Over the edge: an interview with a city abseiling business. Part 1

If you work in an office building in Wellington’s CBD you’ve probably seen them:  the guys who appear at the window, high above street level, suspended on ropes with squeegee in hand and bucket hanging off their harness.

The capital’s high rise window cleaners are a specialist group.  It takes nerve and a good head for heights, along with a conscientious concern for health and safety to abseil down a wall of concrete and glass, cleaning and maintaining as they go.  Then there’s the challenges brought about by the capital’s variable weather.

In this two part blog we delve deeper into what it takes to be one of those abseilers, interviewing Anaru Kerei and Beth Dugdale, directors of Wellington Abseiling Maintenance (WAM) along with a former WAM employee, Enzo Fantone.

Anaru Kerei, director of Wellington Abseiling Maintenance, at work on a city building. Photo courtesy of WAM

WCL:  Anaru, tell us a little about your background, your qualifications and your years in the industry.  How did you get started in abseiling?

Anaru:  My father owned a telecommunications rigging company so we used to build cell phone towers.  Me and my friends used to go out with him during the [school] holidays and help him work on the weekends.  From [age] 16 we were building 80 metre wind measuring towers out in Featherston.  Eventually with telecommunications, because of the way we use data now, they had to go onto high-rise buildings [and] we had to abseil to get there.  We naturally progressed from building towers to coming into town to put antennas on buildings.

Eventually I jumped into another abseil company where I learnt about the different aspects of abseil.

A lot of it was self-taught.  There’s a lot of “can-do” attitude in abseil.  So we just had to get out there and learn as much as we could. By working for a few different people and learning how they did things and learning how we wanted to do things.

WCL: Have you formalised that now with training and qualifications?  You mention your staff are all IRATA trained.

Anaru: IRATA training is purely a rope access qualification and that’s the only formal qualification that they have.

Beth:  They are like jack of all trades on ropes.  There’s a qualification for the rope access getting down the building but everything that you perform on the rope, it’s a learn as you go situation.

Even window cleaning – there’s an art to that that’s very underrated.

Anaru: Yeah, it’s under-appreciated.  I think one of the hardest things to do on ropes, to clean windows, because if the building has 800 windows and you get one wrong, there’s a chance you will need to go back and fix it. The expectation on window cleaning is huge.

Beth: We did a furniture removal from an apartment building in Oriental Bay.  A lady couldn’t get her couch out of her apartment and it had to be abseiled down the building.

Anaru:   It was only about five stories up.  We had to actually take the window out to get the couch out because they couldn’t get it through the door.

But we try to train our staff as much as we can.  Our staff are full-time and we need to find work for them to do when it’s raining so we try and train them on wet days with the different scopes of work we do.

We run teams of two, most of the time and we have one experienced and one green. We try and cycle the people around so they all get to learn from each other.

Beth:  It’s a good buddy system, we do send them on specialised courses. We put them through EWP – Elevated Work Platform training course, which they get a certificate for.  We also put them through an asbestos awareness training course, because there’s a lot of that around on the exterior of buildings.

And of course, first aid.  They all have their IRATA log book back at the office and get them signed so they can progress through their levels.

WCL: Why set up your own business and employ a team of people?

Anaru:  I always knew I wanted to be self-employed. I didn’t like working for other people and how they were doing things so we decided to do it ourselves.

Our philosophy is to employ good people and to teach them how to abseil.  You can teach just about anyone that’s willing, to abseil.  Or to do the work on the tools, but it’s very hard to train someone to have the right attitude.

I just want good people.  We want good people around us.  Good honest people.

Beth:  I’d say we’ve curated quite a unique and special team.  We’ve got a really professional and polite team.  A lot of the feedback we get from our customers is about how polite our team are.  We’re going into offices, and sometimes residential apartments, they’re always well presented, they’re tactful.  It’s really important how people come across when we interview them.

Anaru: Yeah, it is important for us.  We want to enjoy our time at work and you’re not going to enjoy it if you don’t enjoy the people you are working with. 

I was at the marae with all my whanau recently and I think a lot of it comes from how my family work on the marae.  That’s how I want my business to run.  Because they’re always looking ahead and doing everything they can do to help everyone, just trying to make it as easy as possible and as welcoming as possible. That’s a huge part of how I run a business and I didn’t really realise I did that because it just happens.  It’s natural.  It’s how I was brought up.  So that’s how we do things.

WCL: How big is your team?

Beth: Currently, with Enzo, there’s thirteen of us.  We’ve got three subcontractors and the rest are full time employees.

WCL: How hard is it to find the right people?

 Anaru: We’ve been lucky.  Because I’ve been in the industry for so long I know quite a few good people, or like Enzo, just turn up at the office and ask for a job. As our team grows, the network grows and we’ve recently had quite a few enquiries about work.

Beth:  We are visa accredited.  We have Lynette on the team.  She’s from Papua New Guinea, so she’s working towards her residency under us.  Although we are visa accredited we get really excited about being able to offer job opportunities to people and to young people in Wellington as well.  That’s a really cool thing to be able to do.  We’re really proud of that.  We definitely try to reach out locally, or through word of mouth.

WCL:  You mention Lynette.  How many women do you have?  Is she a rarity?

Beth:  I would say, yeah, there aren’t many females in the abseil industry so it’s always awesome when you get one apply.

[An earlier blog post on Women in trades may interest readers]

WCL: Is that because it’s seen as risky or macho?

Beth:  I don’t think there’s enough exposure to a career pathway.  I don’t think people look at it and [wonder] “Oh gosh, could I do that?  How long could I do that for?  Is it just going to be for a summer or is it something I could progress in?”

So we have a career progression chart we give people in their induction pack when they first start. It just shows that they can go from being a trainee rope technician all the way through to an operations manager.  We can take them through various avenues to teach them more the administration side, looking at how jobs are broken down and how they’re quoted and all sorts of stuff.  So they can actually see “I could stick with these people”.

WCL: You’re prepared to develop the right people?

Anaru:  We set aside a training allowance, per employee, per year, plus we pay for their time to do it.  It doesn’t have to necessarily be an abseil ticket.  If they want to learn something that’s going to help the business and progress their career then we will sort that out for them.

WCL:  Aside from a head for heights, what other qualities do people need?

Anaru:  Obviously someone who is adventurous and gets bored quickly.  Because people who get bored quickly learn quite quickly as well.  They’ll dive into one thing get passionate about it and then they’ll want to learn something else.  And I normally find that they’re the best abseilers because they’re always curious, always willing to learn.  That’s the sort of attitude we need because we are doing a wide scope of work.  So being able to take all that information in and being able to apply it properly is quite difficult.

A WAM employee on the job. Photo courtesy of Enzo Fantone

WCL You mention before about the weather providing you with down days to do training.  This is Wellington.  At what point do you assess a situation and think “No we won’t be working today”?

Anaru:  We leave it up to the staff.  It’s important for them to make sure they know when they can and can’t abseil. Obviously when it’s too windy I’ll say “Nope, you’re not getting on the ropes today” but it’s up to them to do their own risk assessment.

Beth:  There are workarounds.  You’d be surprised how few days we have to say “No. No-one can work today”.  Often there are a few jobs on the go and if there’s a nor’westerly then the southeast face is sheltered.

Anaru:  Or sheltered by nearby buildings.  Or there’s work outside Wellington we can pick up. We’ve got roof work as well.  There’s a difference between being too windy to be on a roof and too windy to be abseiling.

WCL: Do you also do emergency, safety, security work when it comes to roofs?

Anaru: We do emergency work.  If a flashing is going to blow off or something is going to come down and hurt somebody then we will look at it, if we can do it safely we will.

Beth:  Even just getting up there for an inspection puts people’s minds at ease.

Anaru:  It’s safer for us to get out there with ropes and put a couple of screws into something or whatever it takes to make sure its secure

WCL:  Do you still get scared?

Anaru:  Oh yeah. As I get older the fear definitely affects me more.  Because I haven’t been on the ropes much this year I’m more cautious about how I’m doing things.

WCL: Isn’t that a good thing?

Anaru:  If you’re not scared then you shouldn’t be on the rope.  You shouldn’t be an abseiler, because people like that will take way more unnecessary risks.

Beth:  You can’t get complacent.

