Hamish Kellahan and his partner Fiona own and operate Total Computer Services in Geraldine, in the agriculturally-focused town of Geraldine in South Canterbury.
The couple has run the business for almost three years since moving to Geraldine to be closer to family.
It’s a lifestyle that allows Kellahan to enjoy his hobby of flying small aircraft at the nearby Rangitata Island aerodrome.
Kellahan holds a Master of Science in Geological Sciences from the University of Canterbury.
“My first exposure to IT was within the framework of coaxing large CAD [computer aided design] stations to open my very large files,” he says.
After graduating in early 2001, Kellahan found work as a software team manager at what was then Allied Telesyn in Christchurch. He designed and implemented web-based management interfaces on ISDN routers and later L3 switches, then VPN and DSL routers.
Almost eight years later, he and Fiona opened Total Computer Services, now based in an upstairs office in the centre of Geraldine.
Kellahan is technical principal and Fiona is the business leader, although she combines this with contract journalism.
The business’ clientele comprises twice as many consumers as business users, the couple say.
“An office centred in town is an asset,” says Kellahan. “For us there is almost no retail channel so revenue from foot traffic is not targeted. However, it is important to be central to other services with respect to logistics, and simply being found easily by a new client dropping off a laptop or PC can never be taken for granted.”
“People are always more comfortable arriving at a commercial premises than a private residence,” Kellahan says.
Customers range from nationwide retailers to cottage industries, local Government departments, dairy farmers, lifestylers, local sports, church and charity bodies and, adds Kellahan, some “talented artists - starving and otherwise.”
“Geraldine is the type of community where the quality of goods, warranty periods and after-sales support mean a great deal to people.”
Kellahan says Geraldine houses a couple of other small suppliers, and says there is a competitive presence in larger centres like Timaru, a short drive away.
He believes Geraldine is enjoying a healthy economy thanks to farmers.
“The community as a whole is very optimistic: The retail and tertiary sectors are vibrant, being strongly driven by a bullish primary sector, if you’ll excuse that pun,” Hamish quips.
However, the distance from wholesalers can be a challenge some days if he doesn’t have a component in stock. This is usually overcome by getting orders placed as early in the day as possible.
He purchases most stock through major distributors, but has secured hard to find items by using TradeMe.
Total Computer Services’ primary brands include Acer laptops; Intel CPUs; Adata and Kingston RAM; Gigabyte, Asus and Intel motherboards, and Western Digital hard drives.
“Apart from obviously enjoying self-employment after many years of salaried overtime, business in Geraldine is particularly attractive because the area is growing. Customers here are very loyal. I repay that by being as committed to their needs as I can be,” says Kellahan.
He says servicing and repair were in strong demand throughout 2010, a good upside after the business experienced a weak period between April and June 2009.
“We are seeing strong growth in 2010. 2009 did not seem like a recession year at the time, but looks that way now in comparison to current demand,” Kellahan says.