Eighteen-year-old Scott Laurenson could be the youngest IT managing director in the country. He started Laurenson Technology in Kaitaia in March of last year, after he had been working from home since mid-2007.
However, when his parents’ business — Laurenson Marine — had some spare office space just off the main drag of Kaitaia, it was time to open a shop. He also had to wait until turning 18 to complete all the paperwork making it his business.
The teenager says he was interested in computing and electronics as a boy and he used to help out at the now closed Awanui Computers in the town.
Laurenson Technology specialises in service and repair of home and small business computers in the Kaitaia region. It also imports music players and custom builds PCs to customer specifications.
He is also starting to offer more services, including stereo and television sales and repair.
“Our new shipment of Konka televisions is proving very popular, and one we believe to be a large part of our business now and continuing into the future as we grow. We have also found that clients are requesting repair service for televisions and stereo equipment, which is not available up north,” he says.
Laurenson says the main competition is the Computer Shop in Kaitaia, the only other computer shop in the town. He claims it specialises more in serving businesses, while Laurenson Technology caters more for the home user.
“Around 90 percent is to the public, which is how we like it. If we were doing more businesses, we’d have to employ more staff,” he says.
Laurenson Technology also has a website and is active on Trade Me through which stock is sold, most notably Konka TVs. They are available in black and red and are a good deal for the price, he says.
The business also retails small PC components like keyboards, mice, speakers, hard drives, printers and modems. Brands include LG, Genius, Sony, Brother, Logitech and, of course, Konka.
His distributor is usually Dove Electronics, which is able to courier stock to the shop or to customers overnight.
The website and Trade Me activity currently generate a third of the company’s business.
“You need to target nationwide sales and get good suppliers and distributors like Dove Electronics,” he says.
While working at Awanui Computers, Scott trained at the Cisco Academy doing an IT Essential course, and says he will seek mor training. His other staff include account manager David Murray and his mother Ngaire.
Laurenson is general manager and main technician, but he will employ a more experienced person as the business grows. “Our main focus is more instore than callouts. I tried doing both, but I ended up shutting doors to go to people’s houses. You end up losing business,” he says.
However, Scott admits finding a technician who can do call-outs will be a challenge. “We have looked but there’s not many reliable ones we can find. We’ll probably have to stick an ad in the New Zealand Herald. The issue is, do they want to stay up here? The other is the cost of getting them up here. To get someone up from Auckland will be quite expensive. If I employ someone, we’ll also probably want them to be better qualified than me for the networking side.”
The Far North is also sparsely populated, which restricts business opportunities. But Scott says Kaitaia is a pleasant and friendly town with low rents, low overheads and cheap accounting fees.
And although there was an unwelcome drop in sales six months ago, business recovered for Christmas, leaving him optimistic for 2009. “This year has been going great and we’re expecting a good year all round, even with the recession affecting markets and prices.”