Beth:  People often say “Isn’t it so scary?  Don’t you feel scared to do it?”  But Anaru said to me once, he feels safer on the ropes with someone he trusts one hundred percent than he would on a building site with 200 people with power tools. So in terms of accidents on the job, touch wood, there are very few.  You’re with that one person you trust, and they have your back, so there’s that culture as well.

Anaru:  It’s important to note that in abseil there’s not that many accidents.  What we are doing … people think it’s high risk, and it is high risk, but we have multiple safety systems in place so the likelihood of an accident is so low

We try to make safety as practical as possible.

WCL: You have to be adaptable and read the situation?

Anaru:  Yeah. I need someone that has the capability to deeply understand rope access, not just think they do.

Beth:  It’s quite nuanced.  You have to have initiative.

Logo provided courtesy of WAM

WCL Do you advertise?  Do you tender for maintenance contracts?  How do you get work?

Beth: We do invest in good sign writing on our vehicles that leads to a decent amount of work. There’s other work where people come directly to us.  We do have a website and that’s been a pretty good investment. Work comes through both of our networks. 17 years of hairdressing before I jumped on board to help Anaru with the office has given me a varied network.

We take a lot of pride looking after our clients and our stakeholders.

We go around at least once or twice a year and we take morning tea to our clients, sit down and update them on our goals and vision. We also ask what we can do better, it’s important to get feedback from customers. Normally a cake gets people talking. We also have a capability statement that we print out for new customers.

One of the WAM team at work. Photo courtesy of Enzo Fantone

A lot of people think abseil = window cleaning.  They don’t also know we can do glazing, painting, leak repairs, tiling, concrete repair, any issue with a high rise building we have repaired. 

So it’s good to have that face time to explain that, they really appreciate it.  That’s what sets us apart, that we’re just not on the other end of the email but we really try to make that effort to go and give people our time.

Anaru:  At this stage in our business, because of the size of it, I’m still over everything, so our customers know that I’m going to be directly involved in every job.   I’m always looking up at all my customers’ buildings, looking for things that need to be fixed.  And if we fix a leak, we follow up to make sure that it is fixed.  Because we care about what we’re doing.

Enzo walked in the door at the perfect time because we had a staff member going on a three month holiday and that worked out really well because he was looking for three months work.

Which is a bit risky for a business, to take someone on for a short period of time because you are literally just training that person [only to have them move on].

But I took him on a job, and I was watching how he did things, and I knew he was going to be able to do it in the time scale we had.

WCL:  Speaking of Enzo, his first day on the job wasn’t without incident.  Would you like to tell us about the water bottle and cherry picker and what was learned from that?

Anaru:  I was working up in the cherry picker because we were washing a building and Enzo put his drink bottle on the leg of it.  A cherry picker has legs that go out to stabilize and level it before we go up.  When we had to move it, the leg came in and crushed the drink bottle.  The drink bottle didn’t break at all, the drink bottle was fine, but it crushed the hydraulic lines on the cherry picker and hydraulic oil went everywhere.  I looked down at him and thought “What have I done?  What have I hired? Have I made a mistake?”

With stuff like that I’ve got to look at it and be like “Well, I never thought to tell him not to do that”.  It was his first day and he would have been under pressure, he would have been nervous.  These mistakes happen and it’s about making sure we include it in our health and safety systems.

Beth:  We say there’s no stupid questions because if someone feels like they are in an environment where they are too scared to ask you something then that’s unsafe as well.  That’s when accidents happen.

We’ve got him a replacement drink bottle for his leaving gift.

Anaru:  We look after each other, we trust each other.  I said to the team this morning that if you ever need to talk about anything it’s an open-door policy here.  You know you can say whatever you want and we will listen and implement whatever has to be implemented to make it work. We’re always trying to do that as much as we can.

WCL:  You started your business in 2019.  Then came Covid.  How were you impacted?

Anaru:  At the time it was only just me and one other.  We were really lucky with the whole Covid thing because we landed a huge job and got it 80 percent finished before the lockdown.  That carried us through without any real dramas.

There was all the PPE and all the Health and Safety stuff we needed to buy, that wasn’t really allowed for in any pricing but we got lucky.  Lockdowns gave us time to sit and reflect about what we wanted.

Beth:  The impact was more around keeping our staff safe going in and out of residential apartment buildings, masking up, sanitising everything.

WCL: Did you apply for the subsidies?

Beth:  Yeah we did, later on.  We initially thought we might be able to work during lockdowns but we weren’t essential workers.  So we got the subsidies and that definitely helped.

WCL:  Can you share your long term vision for the company with us?

Anaru:  We want to grow, but we are very careful about growth because of the impact it has on everything.  We’ve grown a little bit this year.

Going forward we are trying to grow inward and make sure our people are learning and doing as much as they can for their growth and ours.

We are starting up a new roofing business.  We’re going to get licensed for membrane roofs. If we have good people who want to start their own businesses we will help them as a subsidiary of WAM.  We haven’t got it all worked out yet, but I think it’s better, once you get to a certain size, to have one person with a bit of skin in the game. You retain quality as you grow.

If you have a smaller subsidiary and the guy at the top is only managing six to eight staff, he’s got a way better chance of making sure the people coming through are given enough time to learn.

Beth:  People feel a bit more looked after and special in those kinds of teams, rather than getting lost in a big thing.  We try and do lots of little touches for the team.  There’s a bonus each month if we meet our target, we bring the doggies and the kids during the school holidays. I always like to bring snacks and treats.  I think that goes a long way.

Anaru:  There’s a lot of good interactions between our staff, they’re really supportive of each other, they’re always looking out for each other.

Anaru:  We just want to hold on to that as much as we can.  The more numbers you get the harder it is to hold on to.  But it can be done.  That’s another reason why we want the subsidiaries, so the person at the top can make sure they’re looking after their culture and if they’ve got skin in the game, it’s better for everyone involved with that subsidiary, because they know the person at the top is getting something from it.

The WAM team. Photo courtesy of Enzo Fantone

WCL:  The culture of caring is definitely overlooked in many businesses.

Beth:  I started a Facebook and Instagram page and that wasn’t with the intention of gaining commercial abseiling customers because I don’t think they would look on social media for an abseiling company.  It was with the intention of showing “Hey, we’re a really good team”.  That’s what an employee would look for – they would look on Instagram or Facebook and think “Do I want to work for these people?” So we post bits now and then.  [The team] enjoy taking photos and sharing them.

Beth:  We’ve got two children and they asked that the team wear pink shirts and abseil in Wellington on Pink shirt day, the anti-bullying campaign.  Our daughter changed the sign from “Men working above” to “Persons working above”.  Little things like that go a really long way.

WCL:  What would you say to someone thinking this might be a suitable work choice?

Anaru:  If you’re thinking about getting into abseil just make sure you’re passionate about it because it can be seen when you walk through the door.  Make sure it’s something you want to do.

Beth:  I would say there is a career pathway there.  It doesn’t have to be something you think “Oh I’m going to do this for a year maybe, or a gap year or to fill in time”.  There can be steps to a career and that it is quite multi-faceted and it can take you into management positions.

Anaru:  Or offshore, overseas.

Beth:  The qualifications are internationally recognised so there’s opportunity there.

Anaru:  We want to try and get into a career expo and one of my long term goals is to try and get some sort of apprenticeship going somehow with abseil to try and formalise it a bit more because I think it’s important for the industry.

Anaru:  People were asking me at the weekend why I do it as well, and I think it’s like the fun-est trade job available.  Which is why most people get into it, because they are excited by it.

WCL: Why Wellington?

Anaru “It’s cool being in Wellington.  I grew up here and Mum’s family are from here.  We went to Wellington Zoo [with our kids] and there are some pieces of art done by one of my cousins.

There’s photos of my uncle in the Reserve Bank and there’s influences from my family around Wellington so it’s nice being there and seeing that.

Seeing my cousin’s art around the place. Another cousin owns a moving business.  My sister and her partner run a substantial bread run business.  A lot of my family and friends are self-employed and doing well.  They’re still connected with their Maoridom but they also run businesses. To get that balance right is so hard, I draw a lot of inspiration from them, knowing that they’re doing that, I’m proud that my family is putting a lot of positive reinforcement out there for Maori.

WCL would like to thank Anaru and Beth for their time and cooperation with this interview.  Next week we present an interview with former employee Enzo Fantone, and look at his journey into abseiling.

If you would like to learn more about the business concepts discussed in this piece have a look at these resources held by Wellington City Libraries.

