Lauren Cernohorsky – 101 Howick
“People must think we’re crazy … and a little brave haha! We had a seven-month-old daughter and took on the business in the middle of a global pandemic, so it’s been a bit of an interesting year!
Why did we do it? Well my personal philosophy is to jump in and give things a go. I just go for it and trust my instincts. I was a customer of 101 for many years – an avid fan – then earlier this year, as I was looking to start work again after maternity leave, the owner Sharon advertised the business for sale on Facebook. I just couldn’t let it pass me by. I said to my partner that we should find out more and it just snowballed very quickly from there. We purchased the business in February, and we were due to take over just as they announced the first lockdown, so I actually took over during Level 3. My partner is just awesome – I couldn’t have done this without him!
I spent most of the past decade working in sales and marketing in a variety of industries, so I know how important your website is. That was my focus during the first lockdown – to set up a website as quickly as possible. When I finally took over the business, I realised it was a far bigger task than I had anticipated. We have about five thousand products in store so getting that online is a huge effort! I didn’t want the website going live until it was looking exactly how I wanted it to look or at least until it was a good customer experience. In the end we went live in late July, so it was after lockdown ended, but the effort has been worth it.
I spend a lot of time searching for inspiration on Instagram for new products and new start-ups, or small boutiques businesses that are not selling commercially, to try and bring new things into the store. We’ve got a good range of suppliers and wholesalers in New Zealand and they source their products from a huge variety of places. I was really worried when the first talk of Covid-19 came about as I was so new to this industry. I didn’t know how this was going to impact our stock levels. But we have been fine. We have lots of products that are made in New Zealand and we also import from Indonesia, Germany, and a lot of products from India – which is the place that has been affected the most.
I’m really lucky to have a supportive network around me, to pick me up and help me regardless. Sharon and Ken, the previous owners, have been incredibly supportive and they have helped so much during the transition. The local community have been incredibly encouraging too.
From the moment we opened the shop after that first lockdown, the response was huge. People were conscious of how they were shopping and where they were shopping – it was amazing. As soon as people walk in the door, they ask ‘How are you doing? Have you been busy?’ They’re really keen to engage and to spend local – that’s all we can ask for as a business.
We have a very special community here. You won’t find many suburbs in Auckland with a village feel like Howick, if any. I remember when I was a little girl going to Remuera, that was a special place. We went for lunch and to walk around the shops. Howick is heading in that direction; a destination to visit and explore. I know we can grow that and make visiting here a real experience.”