the idea of pricing.

There’s also something to be said for customer service in NZ. New Zealand companies are supportive and happy to help. If you’re a local, and have a problem with your product – you can contact the company and they will sort it out.

Here are 7 reasons to buy locally made:

7 reasons to shop local

New Zealand is full of small businesses – like Curlicue NZ – who run online stores and have human contact with customers on a regular basis. When we promote New Zealand made, we are aiming for the highest standards and quality in our products, and in our customer service.

Also, when you buy from Curlicue NZ, you’re helping me in my own conservation efforts. Your custom helps to support NZ Forest & Bird.

Proud to support Forest and Bird

What Effect Has The Pandemic Had, on Small Businesses?

Many had to close.

Many more won’t survive for much longer.

Some new ones opened.

Some – especially online businesses – flourished!

Curlicue NZ had a surge of support and orders since coming out of lockdown this time last year – but since May this year, it has slowed again. As the world re-opens and larger items are able to come in again from further afield, the “support small” and “buy local” seems to be waning in popularity. Though, maybe it’s just me?

As mentioned above, I had a surge of support and lots of orders at the end of last year – which was fabulous!

What wasn’t so awesome? I also got really sick, firstly with a nasty head cold, then with a chest infection. But I didn’t have anyone else to make my orders. Obviously this is more tricky when you’re having to hand-make each piece.

Towards the end of last year, I also started to receive emails from other NZ businesses – such as NZ Post saying they were needing to increase their shipping prices – especially for sending overseas. 😕

After I had closed for Christmas, I was exhausted. I took a month off – away from social media and doing any work – whether it be in or on the business. Unfortunately, I felt like it wasn’t enough.

Upon review of those last few months of 2020, I realised that Curlicue NZ – just like many other small businesses – will need to raise prices:

  • To cover the costs of increased postage;
  • To cover the (more than double) price increase in recycled Sterling Silver;
  • To actually pay myself a living wage – something more than the bare minimum.

SO, prices will increase from 1 July 2021.

Some collections and individual pieces will also be ‘deleted’ – i.e. I will no longer make them. With some of these collections, I still have some pieces made previously (either prototypes or from when I did markets!) – so they will be added to my ‘Clearance’ section.

If there’s anything you’ve had you’re eye on – get in quick!

At some point in the future, I will start to incorporate my silversmithing skills into my new items and collections – watch this space!

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