The retention revolution : 7 surprising (and very human!) ways to keep employees connected to your company / Keswin, Erica
“Build a business with relationships at the center, and you will seize the competitive edge in today’s volatile job/or talent market.” (Catalogue)



Team habits : how small actions lead to extraordinary results / Gilkey, Charlie
“Charlie Gilkey, an internationally known thought leader on productivity, planning, strategy, and leadership for creative people, explains how changing our team’s habits can change our company’s culture since that culture is always just an aggregation of its various teams’ work habits.
We all know how important habits are for personal effectiveness, success, and happiness. We can apply many of the same principles and insights about personal habits to our teams. When we do, not only do we accrue the personal benefits for ourselves, but we accrue them with and for our team. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The power of company culture : how any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits / Dyer, Chris
“Create and maintain an exceptional company culture to improve engagement, productivity, performance and profits. Structured around the seven pillars of culture success, The Power of Company Culture shows how to develop a company culture that improves productivity, performance, staff retention, company reputation and profits.” (Catalogue)


Work-based learning : bridging knowledge and action in the workplace / Raelin, Joseph A.
Work-based learning is Joe Raelin’s unique way of incorporating a number of action strategies – such as action learning, action science, and communities of practice – into a comprehensive framework to help people learn collectively with others. In this thoroughly updated and revised edition, he demonstrates how to engage our reflective powers to challenge those taken-for-granted assumptions that unwittingly hold us back from questioning standard ways of operating!” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Employee experience strategy : design an effective EX strategy to improve employee performance and drive business results / Whitter, Ben
“Designing and implementing an exceptional employee experience strategy is crucial for business success. From a leading figure in the EX field, this book provides everything needed to succeed. Employee Experience Strategy explains how to assess the needs of the organization and its employees, define and build an effective employee experience (EX) strategy and embed it successfully in the business… this is an essential book for all senior talent professionals needing to build, embed and sustain an effective EX strategy.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Experience, inc. : why companies that uncover purpose, create connection, and celebrate their people will triumph / Popelka, Jill
“The “worker-first experience” is not just a new trend, but the evolution of what it means to work and be part of an organization, and recent power shifts within it. What can leaders, managers, and CHROs, do to position their companies to thrive in the new world? There are many issues for the C-Suiter to navigate — yet they’re all united by the need to focus on employee – human — experience. A flexible, versatile workforce will help your business overcome current challenges and define your future. The successful organizations are making the employee experience more central. This book will give you, the leader, insights about how to think about and outfit your company, in a way that works for your firm, your sector, and your industry” (Catalogue)

Above the line : how to create a company culture that engages employees, delights customers and delivers results / Henderson, Michael
Above the Line… offers all leaders a handbook for leveraging an organisation’s culture to engage staff, increase customer satisfaction and streamline business performance. A ground-breaking work, this book reveals what it takes to achieve optimum results from your organisational culture without employing the use of external consultants. This organic, in-house approach to company culture transformation saves both time and money. Step-by-step, author Michael Henderson illustrates how to create a culture in which employees and leaders delight those outside the company-customers, shareholder, employees’ families, suppliers and the board of directors-and anyone else who may benefit from an association with the organisation.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Skin in the game : hidden asymmetries of daily life / Taleb, Nassim Nicholas
“In his inimitable, pugnacious style, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows that skin in the game applies to all aspects of our lives. It’s about having something to lose and taking a risk. Citizens, lab experimenters, artisans, political activists and hedge fund traders all have skin in the game. Policy wonks, corporate executives, theoreticians, bankers and most journalists don’t. As Taleb says, “The symmetry of skin in the game is a simple rule that’s necessary for fairness and justice, and the ultimate BS-buster,” and “Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them”.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Bids, tenders & proposals : winning business through best practice / Lewis, Harold
“Expert guidance on the entire process of tendering in the three key areas of public sector procurement, contracts for private sector clients and applications for research funding.” (Catalogue)



Tendering and contracting guidelines / Taee, Ahkam AL
“This book is explained and covered, but not limited, the followings; – The content of the tender invitation package. – How to evaluate the bids technically and commercially. – The Concepts of a contract. – The elements of enforceable contract. – Types of Contracts. – Allocating liability and risk in contracts. – The Contract Management tasks and responsibilities. – Explain FIDIC contract forms. – Discuss the risk spectrum in construction. – Gives in Chapter 3, seven attachments form samples of different materials needed in contracts. The book is useful tool to whom are working in supply chain management and contracts departments, this book has been prepared to provide practical guidance in general terms in relation to various public services, it is not a legal textbook but practical guidance tool for business. (Catalogue)

If you need more information please contact the Prosearch team at the library.  We can help you find information across a range of perspectives and resources.  All enquiries are treated in confidence.

Riffing on Retail: an interview with Mandy LaHatte of Indeja

Being locked in her own shop by a drunk passerby and having to evict an amorous couple from the change cubicle were not situations Mandy LaHatte anticipated when she purchased a retail business six and a half years ago.

Both these scenarios are ones the former primary school teacher turned business owner of clothing and giftware shop Indeja has had to deal with.

In 2017 when Mandy’s friend, and belly dance teacher, Traysi Ewayan decided it was time to hand over the iconic Cuba Street business she had built up over 18 and a half years she wanted it to go to someone who would preserve the ethos she had established and love it the way she did.

Traysi originally “bought the store from Global Village after working in it for 2 years”.  She renamed it Indeja – “a made up name between India and Indonesia where the product was from. We started in the old James Smith Market and I moved to the Cuba St shop after 1 year. Global Village owners stocked me but after they moved to Spain I had to start my own importing. So off I went to Vietnam, Thailand, Bali and India to source clothing and jewellery. The rest is history!!!”

Despite having no retail experience, Mandy was at a point where she was looking for something different and up to the challenge.  Traysi stayed on for another 6-7  months to help Mandy transition into running the shop, as well as accompanying her on international buying trips “Showing me what to do, how to sell product and what retail is all about” says Mandy.

In October 2023 Indeja celebrated its 25th anniversary as an independent retail outlet.  WCL sat down with Mandy to learn more about what makes this business tick…

WCL : Were there benefits to taking on an established business with a regular customer base?

Mandy : Absolutely!  People who came into Indeja knew what it was about. It never occurred to me to change the name or change the layout because it had worked so well for eighteen and a half years.  I thought “Why change it?”

WCL: 25 years as an independent retail store is certainly something to celebrate.  What do you think has contributed to Indeja’s longevity?  What’s its continuing appeal?

Mandy:  There’s lots of continuing support from customers.  Customers who come to Indeja over and over and over again.  Not just Wellingtonians but a lot of people from Auckland.  It’s got quite a good reputation around Wellington, especially around Cuba Street. I think also the fact it’s unique.  It’s a different looking shop.  It’s not generic.  So people walk past and then they come back.  And they keep coming back.

I think also the way its run, the kind of person I am.  I build a rapport with the customers therefore they come to see me.  Traysi had that rapport as well so that’s what makes it last.  And keeping it fresh.

WCL : What changes have you made in your time as owner?

Mandy:  I painted it, changed lighting and shelving.  Gave it a spruce up. But not much more.  I’ve kept the layout because it works and I’ve kept the sense of what Indeja is about because it works.  I’ve kept that sense of family in it because it works.

Traysi had all her family working here and I have had my family working here. My oldest son has worked with me, my daughter still works when I need her.  Traysi and her mother and husband worked there.

I upgraded the systems.  Now we’re online, that’s the biggest thing I’ve done, gone on line. Walk-ins however remain the biggest point of sale.

WCL: What challenges are there with being online?  Isn’t that almost like being a second business?

Mandy:  The challenges are making sure stock is photographed.  We have so much it’s difficult to get everything photographed.

Clothing is my biggest seller but online the customers tend to look and think “Ohh, I like that” but they won’t buy online because the clothing is such they want to come and try it on.  They’ll see it online and they’ll ring up and say “Oh, have you got that?” and I say “Yes, I’ll put it aside for you” and they come and try it. The online thing works for earrings and we sell lots of incense online.

WCL: Where and how do you source product?

Mandy:  First of all I like to source from New Zealand.  So I try to get earrings and incense from New Zealand.  It just depends on wholesale prices of New Zealand products.  They can be quite expensive.
Then I go overseas at least three times a year – our tag line “Cool things from hot places” means I source from Thailand, a lot of stuff from Egypt, Vietnam, Morocco and some from India.

