By Robyn Molloy
Unravelling the complexities of importing has set PlayRight up for a bright future, says Managing Director Lynnel Migas, who took a leap of faith to break out of her comfort zone.
When orders for playground designs and equipment stalled in line with the mining downturn, Migas knew the business needed to take a different path after importing equipment via an eastern states-based agent from the same company for 18 years.
Despite that experience, Migas admits she had “no idea about importing” because she would previously just send off a purchase order to the Queensland distributer who would send her the goods imported from Czech Republic or Berlin.
She turned to CCI’s Manager of International Trade and Investment Centre Michael Carter for help and has not looked back.
Within months, Migas had signed exclusive partnerships with three European companies – Stilum, Sik-Hoz and Husson – to install their play equipment, park furniture and safety surfacing across Australia and New Zealand.
“We contacted CCI because I had no idea about importing, I’d just send a purchase order off to Queensland and they would send me the goods,” Migas says.
“We wanted to know if importing ourselves was a viable option for us and what the perks, benefits and risks might be. Michael was a great help for us, putting us in contact with other companies and giving us food for thought about certain things to look into.
“He set up skype meetings with companies and we formed a list with who we thought were our market, based on Australian or European standards. We didn’t look at other markets because we would need to modify the equipment if it came to Australia and we didn’t feel we were established enough to do that.
“As a result of the skype meetings with Michael, we then committed to saying we would go and visit the production houses. You want to know who you are dealing with and we knew we were selling quality products here and our clients would expect that again, and I was putting my name to it.”
Migas and partner Andrew Hampson, whose warehouse is based in Canning Vale, went on a whirlwind trip to Europe in April to meet prospective partners and inspect their facilities.
“We met four companies in seven days. They took us through their production houses and had business meetings on what they could do for us and what we could do for them.”
“We took on three companies but declined the fourth because we felt they weren’t at the level of quality that we believed our Australian market would expect.
“Since coming back we have had more skype meetings and got our contracts all signed. We had to negotiate those contracts as they didn’t want us to sell for anyone else but we explained that the Australian market was very unique and we’ll get a tender where if don’t have all the goods, you can’t put in the tender.”
The new range of designs and product will start popping up from next year as orders start to flow from tenders awarded this year.
Migas, who has been in the industry for 28 years after starting out as an apprentice in horticulture for local government, says biting the bullet and branching out was a nervous time after being in a comfort zone with the same company for 18 years.
“It was like a child that had grown up. In fact, all my children have grown up and they were in the catalogues and on the website. It was like letting the baby move out of home,” Migas says.
“We didn’t feel alone having Michael there because that support was just a phone call away. We could call up and say ‘this is what we’re asking us, are we on the right track?’
“Without him we would have just been floundering around and I don’t know if we would have done it to be honest.
“With Michael contacting them, it took that pressure off us – because how do you ring up a country and say ‘hey, we want to sell for you’. Not only did he make contact with them but he sold us too. He has the gift of the gab and made us sound so good that everyone wanted to come and work for us.
“They asked me why we went through the Chamber of Commerce and we explained we were new at this, so we needed the support and also that we needed the recommendation to work with reputable companies.
“It was important for us to not get scammed or caught up in something and not have a viable business plan to go ahead. With him doing all that background for us it took all that weight off our shoulders.”
Migas hopes to have an agent in each state by the end of the year before looking to New Zealand.
For more information about PlayRight click here to visit their website.
► CCI’s International Trade and Investment Centre’s services are available to CCI Members and non-Members. CCI Members receive discounted services. For more information call (08) 9365 7620 or visit here.