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Case Study: ‘I Started My First Business When I Was 11’

Nick Hoogwerf started making craft jewellery as a hobby and turned it into a thriving business.

5 October 2021

Autumn 2021

Nick Hoogwerf was just 11 years old when he started his jewellery business.

“I’d always loved creating things with my hands,” he says. “Art was my favourite subject. While other children were out in the playground, I was inside constructing something. That was my passion.”

Hoogwerf’s aunt recognised his talent early and paid for him to do a jewellery course.

“I was going to give one of the pieces I made at the course to my mum, but I ended up selling both of them for NZ$12 each,” says Hoogwerf. “So, I had NZ$24. I remember that amount quite vividly from when I was 11.”

He reinvested that NZ$24 in materials and sold the jewellery to his aunt’s friends.

“That’s how I started my business.”

Market stalls

The business grew through Hoogwerf’s teenage years. “While most kids were playing sport on Saturdays, I was setting up stalls at the Mt Eden village craft market.”

He also sold around other markets, wholesale gift fairs and expos, and direct to stores, including Te Papa.

His mum helped him create business cards, signage and a website. When banks and EFT-POS machine suppliers wouldn’t take her son seriously, she helped.

Hoogwerf lived and breathed jewellery, so it became his fulltime job when he left school.

Two years later, he heard that Kagi Jewellery, which he followed on social media, was up for sale.

Kagi sells high-quality, affordable statement jewellery made to last, through jewellery stores. It’s mainly a wholesale business.

“I had always looked up to Kagi because it was the market leader in terms of the type of jewellery I was selling,” he says. “I would look to the designer of this brand for inspiration in colour and style.”

Mother and son team

He jumped at the chance to buy the company and by coincidence, Miers had been made redundant in a restructure from her role in human resources and was looking for work.

“My mum is also very passionate about creating things and she knew quite a lot about the business. We put two and two together.”

He’s now focused on building the company. “Covid has really shaken things up for everybody. We’re expanding online. We’re also looking at broadening our base, because people’s shopping behaviours are changing.”

Saving a fifth of his earnings

Hoogwerf also has personal financial ambitions. He learned early from his grandmother to save 20 per cent of all the money he made.

“I remember going to the bank with my mum and opening three separate suffixes to my account. One was for materials, one for spending (business and personal), and one for saving,” he says.

His goal is to pick up a broader investing knowledge. He follows JUNO KiwiSaver founder Mike Taylor online and the Opes Partners Property Academy podcast.

He’s investing in KiwiSaver and in managed funds and wants to get into property.

His newest venture is into real estate, with Ray White. His other goal is to encourage more young people into business.

“I know when I went to a careers counsellor at high school and said

I wanted to be an entrepreneur, she didn’t really have anything to offer.”

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