(Like Traysi, Mandy now teaches belly dancing  and stocks costumes from Egypt for the belly dancing community)

WCL : How did Covid impact on business and your supply chains?

Mandy:  Horribly!  I began closing down after the government announcement and I had women rushing in saying “I need incense.  I can’t cope without incense!” So I sold out of incense. I closed on the Monday afternoon.  And that was it.  There was no income.  My immediate thought was “How was I going to pay the rent?”

Luckily I have a really good relationship with my landlord.  She’s amazing and has been the same landlord all this time.  I took her over from Traysi.  I just told her Ï couldn’t pay the whole amount of rent and she said “What do you want to pay?”  I thought realistically what I should pay her and I offered an amount and she said “Yes”.

I had to beg, borrow and steal money to keep Indeja going for the two years of Covid.  It did help that the government gave out the wage subsidy.  I had two staff.  One staff member I let go.  She was okay with that.  The other one I kept on.  She had just finished her studies and she needed the money.  So I kept paying her and then the government offered the $10,000 loan, so I took the offer of that and that kept the rent going for a few months.

And then we reopened but the loss was quite big and I really questioned whether I could keep Indeja going because it was really difficult.  Indeja is just a solo store.  So that was really tough.  I have a very supportive partner and just kept it going.  Also not employing any more staff and doing all the work myself.

WCL: How are things now?

Mandy: Things are picking up.  We’ve just had the World of Wearable Arts.  Indeja is a WoW shop and that was quite successful.  The fact women have come into Indeja year after year for WoW and expect new and exciting things.  My challenge is to make sure I have new product for these women.  They’ve been saving up for this particular event so they want to buy.   And they do spend. Otherwise it is picking up.  It has its times.  It’s still not as good as it could be.

WCL :  Do the social issues of Cuba Street impact your business?

Mandy: Safety is an issue. Cuba Street is supposed to be alcohol free but there’s a lot of drunkenness. It’s when they start ranting and cursing then I just ring the police.  Usually they’re [the Police] fairly good.  If there’s a weapon they’ll be here fairly quickly.  I would like to see more police presence in Cuba Street.

People do come into the shop and I have to ask them to leave [as] customers can feel threatened.  We had an incident where someone was outside the shop with a knife, and [my retail assistant] shut the shop with the customers in [until the police came and cleared the area].

One of the things I have done is go to a lot of retailers in the vicinity of me and introduce myself. I know their names and I’ve got their numbers and I’m trying to set up a safe support network [should retailers feel threatened].

I’ve had clothing stolen from the models on the street [at the shop doorway]. I don’t want to have to be anticipating that.  I have a business to run.

WCL: Traysi and Tilly, the Indeja window mannequins have developed their own personalities – tell us how that came about?

Mandy : I found Traysi and Tilly on Trademe and decided they needed names.  When we change the window we post photos on Facebook and list what they are wearing.  Then we’ll get a message “I like that skirt Traysi’s wearing”.  It’s a quirky little thing

We do a huge WoW window.  This year the WoW theme was futuristic.  So we had a vision about what we would dress ‘the girls’ in.  I went overseas about a month before WoW and I was looking around for what they could possibly wear.  Women who walked past the window loved it and came in.  That window is a huge selling point for Indeja.

WoW is the biggest part of my business year.  It’s where the money happens.  I give out tonnes of business cards.  So it’s really big for me.  I get particular staff in on particular days who can cope with the massive influx of women coming in. And now the cruise ships are in.  I’m hoping [the tourists] will come in as well. I promote Indeja wherever I can. Nikita [retail assistant] does Instagram and I do Facebook.  Facebook is really big for Indeja.

 WCL: Do you have plans for CubaDupa?

Mandy:  It will be business as usual.  Lots of crowds.  Saturday is good, Sunday is quieter.  We usually have a sale on for CubaDupa.  Usually 25-30 percent off.

WCL: What are your future plans?

Mandy:  I won’t be there for the next 25 years but I hope when its time for me to go I can on-sell it.
When I bought the shop from Traysi, she really wanted someone who loved it like she did.  Someone who was passionate.  Someone who would keep it the same and I did because her formula worked.

I kept on the existing staff because they knew the business.  They’re gone now, doing their own thing.  My present staff were two women who couldn’t find jobs,.  They wanted retail work but didn’t have any experience so I decided to take them on and train them and give them a chance.

I got a text from Traysi, the other day and she said “I’m so very, very proud of you and what you’ve made of Indeja.  It’s a beautiful shop now” and I said “It’s our shop still”.  

“I love my wee shop and my staff love it too.”

If you’re a retail business wanting to know how Wellington City Libraries can support you,  have a look at these resources.

Retail innovation reframed : how to transform operations and achieve purpose-led growth and resilience / Jude, Gareth
“Retail is defined by disruption; companies either adapt or are replaced by those that will. More so than ever learning how to reframe your business, apply change and stay innovative is key to continued success and survival. Innovation is hard for any organization, even more so for retailers where executing retail basics can often be seen as enough. But the difference between success and failure is increasingly becoming the ability to reframe your approach to innovation and use it to win the competitive edge, as Retail Innovation Reframed explains. Changing your business operations to solve customers’ biggest challenges is how established household names and emerging businesses now thrive. … Online resources include templates for testing and analyzing new innovations”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Retail recovery : how creative retailers are winning in their post-apocalyptic world / Pilkington, Mark
“This book offers a comprehensive analysis of new forces which are changing the way in which we buy products and experience brands… The retail industry, with which we have all grown up, has been devastated by the twin effects of the internet and the Coronavirus lockdown. Huge numbers of prestigious brands have gone under, or are a shadow of their former selves. The world economy has gone into deep recession, with reduced employment and incomes across broad swathes of society. Many discretionary products have simply become too expensive for ordinary people to buy on a regular basis. High streets and shopping malls lie half empty, causing a vacuum at the core of our societies. There is an urgent need to regenerate our local shopping centers, in order to create new hope in depressed areas. So how can retailers and brands respond to this crisis? Fortunately, new shoots of recovery are emerging from the wreckage of the old order–new brands, new technology, new ways of providing value, and new and innovative methods of creating excitement to draw in consumers, all of which have the potential to kick-start the retail economy”–Publisher’s description.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Retail confidential / Cushnan, Joe
“The recession is creating havoc in the retail sector. This guide offers advice on what to do and what not to do to manage a successful retail business. It shows how to keep the business simple and how to keep the business honest. It reveals how the customer is not always right but is always essential.” (Catalogue)



Retail in detail / Bond, Ronald L.
“With more than 30 years of experience, author Ronald L. Bond provides the most comprehensive information available on starting and running a retail business. Everything you need to know to successfully plan, launch and manage your own retail business is at your fingertips.”–Back cover.” (Catalogue)



Inside the mind of the shopper : the science of retailing / Sorensen, Herb
“What do you really do when you shop? The answers are fascinating and, for retailers, they’re cash in the bank. In Inside the Mind of the Shopper, retail consultant Dr. Herb Sorensen uncovers the truth about the retail shopper and rips away the myths and mistakes that lead retailers to miss their greatest opportunities… Drawing on Sorensen’s breakthrough second-by-second analysis of millions of shopping trips, this book reveals how consumers actually behave, move, and make buying decisions as they move through supermarkets and other retail stores. Sorensen presents powerful, tested strategies for designing more effective stores, improving merchandising, and driving double-digit sales increases. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Monocle guide to shops, kiosks and markets : a handbook for shoppers, would-be retailers, neighbourhood-makers and brands in need of a fix
“Monocle’s latest book unpacks what makes a perfect shopping experience and offers tips on how to launch, design and run your own store. A must-have guide.” (Catalogue)


Window display : new visual merchandising / Morgan, Tony
“A showcase of the most exciting, innovative and successful window displays worldwide, this book offers inspiration and guidance to visual merchandisers and retailers who need to create eye-catching window designs that will increase sales.” (Catalogue)



Visual merchandising : window and in-store displays for retail / Morgan, Tony
“A great introduction for retail students, this book offers a user-friendly reference guide to all aspects of visual merchandising and covers both window dressing and in-store areas. Using examples from a range of stores from fashion emporia to supermarkets, the book offers practical advice on the subject, supported by hints and tips from established visual merchandisers. It reveals the secrets of their tool kit, and information on the use of mannequins, the latest technology, how to construct and source props, and explains the psychology behind shopping and buyer behavior. Presented through color photographs, diagrams of floor layouts, and store case studies, and including invaluable information such as a glossary of terms used in the industry, Visual Merchandising is an essential handbook for anyone working in and learning about this exciting area.” (Catalogue)

