Strivers, sure.< Return
[Wherein the moral of the story is that if you can casually get a 20k loan off your parents (who also have a lot of land for you to use rent-free for R&D), be able to ditch everything and fly to Hong Kong on a whim, and have the day to day funding to persist despite knowing apparently nothing, then you too can ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and be a Striver. … can someone please tell me why right-wingers hold up hyper-privileged idiots like this as the yardstick for people in poverty? Even the possibility of accessing university has always been beyond my means, let alone just dropping it like a dull movie.]
The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Nick Mowbray, the co-founder and co-chief executive of toymaker Zuru.
A few years into trying to build a toy business in China, budding entrepreneur Nick Mowbray got a lucky break - a whiff of interest from Walmart.
The US retail giant wanted to visit Zuru’s showroom in Hong Kong. Nick quickly agreed, and promised to send the address. Now all he had to do was set-up a showroom.
“The next day I’m on a train to Hong, knocking on doors,” the 34-year-old says.
It’s a story that captures the early days of Zuru - a company the New Zealander founded with his brother Mat in 2003 - hustling and figuring it out as they went along.
Today the pair, along with their sister Anna, preside over a global firm that employs 5,000 people, and expects annual sales of $460m (£356m) this year. The success has made the family one of the wealthiest in New Zealand.
It all began back in the brothers’ school days. Mat created a hot air balloon kit - made from a coke can and a plastic bag - which they sold door-to-door. The teenagers became more serious about the venture and got a tiny factory going on their parents’ dairy farm in rural north island New Zealand.
“As payment we had to milk the cows and spray some weeds,” Nick says.
At the time, Nick was studying law at university and helping out on the side. Mat had pulled out of college to focus on toys full-time. Things rumbled along until one day the brothers made a snap decision. Why not try their luck in China?
So at 18, Nick also dropped out of university and shortly after boarded a plane to Hong Kong with then 22-year-old Mat. They had “made some contacts on the internet” but were otherwise vastly ill-equipped - unable to speak the language and short on business savvy.
“We were so naïve, we had no idea what we were doing,” says Nick.
With a $20,000 loan from their parents, they bought an injection moulding machine, and set up a small factory in Guangzhou, China. Zuru was up and running.