Supreme winner a cut above

Top notch . . . Former Oamaru Mail editor Rebecca Ryan (left) presents the Waitaki Business Awards Supreme Award to AcuCut's Abby Melton, owner/operator Matthew Melton, and graphic designer Kathryn Swann.

Running a business is ‘‘not a walk in the park’’, award winning AcuCut owner/operator Matthew Melton says.

Mr Melton and his precision cutting company took home the supreme award at the 2022 Waitaki Business Awards on Saturday night, and also won the manufacturer of the year.

More than 200 people associated with local businesses attended the awards at St Kevin’s College auditorium.

The event was in its second year, but the first under the Business South banner, after it merged with the Oamaru Business Collective earlier this year.

Mr Melton began precision cutting business AcuCut in 2016 with one water›jet cutting machine he had saved up for, and operated from a workshop on his parents’ family farm at Pukeuri.

When the farm was sold, AcuCut moved to Oamaru North Business Park, where it remains today.

Mr Melton said the award was ‘‘completely unexpected’’, even though his company had been responsible for making the trophies for the winners and runners›up in each of the eight categories.

AcuCut graphic designer Kathryn Swann had the final task of lasermarking the winners on each trophy the day before the event, and had kept the win in the manufacturing category a secret. 

The winner of each category was eligible for the supreme award, which was then decided on the night by public vote.

AcuCut had been so busy lately it had been running a nightshift for about six weeks, Mr Melton said.

He had bought new equipment to expand the services he could offer, but over time had cut back on staff.

‘‘It was really stressful having a lot of staff earlier on,’’ he said.

On receiving the award, he made special mention of the support of his wife, Abby, the creator behind Lover Lover earrings, which were made using the AcuCut laser cutting machine.

‘‘Abby is looking after our son, Marlo, a lot, while I’m still working. Just allowing me to have that extra time for working on my business.’’

Mr Melton said it was ‘‘really awesome’’ and ‘‘unexpected’’ to win the manufacturing award against some well-established companies with a lot more staff, especially a company like Whitestone Cheese, which was runner-up in the section.

‘‘They have a really big social media following,’’ he said.

The benefits of being part of a group such as Business South came from being around ‘‘like-minded people’’.

‘‘People who understand what it’s like to be in business.

‘‘It’s not a walk in the park, it’s a lot of work. You put a lot of hours in to make the business successful.’’

He said it was a great community that worked together and supported each other.

‘‘Just talking to other people and getting their experiences. Especially on Saturday night — the amount of people that were coming up to me, and were actually talking about, not business directly, but actually what it’s like to be a business owner.’’

Mr Melton wanted to offer his thanks to everyone who supported his business and the Waitaki region.

‘‘Without them you don’t have a business, do you?

‘‘Also, thank you to everyone for organising the event on the night.’’

The runner-up for the supreme award was Alma business The Natural Dairy, run by Glen Claridge with his 10-year-old daughter, Amelia, by his side.

The Natural Dairy also won Best Agricultural Business.

Mr Claridge and his wife, Bron, bought the small dairy farm at the end of 2020. The business provides pasteurised full cream milk in glass bottles, which could be delivered to the door.

Mrs Claridge died earlier this year from breast cancer, and Mr Claridge has kept the business running.

His brief, but moving, acceptance speech, alluded to a tough 18 months.

One of the main organisers behind the event, Business South Waitaki navigator Rebecca Finlay, said this week she felt proud to be part of the region, as she reflected on Saturday night’s celebrations.

The evening was more than a celebration of business, but also showed how businesses built community, and how they ‘‘give back’’, Mrs Finlay said.

‘‘Looking at the diversity of people in the room was really, really cool.

‘‘So many of the sponsors and the winners talked about the community as the setting for the success of their business, and that was pretty special as well.

“Good business is good community and vice versa. It’s very hard to have one without the other.’’

All the suppliers for the event were local, ‘‘exceptional’’ to work with, and ‘‘generous with their ideas and time’’, she said.