Retail Customer Service (LinkedIn Learning)
Delivering great retail customer service
Updated: 7/28/2021

Retail customer service happens in a specific setting: supporting the sale or fulfillment of a physical product. Unlike a call center, in a retail scenario you get to meet customers face to face. It can be overwhelming, but it’s a great opportunity to deliver fantastic customer service—the kind that gets you noticed by managers, and keeps customers coming back. It starts with a positive attitude, which leads to a good first impression. However, you can’t guarantee customers will always be happy.In this course, learn techniques to deal with upset customers, and show empathy with active listening. Instructor and customer service expert David Brownlee—the author of Rockstar Service, Rockstar Profits—also provides etiquette tips to ensure quality service at every point of interaction: from the moment customers walk in the door to keeping them happy while they’re on hold.
(Access to LinkedIn learning is available free with library registration)

Mastering Conversations in Retail Sales (LinkedIn Learning)
Released: 11/14/2018

You aced your interview and landed a new position at a retail store. Now that the job is yours, how do you actually get good at it? One crucial skill that can help you succeed in this role—and in nearly every other job you’ll have going forward—is the ability to talk to customers in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Genuine conversations—and not pushy sales tactics—will help you connect your retail customers with what they need, and do so in a way that will leave them wanting to come back again and again. This course is all about mastering those conversations. In this course, Paul A. Smith goes over the kinds of conversations you’re expected to be able to have with retail customers, sharing techniques that can help you navigate those interactions successfully. Learn how to start talking to someone who just walked into your store, how to turn a conversation ender like “Thanks, I’m just looking” into a conversation starter, how to deal with angry customers, and much more.
(Access to LinkedIn learning is available free with library registration)

If you would like further information please contact the Prosearch team at the library. We can help you find information across a range of perspectives and resources. All enquiries are treated in confidence.

Chatting about chocolate and connections with Asli and Sel Gider, La Petite Artisan Chocolate

“In ten years time we’d like to see La Petite as a solid, established icon for Thorndon and Tinakori Rd.  That would be a very, very satisfying goal.  When the ships are coming in and for people visiting the Botanical Gardens, if they think “Oh, we need to see La Petite”, and we become a destination, that’s probably a good target for me.  – Sel Gider, La Petite Artisan Chocolates

To walk into La Petite on Tinakori Road is to be literally like a kid in a chocolate shop.  There are the beautiful displays of chocolate bars with original artwork by local artists, a French aesthetic with a bicycle parked against the wall, the well-lit counter cabinet twinkling with coloured bonbons and of course, the smell.  A pervasive sweet, yet spicy, aroma of dark chocolate that sets the taste buds tingling ….

First, a little history.

New Zealanders have been enjoying chocolate manufactured in Aotearoa ever since Richard Hudson set up his chocolate and cocoa manufacturing plant in Dunedin in the 1880s.  Hudson’s factory was later taken over by Cadburys and became a Dunedin landmark.

More than a decade later Whittakers chocolate set up shop in Christchurch before relocating to Wellington.

For generations of New Zealanders chocolate meant Dairy Milk or Milky bars.   Dark chocolate was marketed as “Energy” chocolate.  Boxed chocolates such as Roses or Cadbury’s Continental were for “special occasions” such as Christmas, and no trip to the cinema was complete without a box of Snifters or Jaffas.

Then in the 1990s a different type of chocolate began appearing on the New Zealand market.  High end, quality, boutique chocolates with their makers trained in the European chocolate style.  These artisan chocolate makers and chocolatiers were dedicated and passionate about their craft and businesses continued to expand through the 2000s.

Here in Wellington/Te Whanganui a Tara the newest entry into the artisan chocolate market, La Petite , opened the doors of it’s chocolaterie in October 2022.

Asli and Sel Gider of La Petite Chocolate, Tinakori Rd

Run by Asli and Sel Gider, La Petite specialises in organic, fairtrade, single origin artisan chocolate bars, bonbons and drinking chocolate, with an emphasis on sustainability and collaboration with local producers.

Leaving Turkey and settling in Hawkes Bay over a decade ago, Asli and Sel both have backgrounds in food production; Asli as a winemaker and Sel as a food processing engineer in the apple industry.

2020 and the early months of lockdowns when neither was able to work, gave them time to think about what they wanted their future to look like.  And that future involved a business where they could work together utilising their skills to turn some of New Zealand’s high quality produce into an artisan product.

When a local chocolate business came onto the market at around the same time they decided to make the leap ….

Surrounded by displays of mouth watering, handcrafted chocolates WCL recently sat down with Asli and Sel to talk about taking on a business at the beginning of the tumultuous Covid era, relocating it to Wellington and why connections with suppliers are important.

Asli :  We always loved Wellington and wanted to move here but with our jobs it was not possible.  So when we decided to stop and do something for ourselves we saw our favourite chocolate business was on sale …

Sel : Straight after the lockdown we sat around the table, discussed all the details and took over the brand.  In the back of our minds we were always planning to shift but we spent a year and a half or so in Hastings where the business was originally located.

WCL : Did you receive mentoring from the business owners?

Sel: A little bit. They were still around but we picked up pretty quickly.  And then we started looking in Wellington. We had to find a location for the business and that search period took quite a while because things were stop-start with lockdowns.  It took about a year or so.  I was driving down to Wellington pretty much every week to look at places and to look at the suburbs, observe the people.

Asli: But Thorndon, especially Tinakori Village, was on our minds from the first because I think it suits our brand image a lot.

Sel : Last year in June we found this shop, moved in in September, did a bit of fit out work and we opened in October.

WCL : You were gifted some artwork when you moved into this space.  Tell us a little about that.

Sel:  It’s Sir Michael Fowler’s painting.  This building used to be his workspace back in the day, and he drew this from across the street.  One of our customers gifted this to us.

Asli : This is the chronological side but story wise – Why chocolate?  We wanted to work as a couple and bring our expertise into our business. Food production was something we had in common. I always wanted to have a shop where I can connect with people through my creations. Also chocolate is similar to wine, the terroir is important, then it is the combination of science and art.

Before taking the big leap, we bought all the chocolates we can find in New Zealand and tasted them, blind tasting. If the chocolate was not good it would not work for us. We loved La Petite chocolate. The couverture was French origin, from an organic and fair trade certified family business.

For us the most important part of the business, the quality of the chocolate, was ticking the box. So we brought our scientific minds and taste buds and built up the rest of the business from there.

Hastings was a good start for us because local people were very supportive, especially after covid and we felt that we were making people happy by chocolate.  They were always coming smiling.  I never saw a rude person in the shop.  They were happy and when they gifted our chocolate to someone else, they were happy. Gifting a local artisan produce creates a positive community vibe and that’s what we love about La Petite.

At first, chocolate for me was the bars. I tried to differentiate the origins, getting better at tasting. I honestly did not know anything about the pastry side, the confections. I am making up for it now. Chocolate has become my world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The bonbons, the small, soft centered chocolates, I discovered when we took over this business. Now I feel creating different tastes with different ingredients is the fun part. I love creating gift boxes with different shapes, colours and flavours. They bring joy to our lives.

Creating bonbons requires a lot of work but it is fun. The flavour combinations are endless. We look for balance, harmony, flavour and stability. Just one bite should be satisfying  and fulfilling.

WCL : There are pros and cons to setting up a business vs buying an existing one.  Did you weigh these up?

Asli : We had a lot of synergies with the previous owners in terms of the ethical and artisanal side of the business. The chocolate is ethical and the packaging is plastic free and compostable. All hand made in the kitchen. So we thought  the core values were right..

Sel : Having a brand name that people knew and trusted was obviously a big benefit rather than trying to create something from scratch. There was also room for improvement, especially in terms of the branding, the packaging and putting the scientific, technical function into production.  And also with the plan in the back of our minds of moving this to a bigger city and a bigger audience was one of the main things.

And the cons : obviously there were some set practices in the way things were done historically and when we started we had to go through everything and dig out what’s right for us and what’s not, and how can we make it better.  Is it the right way doing it this way or do we change it.  So changing the habits , not just the people but the business practices.

