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30 May 2017

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An eye for the next business opportunity

An eye for the next business opportunity

An entrepreneurial spirit has seen 2013 head boy Lucas Martin (Hamilton 2009–13) pursue a number of business interests.

Lucas first started working on business ideas during a working holiday in Spain in 2014. He had decided to head straight overseas after finishing school. “I always wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but I wasn’t quite sure what. Then I went overseas to do a bit of an OE and I ended up working on super yachts.”

The boat, Asahi, happened to be owned by American billionaire, owner of Oracle, Larry Ellison. It had come from the America’s Cup in San Francisco to be refurbished on the Spanish island, Mallorca.

Lucas, 22, worked on the boat as a spray painter and labourer and while in Spain he cashed in on another opportunity. “I got a four bedroom place and leased all the other bedrooms out to make a bit of money.”

While in Europe, he learned as much as he could about running a business. “I did a lot of research into business and read a lot of self-help books. I went through 18 books in my time over there.”

“That was basically my crash course in ‘university’ and how to make some money. Because I didn’t go to university, I had to put my work in, at some point, to compete with all these other guys.”

After travelling through Europe with a couple of friends, Lucas came home later that year. Money saved from working overseas helped him get on the property ladder in New Zealand. He bought and renovated two rental properties in Hamilton and sold them for a profit.

He was also working on a business idea with two friends, a type of tent which has the ability to float on water and go on land. He is still fine tuning prototypes and patents for this product. He did odd jobs at his parents’ Hamilton coatings business DBNZ, “that developed into me starting my own business and that business is now fully operational with four staff.”

Last year, Lucas set up the company Smart Repair Systems, dealing with small vehicle repair and maintenance jobs in a “one-stop-shop.” “My goal was to create a solution for customers who do not want their car away for a long time, but they needed small repairs done.”

“We call them “supermarket damages.” If you have a dent on your car, a wheel that needs to be repaired or a chipped windscreen we do all of those things in the same place.”

Lucas says his main customers are panel and paint shops and car dealerships. “They give our main flow of work from business to business and we have some retail customers too.”

In the last six months Smart Repair Systems has picked up some of the biggest car dealerships in Hamilton. In his best week he has done twenty sets of wheels.

Lucas is constantly out there talking to people and finding ways to grow the business. “The favourite thing about my business is I can get out there and meet like-minded people.”

Lucas rents a workshop off his parents in Frankton. He intends to open an outlet in Auckland. The five year plan is to open up four more branches. “We are in the building phase but eventually I want to franchise it.”

He is always looking for the next opportunity. “I don’t save to save, I save to invest. You have got to use your money to make more money, so I am always taking a risk. One in ten businesses succeed, so in that case I have got to make ten businesses so I get that one that does succeed. You’ve got to have a crack.”

He says what he learnt on his OE, have been put into practice. “I learned a lot of skills working on the yachts, all of the spray painting, and I have always had quite a love of cars and doing them up.”

Lucas has other strings to his bow. He has acted in two television advertisements – for Pizza Hutt and Greggs. He also featured in advertising for Torpedo 7. “It was pretty much to get some cash to fund my business ventures.”

There have been less successful forays into business. “I tried to start a vodka business but couldn’t get it legalised properly. Probably should have skipped that one!”

His road to Head Boy at St Paul’s was not always a smooth one. “I did three terms at Hamilton Boys’ High and got myself into a bit of trouble and had to move to St Paul’s. It is a miracle story of naughty boy to head boy. Tihoi was a big change for me. It was pretty much a turning point in my high school life. It kick started everything for me.”

Lucas says he enjoys spending time with friends and family, but weekends and spare time is often spent on administration or working on the next venture.

MONICA HOLT