Last month Microsoft held a SMB inspirational video competition to support and celebrate small businesses and share stories of Kiwi entrepreneurs.
The overall winner was Emily Jean Waterson, founder and director of La Maison Boutique, the supplier of French inspired antique reproduction furniture.
Waterson won the grand prize including a $5000 cheque, three Surface Pro 3 devices, a specialised business support package worth $5000, Office 365 Small Business Premium and Business Growth Support programme from business incubator company The Icehouse.
Since winning the competition, Waterson has found the Microsoft devices and software has benefited her business, helping her to do more with a limited budget, work remotely and build her business.
The Surface Pro 3 with the Microsoft Surface Pen and Office 365, which syncs all devices through OneDrive, are two tools she has utilised.
She says, “I’m often out sourcing materials, visiting the distribution centre or my new showroom, so being able to work like I do in the office remotely has been a huge change. The Surface Pro 3 is so light and portable I take it everywhere with me.
“The pen is another feature I love as it enables me to take quick notes or draw a quick diagram, especially when communicating with customers and my supplier on custom designs.
“There is a bit of a language barrier with my supplier so being able to explain changes to a design through drawings has been so helpful.”
Waterson says technology can help small businesses do more with a small budget.
“When I first started the business I had very little capital, so I would take photos of my product myself and upload to my social media sites to advertise them there because it was free. I also sold a lot on TradeMe which is relatively cheap.
“Technology has enabled me to build and grow my business all online, and connect with my customers on a limited budget. I not only to sell to them, but also to talk with them and ask for their feedback and opinions on what they would like,” she says.
Waterson started her business because she wanted French-style furniture for a reasonable price. Now she has an online store, newly opened showroom and a growing following on social media.
Along the way she has faced challenges such as gaining exposure and growing her business with a limited budget.
However, Waterson has persevered, surrounding herself with other entrepreneurs and embracing the strong start-up culture in New Zealand by attending local events held by Icehouse and The Entourage.
"It was great going to these events because it made me realise that though each business might be completely different, we all struggled with similar problems," she says.
“SMB’s are the backbone of the New Zealand economy so the culture is very supportive and encouraging,” says Waterson.
Heather Gordon, Microsoft New Zealand SMB sales and marketing manager, says, “La Maison Boutique is an absolutely inspiring story about a young female that followed her passion after many setbacks and learnings.
"Her story is inspiring because she kept going when others would have given up. Her honesty created an emotional connection with all of the judges. We always said from the start it was the story we were looking for, not the best video and Emily nailed this. She is a very well deserving winner.”