Having a brand name that people knew was obviously a big benefit rather than trying to create something from scratch.

WCL : You said earlier you wanted to work together.  How are you finding it?  Do you have complementary strengths and skills?

Asli : It’s very good, I think.  We are very, very different from each other and we complement each other a like.  I really like how Sel works that’s why I always wanted to work with him.  He’s a perfectionist in his own way.  He has a very good eye for the detail and I am a perfectionist in my own way, but in different areas.

Sel : In terms of the taste and the art side of it, the recipes and the kitchen, the preparation and the inspiration for the brand, Asli is the driving force.  I am more on the admin, invoicing, the technical labelling, the machines.

Asli: He’s a very DIY person.  It’s his pleasure if he can do something by himself.  I think that’s why he likes this business a lot.

Sel:  On the other hand, one thing that maybe affects us is that it’s never ending.  We come here in the morning together, we work together, we go home together.  There’s no such thing as work hours.  At dinner we are discussing things about work.

Asli : I don’t have work life balance.  This is like a third child for me.

WCL : Have you found previous Hawkes Bay customers have switched to online purchasing or coming to see you when in Wellington?

Sel : Yes, they have.

A lot of Hawkes Bay people have connections in Wellington, like kids studying here. We sometimes have people visiting us here as they know us from Hastings.  Also Wellingtonians go to Hawkes Bay so there are a lot of people who know us from the Farmers market [and those] people have found us here.

We have a lot of corporate customers from Hawkes Bay as well.

Straight after lockdown in the second half of 2020 there was a big boom then starting from last year, things started to change as things started to settle down.  In terms of the corporate side,  the businesses were much more comfortable doing gifting and staff events but now it seems like it has settled down a bit So that is obviously having an effect on the volumes.

We have maintained the customers as in the number of customers but the volume is not what it has been.

Asli: From the start we said we really shouldn’t rely on foot traffic.  When people need gifts or a small treat for themselves, they come here. Loyal customers are more important for us than the busy foot traffic. We are lucky to have car parks at the back.

WCL : Have you noticed different taste preferences between the two markets?

Asli : If we try something new here people are always curious.  Wellington people are more open to discover new tastes. There’s a more culturally diverse group here.

Sel : We are finding that some of the flavours that were not very popular in Hawkes Bay have become more popular here.

WCL : Supporting local and collaborating is important to you.  Tell us more about local inspiration and collaborations

Asli : We try to source our ingredients from New Zealand as much as we can and we really like collaborations with growers.  So when I find a good producer like, for example, salt, why use ordinary salt if you have good salt producers in New Zealand?  Chilli is the same.  There might be a very, very good chilli in the market, a Mexican chilli, but if we have good producers, who try to do their best in New Zealand I just go there. I tasted a lot of chillies to find the best one for us. It’s the same with honey, coffee, hazelnuts, fruits and herbs. In New Zealand we have the best climate and the best soil.  Growers are passionate about their products so from the beginning it was my aim to work with the producers in New Zealand.

Also, most of our label artwork was created by local artists.  It first started with Rachael. I saw her work on the street on a pamphlet and I contacted her “Do you want to create an artwork for the label of one of our chocolates?” and she tasted the chocolates – it was ginger mandarin …. and prepared a design. She ended up creating three artworks for us.

Then there is  Ana from Nelson.  Her style is  unique and beautiful and truly connects you with the chocolate.

Caramel Crystals was a difficult one. We went to Castle Point during Christmas holidays and the landscape inspired me with the idea and I found Helen’s artwork online. She is also the designer of our white bar, Tangy.

Lastly, we met Helen Cairney. I love her nature inspired, hand painted gift cards that we sell at our shop. She designed the Fennel and Bergamot artwork for us.

WCL : How much experimentation goes in to perfecting a new chocolate flavour?

Asli: Yesterday my husband was joking.  He told me “I will change the sign outside to say Research Department” because we are always researching.  We are always evolving and trying to do better.

We work in small batches and have the opportunity to try something different in each production. We know our weaknesses and strengths in tasting, so we decide as a team.  Also I value the feedback from the customers. They help us to perfect the new chocolate flavours.

In New Zealand one thing I have observed is that if people say of a flavour “It’s subtle”  it means “It’s not enough”. They don’t say this openly, they say “It’s subtle”. Then I know that I should go a bit more bold.

WCL : Do New Zealanders still need a degree of educating about quality chocolate?  How to savour and appreciate it?

Asli: We are lucky in New Zealand to have all these talented artisan chocolate makers and chocolatiers. New Zealanders have the chance to train their palate with high quality chocolate. The one thing that needs more emphasis maybe is the pricing of the chocolate. It is not possible to buy ethical, high quality chocolate at supermarket prices. Cheap chocolate means low quality ingredients and some people are suffering along the supply chain of the ingredients that go into the chocolate process. High quality chocolate has a higher price but has more complex, satisfying taste and is ethically correct.

WCL : Your chocolate is award winning.  To a boutique chocolaterie what does it mean to be judged and awarded medals by your peers in the industry?

Asli: It was very good timing as it was just as we moved here.  It was with Dr Beak we got most of the awards.  That’s the bar we created with the gin botanicals in collaboration with Dr Beak Premium NZ Gin. We’ve put a lot of effort into it so it was a really proud moment for us.

Sel:  Obviously it’s very good for getting the name out – we are here and doing this and doing it well. Asli appreciated the feedback from the judges – what’s good, what’s not so good and what can be improved on.

WCL : Let’s touch on the darker side of the chocolate industry.  Many people are not aware that there are many unethical practices associated with the chocolate supply chain (such as child labour).  What steps have you taken to address this?

Asli : At La Petite we use Kaoka couverture for our chocolates. They are  organic and fair trade certified and we have always been happy with their quality standard. Kaoka’s fair trade certification is from Fair For Life. It is a fully transparent, global certification for social accountability and fair trading. It protects farmers at the origin and guarantees fair practices along the entire supply chain.

WCL : What plans do you have for future developments?

Asli : I have a lot of dreams.  I’m more of a dreamer.

Sel: What we are not planning is to be a big brand. We have no such aims. We are not planning to be in every supermarket. We are aiming to remain within the boundaries of being boutique.

Asli: Maintain the quality always. That’s the first thing. That’s how we are keeping our customers. Even if the ingredient prices are increasing every day, we can’t compromise the quality.

Sel : In ten years time we’d like to see La Petite as a solid, established icon for Thorndon and Tinakori Rd. That would be a very, very satisfying goal.  When the ships are coming in and people visiting the Botanical Gardens, if they think “Oh, we need to see La Petite”, if we can make people think that and we become a destination, that’s probably a good target for us.

Want to learn more about chocolate, it’s history and uses?

Have at look at some of the sweet resources we have available through Wellington City Libraries.

On our streaming services …

Chocolate Road (Kanopy)
2021, 1hr 32min
A discovery of where chocolate comes from. Three renowned chocolatiers – Maribel Lieberman, Susumu Koyama and Mikkel Friis-Holm – take us through the process of craft chocolate-making, starting from the plantations, through the different stages of preparation of the beans and all the way to the final chocolate pieces. On their journey each of them finds how important it is to know the roots of their prime material – the cacao bean, and the social impact of the people involved in the chocolate production chain. (Library registration is needed to access)

The Science and Secrets of Chocolate (Kanopy)
2017, 30min
Today, chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar global industry. In this lecture, Professor Crittenden takes you back in time so you can follow chocolate’s trek around the world, considering not only its history and chemical properties, but its role in the current global market in the form of powerful chocolate empires.

El Cacao: The Challenge of Fair Trade (Kanopy)
2015, 19min
EL CACAO exposes the dark side of chocolate production in Latin America by examining the economics of Fair Trade from the point of view of the indigenous farmers as they attempt to sustain their community through the growth, harvest, and trade of cacao beans in the global market. This 20-minute documentary film highlights the life of an indigenous Ngäbe farmer in Panama and his unconditional devotion to this so-called “superfood.” The film threads together the themes of neoliberal ideology, human rights, and the economics of the chocolate industry. While the demand for chocolate in developed nations continues to raise, the farmers in developing countries, like Panama, are rarely awarded the economic incentive promised to them.

