When you run an online boutique from a small country town, it helps to be on first-name terms with the local posties.
For Aaliah Fraser, her business would not function as well without her “two amazing post ladies”, Kaye Jenkins and Megan Collins.
“I’ve got Kay’s number on my phone, and we keep in contact,” she said.
“If I was to live in a big town, that wouldn’t happen.”
The 20-year-old is based in Kurow, and operates Running Wolves Boutique, which sells affordable clothing and beauty brands.
The business started in November last year, and was “lockdown-inspired”, Miss Fraser said.
“I just wanted something that had a bit of everything – it wasn’t just a clothing store … I wanted an online store that had body products and clothing, footwear and jewellery – just a one-stop fashion shop, I suppose.”
Miss Fraser is originally from the Chatham Islands, and said she laughed when people talked of Kurow being rural. The Chatham Islands has a population of about 600.
She met her partner Lochie Templeton while she was attending Waitaki Girls’ High School and he was at Waitaki Boys’ High School.
They moved to Kurow after finishing school, she said.
Getting a “foot in the door” with her mainly New Zealand and Australian stockists had initially been a challenge.
“That was a hard one, because to get your foot in the door with names, big brands and stuff, it’s tricky.
“But once my foot was kind of in the door, it was all OK from there.”
The impetus to start Running Wolves came from wanting something for herself, Miss Fraser said.
“Living out here, you kind of want something to focus on – you know, I don’t want to be just cooking dinner and doing dishes all day. It was something for me.”
While she had not always dreamed of running her own business, she had always dreamed of having the freedom and the time flexibility it allowed her.
“But it comes with a lot of work to be able to have that. It’s not easy.”
However, it did have advantages over a physical store, especially in a town the size of Kurow, she said.
“I think if I had a physical store, the challenges would be a lot higher. You rely on foot traffic, and tourism, and you rely on a hefty amount of local support.”
The boutique enabled her to have a broader market, and customers from all over the country.
Social media was a “powerful tool” at her disposal, and she had reached out to influencers such as Simone Anderson, to help promote the business.
“I think we had our best day in business ever, once [Anderson] had put us out there.
“I definitely think it’s a great way to market yourself, but they don’t make you orders, they’re just brand awareness.”
The lessons Miss Fraser had learned running her own business were endless.
She started before she was ready: “I think that’s the best time to start anything”.
“You know, you end up being an accountant, a marketer .. you end up doing all these things that you just never, if you were to own a big business, you would never learn these things the way you would owning a small business.
“It’s been a great learning curve. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have a go.”
In the future, Miss Fraser would like to start her own clothing label.
“I think maybe small steps first, and even learning about the fashion industry is better than going straight into that sort of stuff.”
And Kurow would remain home for the foreseeable future – and possibly for good.
“I love Kurow, and I love small and rural communities, because I think that everyone is just friendly.
“I wouldn’t say it’s probably the easiest place to live when you are young and have all these dreams and things. But I do love it.
“My partner grew up here as a kid, and it’s really special place to him, and I suppose it’s become a special place to me.”