You’d look twice if you saw an orange sheep, but despite his business’s name, Simon Owen is more than happy to let his clients be the ones with all eyes on them. As a marketing consultant, and director of The Orange Sheep, Simon prefers to be behind the scenes, helping businesses come up with the right ingredients to recognise and reach their potential.

Based in New Zealand’s Southernmost city, Simon uses Invercargill as ground zero to work with innovators, underdogs and quality driven nomads willing to punch a hole in their industry. Simon runs The Orange Sheep from a co-working space in Invercargill run by COIN South (a local innovation network for Southland startups). It’s predominantly from this location that he harnesses the entrepreneurial spirit in the Deep South, to take many of his client’s products and brands to the next level. These include launching a nationwide gourmet pie delivery subscription service and showcasing recreational boats to adventure-ready owners across the globe.

“The internet has really opened up what is possible, and what you can make happen from the bottom of the earth.”

One of his clients, Fat Bastard Pies started life as a popular Invercargill bakery, earning itself pie cult status among tourists and locals alike. But the only way to get your hands on one of these incredible pastries was to physically stop by. Well, that was until Simon and the team at Fat Bastard Pies came up with the idea for a pie subscription service. Now their pies can be shipped all over New Zealand, straight into the hands (and ovens) of their loyal customers.

“It was quite a journey to get to the point of becoming an e-commerce store including a custom piece of software that manages the bake schedules, customer dashboard, order fulfilment, printing courier tickets and so much more.”

“It’s certainly a much greater amount of digital automation than you would think would be required for a bakery and all done in a way that makes it not only foolproof, but also to make it scalable.”

Thankfully the technology was able to perform under pressure shortly after the pie subscription was launched when a story on Fat Bastard Pies appeared on Seven Sharp. The piece saw a massive spike in traffic to the website but thankfully with the help of robust systems, a huge number of orders were able to be processed immediately.

The capacity benefits of having a business fibre connection has helped Simon with the initial set up of the e-commerce store and to keep on top of things day to day, on an ongoing basis for Fat Bastard Pies.

Fat Bastards Pies marketing manager Simon Owen (left) and founder James Owen.

Beyond that too, the broadband speeds and bandwidth options that comes with being on a business fibre connection has benefited how he works with a range of clients. “I am able to manage everything I need to do remotely. Which, you need good internet for, otherwise I would have had to be physically onsite to manage a lot of the process.”

Not only has reliable broadband enabled Simon to position his clients online, but it has also meant that finding the right developers to help with each project doesn’t have to be restricted by location. Simon regularly meets with those involved in client projects over Zoom, using screen sharing and co-designing what the front and back end would look like.

“I’ve been fortunate to connect and work with some really smart people from all over. Some of them are based as far as the UK and France, but many are closer to home, in the likes of Auckland and Queenstown. As long as you have good internet the only barrier is language and local time zones.”

Simon says with more of people’s lives spent online, businesses that position themselves effectively in the digital space will continue to grow, regardless of if they physically sell online. And when it came to his other big client, boat manufacturer Stabicraft, that shift couldn’t be more evident.

“People don’t just randomly walk into a boat dealership and ask ‘what boat do you think I should buy?’. They typically turn up after conducting their entire need recognition, product awareness, research, and evaluation of alternatives online. So, by the time they get to the dealership, it’s to look at the physical real deal of something they have fallen in love with online. So it’s important, in order for Stabicraft to stand out, that they dominate in the digital space.”

And this is what Simon and Stabicraft’s in-house marketing team spend their time doing. Social media has been the brand’s bread and butter in the digital space, as they showcase the uniqueness of their product through engaging storytelling. Building their digital position further, Stabicraft has developed a 3D viewer on their AWS hosted website which allows visitors to immerse themselves in a full 360-degree view of each vessel, with precision detail. The aim is to allow potential customers to do all the research they need, and understand Stabicraft’s distinctive ‘Adventure with Confidence’ brand, all from the comfort of their own home.

Simon aboard a Stabicraft boat.

“A key ingredient to how the 3D viewer is used is the fact most New Zealanders are on fibre broadband now making it easier for them to process the amount of data the viewer requires to load. The added user experience has also grown the number of online enquiries from around the world.”

Today Stabicraft has dealerships all over the globe, including Canada, America, Scandinavia, and the Pacific. There’s also an established dealership network closer to home, with 13 across New Zealand, and 10 within Australia. All managed from the company’s HQ in one of the most southern cities in the world.

“There is a lot happening in the South. Invercargill as a city is changing in nature, with more working professionals using it as a base to grow all sorts of businesses. I think it has a lot to do with the rise of remote working and the ease of doing business by distance.

“You’re able to get a better bang for your buck when it comes to lifestyle, with very little trade-off to what you get in the main centres, but a lot of upside. You can definitely see how the city is growing”.

As a director of the Southland Business Chamber, as well as working from the COIN Hub Simon is well immersed in everything that’s going on in and around Invercargill.

“There’s a lot of people doing cool things down here, but they are often working in isolation. So, with support from organisations like the Chamber, COIN has been able to create a central point where you can attend courses, learn about validation and the startup journey, as well as funding and pitching for investment.”

Along with solid banter and good vibes at the COIN South business hub, Simon appreciates the fast wifi and the all-important bottomless coffee pot. This also means he can meet with clients in a dedicated space, rather than at home.

“Basing myself here at COIN’s co-working space makes my life a lot easier. I have formed great professional relationships and enjoy the opportunity to have social drinks and network – it’s those things I wouldn’t have access to otherwise being a sole operator with remote contractors.”

Story by Erin Harrison in partnership with Chorus.

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