From the book collection

The true history of chocolate / Coe, Sophie D.
“A beautifully written . . . and illustrated history of the Food of the Gods, from the Olmecs to present-day developments.”–Chocolatier” (Catalogue)

Chocolate : a global history / Moss, Sarah
“… Chocolate is synonymous with our cultural sweet tooth, our restaurant dessert menus, and our idea of indulgence. Chocolate is adored around the world and has been since the Spanish first encountered cocoa beans in South America in the sixteenth century. It is seen as magical, addictive, and powerful beyond anything that can be explained by its ingredients, and in Chocolate Sarah Moss and Alec Badenoch explore the origins and growth of this almost universal obsession. Moss and Badenoch recount the history of chocolate, which from ancient times has been associated with sexuality, sin, blood, and sacrifice. The first Spanish accounts claim that the Aztecs and Mayans used chocolate as a substitute for blood in sacrificial rituals and as a currency to replace gold. In the eighteenth century chocolate became regarded as an aphrodisiac-the first step on the road to today’s boxes of Valentine delights. Chocolate also looks at today’s mass-production of chocolate, with brands such as Hershey’s, Lindt, and Cadbury dominating our supermarket shelves.” — Title display.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

For the love of chocolate : a Kiwi indulgence / Everitt, Stephanie
“Author Stephanie Everitt, co-owner of award-winning Devonport Chocolates, shares her passion for chocolate and experience of making it and tasting it in this beautiful little book.” (Catalogue)

The chocolate tree : a natural history of cacao / Young, Allen M
“Provides an overview of the natural and human history of one of the world’s most intriguing commodities: chocolate. This title explores its ecological niche, tracing cacao’s journey out of the rain forest, into pre-Columbian gardens, and then onto plantations adjacent to rain forests. It also presents a history of the use of cacao.” (Catalogue)

Whittaker’s : a passion for chocolate since 1896 / Farrell-Green, Simon
“Whittaker’s is a much-loved Kiwi brand and a genuine family business going back four generations. This luscious book takes a light-hearted look at the history of the business, and how the chocolate is made, and then gives a range of fully tested recipes. There are recipes from high-profile guest chefs, and a good range of everyday recipes from Whittaker’s Facebook fans, plus notes on different types of chocolate and how to use them. From marbled chocolate meringues and cinnamon cardamom blondies to white chocolate and macadamia cheesecake, Whittaker’s peanut butter chocolate and caramel brownie and a range of delectable hot chocolate drinks”–Publisher information.” (Catalogue)

Chocolate : a healthy passion / Aaron, Shara
“The world loves chocolate and chances are you do too. This enjoyable book, written by two leading dieticians, will serve to deepen your love and also your understanding of chocolate. The authors help you explore some surprising applications of chocolate to your life: from its sensory pleasures to its role in emotional and physical wellness. With luscious photography and enticing recipes, this delightful, even mouthwatering, book will bring your appreciation for this gift of Mother Nature to a new level” (Catalogue)

Chocolate wars : from Cadbury to Kraft : 200 years of sweet success and bitter rivalry / Cadbury, Deborah
“The delicious true story of the world’s most famous chocolate firms by award-winning writer and a descendant of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty, Deborah Cadbury” (Catalogue)

Naked chocolate : the astonishing truth about the world’s greatest food / Wolfe, David
“David Wolfe and Shazzie introduce the phenomenal, enlightening power of cacao beans engulfed in the magic of chocolate. And they show us how to use extraordinary chocolate recipes to achieve higher and higher states of pure joy!” (Catalogue)

Lastly a couple of scientific articles on the health benefits of dark chocolate ….

“Food of the Gods”: History, Science, and Human Health.
Montagna MT, Diella G, Triggiano F, … et al
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 6;16(24):4960. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16244960. PMID: 31817669; PMCID: PMC6950163.
Discusses some of the possible health benefits of chocolate consumption

Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial.
Shin JH, Kim CS, Cha L, … et al.  J Nutr Biochem. 2022 Jan;99:108854. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2021.108854. Epub 2021 Sep 14. PMID: 34530112.
Investigates the effects of dark chocolate intake on mood in everyday life, with special emphasis on the gut-brain axis.

If you would like further information please contact the Prosearch team at the library. We can help you find information across a range of perspectives and resources. All enquiries are treated in confidence.

Skin deep: talking about tattooing in Wellington (Part 2)

Part 1 of this blog can be read here

Regulation of the industry / health and hygiene

Tattoo parlours have traditionally had a slightly seedy reputation. These days professional commercial premises lean towards a welcoming, brightly lit vibe and – importantly – high levels of cleanliness.

If you are thinking about getting a tattoo, advice from those within the industry is to think very carefully about who you get to do it and where.

A reputable studio often has a range of tattooists to choose from, portfolios on offer showcasing the work of each artist, and many businesses emphasise comfort and adherence to industry safety and hygiene guidelines as well as artist experience and areas of particular expertise or tattooing styles.

However at a national level the tattooing industry in New Zealand remains unregulated.  Anyone can purchase a tattooing gun and inks via the internet and start tattooing.  As tattooing involves piercing the skin, it is important that certain health and safety guidelines are followed.  Infection and blood borne diseases, if equipment is not hygienically prepared, are very real, and unpleasant, risks.

In 1998 the Ministry of Health published Guidelines for the Safe Piercing of Skin.

It is expected that they [the guidelines] will be used widely by operators who offer
body piercing and tattooing services in order to provide a framework
of minimum standards with respect to infection control in the industry.

These guidelines have not been updated although in 2010 the Ministry issued the  Customary Tattooing Guidelines for Operators.

Throughout New Zealand some councils have introduced their own bylaws to regulate tattooing and associated businesses.  Auckland has the most comprehensive and readily accessible set of guidelines.

In 2019, Wellington City Council planned to introduce a brand new beauty industry bylaw and sought responses about regulation of the beauty sector, following a Regional Public Health survey about infection-control procedures in nail salons in the Wellington region.  Feedback was received from a wide range of operators in the beauty industry including tattooists.

Due to the emergence of Covid in early 2020 changes were put on the back burner for now meaning that in Wellington commercial tattoo businesses continue to be self regulating.  However reputable artists and studios work to a code of ethics set out by the Tattoo Artists Association of New Zealand (TAANZ).

As with health services clients to a reputable tattoo studio are expected to sign a consent form.  The consent, waiver and release form at Buttercat studio lists nine points regarding health disclosures and acknowledgement of understanding of the tattooing process the client must sign prior to work being undertaken.  A further three points are initialled post work accepting satisfaction with the process and the care taken.

Kat from Sinatras Tattoos emphasized that complete honesty about any underlying health issues is important in both the tattooing and tattoo removal process and includes full disclosure about any medications that may increase bleeding risks.


Remember in Part 1 there were unsuccessful moves in 1969 to introduce legislation preventing tattooing on anyone under the age of 18 years?  New Zealand continues to have no legal age restrictions on getting a tattoo.  It is generally accepted that if you are over the age of 16 years and capable of giving consent, then you can be tattooed.

Members of TAANZ, who follow the industry code of practice, will not tattoo anyone under the age of 18 without the written consent of a parent or guardian.  It was with parental consent that Amy (our library colleague featured in Part 1) was able to get her first tattoo at the age of 15.

In 2018 an Auckland tattooist became the first to be prosecuted under the local Health and Hygiene Bylaw 2013 for tattooing an underage youth without parental consent.

Consumer rights


Readers may recall an advertisement that ran on television a while back in which a man shrugs off his shirt to reveal a giant tattoo of his partner’s image, complete with the mis-spelled phrase No regerts.

Unless the man in question specifically intended that spelling the tattoo artist could be held responsible under the Consumer Guarantees Act.  As with any service, a tattoo from a reputable studio requires them to ensure all care is taken to deliver a product the customer is happy with.  If, for legitimate reasons, the customer is unhappy with the quality of the work or feels a mistake has been made, the studio is obliged to either fix the mistake or refund you the cost as per the Act.

Read more about your rights around getting a tattoo in Risks and regrets : what to consider before getting a tattooConsumer (2022) issue 614 April/May.  pp 56-60

Tattoos and copyright


In 2020 an Australian IP expert asked the question : Who owns the rights to your tattoo?  While primarily Australian in content the article noted :

In New Zealand, more restrictive rules around commissioned art and copyright mean a paying client can be the first copyright owner of a custom tattoo, regardless of whether they actively contributed to the design process.

