With a desire to work creatively and combine their varied and complimentary skill sets, couple Kat and Simon launched their business, Laser Studio. Inspired by their beautiful surroundings in Wanaka, New Zealand, and their love for great design, they set to work creating beautiful, unique pieces. With sustainability front of mind, their products are created using bamboo, chosen for its renewable properties.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
When our children were small, the idea of me returning to work seemed pointless. Between the stresses of organising little people, little people’s stuff, my stuff, fulfilling my work commitments, juggling sick days and dealing with sleep deprivation, we found that after paying for childcare there wasn’t much to show for all the effort. Besides, I’d often wished that I could go back in time and study graphic design. Maybe I could use this time to upskill …
In the years before the kids started school, I grabbed what time I could and played around with graphic design and web design. I had a few clients and learned constantly. I didn’t have a plan, but went with what felt good and would fit in with my life.
Over the years, this changed many times. I wrote, illustrated and self-published three children’s books, and continued learning as I went on to illustrate for other authors and help them to layout and publish their books. Life was interesting, but the work was sporadic and I didn’t always get paid on time. By now my children were in years 4 and 5 in primary school, and I longed to earn a regular income, working regular hours. I returned to my pre-baby job as a picture framer, which satisfied many of my needs.
I think it can be very difficult for creative people to work for others. I tend to breathe ideas, and I love to try new things. After two years, I was feeling quite restricted in my job, but felt that I was now at a time in my life when I needed a consistent income. The days where I could be happy with work that came ‘now and then’ were gone, as were the days where my children needed me there all the time. They were becoming more independent by the day, and I was transitioning into my new parenting role as ‘taxi driver’.
Both my partner Simon and I were craving something new. We wanted to create a thriving business, and use our complimentary talents to do so. As it happened, Laser Studio came about as a result of a random thought that kept popping into my head.
‘You should buy a laser cutter!’
I didn’t know why or what we planned to make yet, but having worked as a model maker after leaving school, I had some idea of the potential of these machines. The persistence of the thought got me curious, and I did some research to see if starting a business on such a whim was even a little bit viable.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
In March 2019, after many hours of talking ideas in circles, Simon and I took the plunge. To be honest, it wasn’t actually much of a plunge. I continued working my job as a picture framer, and Simon carried on tiling. We rented a laser cutter with a six-month contract, to see if we could make this thing work.
We had pages and pages of ideas – ranging from architectural models, to wedding paraphernalia, to lighting, and it was really difficult to pinpoint just one, and begin.
A common theme running through all of our ideas was the desire to use sustainable materials and keep plastic completely out of our products. The year before, we had travelled to Thailand, and the amount of plastic that settled on the beaches there shocked and saddened us.
We ordered some bamboo and over the next few months one thing led to another. By July, we had our first products ready to approach shops. Our products were designed for overseas tourists – a market that we felt was going nowhere, and could really use some different, locally-made, sustainable choices.
That month was very difficult as we awaited feedback in the form of sales. It doesn’t matter how much love you’ve poured into something if no-one chooses to buy it. The relief of that first repeat order was immense.
Over the next few months our business grew and grew. We expanded into Queenstown, up the West Coast, over to Tekapo and into many iconic tourism businesses in the areas. We bought our own laser cutter to replace the rental, I left my job to work in the business full-time and in March 2020, a year after we had begun experimenting with ideas, Simon was about to do the same.