A similar piece from two years earlier, by the NZ Law Society also asked But who owns that tattoo and found that :
To prevent any copyright issues in New Zealand, a reversal of the copyright law needs to be acknowledged and agreed to by both parties to be enforced and, while the artist could retain the rights to their design after its been purchased, they can’t retain the rights to the canvas the design is on – skin. Which opens a whole new bag of worms.

Whether you are providing your artist with your own design or whether the artist is designing one for you it pays to be aware of copyright considerations and raise the subject with your tattooist.

In recent years there has also been a growing awareness of cultural appropriation amongst tattooists particularly around the etching of indigenous designs on non-indigenous people.  A reputable artist may refuse to do such work if asked and is within their right to do so.

Tattoos in the workplace

In Wellington bars and cafes it’s almost de rigueur to have at least some ink, if not a lot, on display.
And it’s not just here.  In a recent attempt to attract staff a Nelson cafe offered up a $500 tattoo voucher to the successful applicants who stayed for six months.

Owner, Kymberly said, in response to our enquiries that “…, over the last couple of years many of our staff have opted to get matching whisky glass tattoos (Glencairns) and tattoos to celebrate various distilleries and whisky festivals, this was written about recently in an article in the New York Times about one of our most loved distilleries Ardbeg where it was noted that hardcore fans have tattoos as an ode to Ardbeg”

However not all employers or workplaces are open to visible tattoos and depending on the tattoo and its placement an employer is within their rights to request that it be covered. Employsure offers advice in this piece on physical appearance in the workplace

In 2019 both the New Zealand Police and Air New Zealand moved to permit visible tattoos within prescribed limits.

As part of a recruitment campaign the Police went as far as highlighting frontline staff with tattoos and the varied stories behind the skin art.

Both organisations have similar wording for new recruits.

From the NZ Police recruitment site :
Apart from Ta Moko or equivalent, you shouldn’t have tattoos in prominent places such as the hands or face. If you do these will need to be assessed.

Tattoos which are offensive, rude, or incite hatred are totally against our values are an absolute “no”. No exceptions. [sic]

Air New Zealand allows all staff  “… to have Tā Moko and non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing our uniform or normal business attire …  We ask employees to treat tattoos like they treat speech – you can’t swear, make hateful comments or lewd jokes in the workplace, neither can your tattoos.

 The armed forces have long had a tradition of tattoos and for those serving in any branches of the Defence Forces  Tattoos, including large and highly visible cultural tattoos are acceptable provided they are appropriate for a military environment and are complementary to the NZDF’s values and image.

Learn more in this op-ed piece by employment lawyer Susan Hornsby-Geluk: Can your boss ban your tattoo?

That signs off our two part blog looking at the tattooing industry in Wellington.  If you have any comments or feedback please feel free to get in touch.

Library resources
Along with the resources we listed at the end of Part one of this blog here’s some of the other items we have consulted or have available through Wellington City Library collections

The state of the industry: From tattooing fisherman and scaffolders to anyone and everyone.  
Looks at the development of the tattooing industry in New Plymouth and includes interviews with several artists and an overview of training.  (Stuff.co.nz  Feb 07, 2020)

The inked trail: How women are shaping tattoo culture in New Zealand
Profiles two female tattoo artists – Lura Nehren-Smith and Taryn Beri, a moko kauae specialist. (Stuff.co.nz  08 September 2019)

History of tattooing
This Wikipedia entry has a concise overview of tattooing history as well as an extensive reference list.

Flash tattoo portraits / Karena, Kia Maia
“Fantasy tattoo templates.” (Catalogue)

“Inked magazine covers pop culture and music for people that enjoy Tattoo art or have Tattoo designs on their bodies. Each issue has interviews with popular celebrities and the tattoo artists who decorate their bodies. There are tons of photos to inspire your next work of body art.” (Catalogue)

On Kanopy (library registration required to access)
Tattoo uprising
From antiquity to the present, TATTOO UPRISING reveals the artistic and historical roots of today’s tattoo explosion. This sweeping overview explores how tattoos were used in early Christian practices, how they were discovered halfway around the world during the voyages of Captain James Cook, and how they exploded in popularity in America beginning with artists like Ed Hardy.

Tattoo Uprising features some of the most extraordinary people of the tattoo world including Ed Hardy, Stoney St. Clair, Cynthia Witkin, Anne de Hey! and others, as well as unforgettable appearances by filmmakers Les Blank and Werner Herzog, who allows a rare glimpse at his Ed Hardy tattoo.

Tattoo Nation
For years people saw tattoos as a sign of rebellion. A middle finger salute to the rest of the world. Outlaw bikers got tattoos. Sailors on leave in Singapore got tattoos. Lifers in the joint got tattoos. But now in the United States one out of every three adults under forty has a tattoo! So what happened? How did tattoo go from something that was put on you to an expression that comes from within you? TATTOO NATION tells the story of a few people who helped transform the world of tattoo, and the way we think about tattoos, forever. This is the true story of the ink revolution

On Libby(library registration required to access)

Tattoo Style

The World’s most incredible tattoos

Tā moko : Māori markings / Howarth, Crispin
“The practice of tā moko, and the wearing of moko, was considered an art form of a bygone day for the most part of the twentieth century, as casualty of Aotearoa New Zealand’s colonial past. However, this unique Pacific art is enjoying a revival. Its embers fanned back to life by modern practitioners in the 1980s, it has once again become a powerful form of Māori cultural expression, identity and unity. In a first for Australia, ‘Māori markings: tā moko’ looks at not only the history of this living, breathing art of our region but also shares stories of today’s proud moko wearers and practitioners”–Foreword.” (Catalogue)

Mokorua : Nga korero mo toku moko kauae – My story of moko kauae / Tikao, Ariana

One woman’s journey to her moko kauae as an expression of her Kai Tahu identity.



Pakeha ta moko : a history of the Europeans traditionally tattooed by Māori / Bentley, Trevor
“Explore the hidden history of European men and women traditionally tattooed by Maori. In Pakeha Ta Moko, Trevor Bentley examines the extent and significance of Maori and Pakeha tattoo exchange both on ship and shore between the 1790s and 1840s. He uncovers the tattooing methods as well as the purpose and significance of the designs. Bentley examines why and how some captive Pakeha males were forced to receive facial tattoos while others voluntarily crossed cultures and submitted themselves to the ta moko ritual. Through in-depth research and interviews, Bentley explores this important part of early New Zealand history.” (Catalogue)

Patterns of the past : tattoo revival in the Cook Islands / Mangos, Therese
“Patterns of the Past traces the history and practice of tattooing (tātatau) through the ancient oral traditions of the Cook Island people, as well as from reports of early Western visitors and rich archival material. The book looks at the current practices of contemporary Cook Island tattooists, what the tattoos mean and what techniques and instruments are traditionally used. More than 250 colour and black and white images included.” (Catalogue)

Tatau : Samoan tattoo, New Zealand art, global culture / Adams, Mark
“Samoan tattoing, or tatau is an ancient Polynesian art tradition and rite of passage that reaches its most powerful expression in the full body male tattoo, the pe’a. Building on the internationally touring exhibition Tatau, this extraordinary series of images by leading photographer Mark Adams documents the story of tatau in the Pacific and its remarkable globalisation.” (Catalogue)

If you need more information please contact the Prosearch team at the library.  We can help you find information across a range of perspectives and resources.  All enquiries are treated in confidence.

Business information familiarisation sessions

Person searching their phone, lots of information boxes popping up

Are you seeking business relevant information but not sure where to find it?

Would you like to feel more confident about using the library website to locate work related information?

Read on …

Throughout May you can arrange a free 40-45 minute library resources familiarisation tour with Linda, Business Development Customer Specialist.

These sessions are limited to 1-3 people and are by appointment only.
In the CBD they will take place at Te Awe (Brandon St) branch and other branches by arrangement.

If you are interested in having a tour please email prosearch@wcc.govt.nz 
and provide details of a day, time and branch preference that is convenient for you and we will be in touch to arrange an appointment slot.

Wellington Business Success Stories Get The Podcast Treatment

WellingtonNZ has launched its first ever series of podcasts – Imagine this with Jehan Casinader – featuring industry leaders, maverick minds and change makers.

Series-host Jehan Casinader, a leading New Zealand journalist, teases out the respective journeys of business leaders, innovators and creatives. The result is a deeper insight into the ups and downs of growing a business, and why these people have chosen to do so from Wellington.

Access the podcasts here