This article was published on 21 May 2013
Tea making can conjure up images of china teapots, stainless steel tea strainers, and crocheted tea cosies. For Idea Developments, however, it’s a whole different picture.
With the help of $75,000 in research and development funding from Callaghan Innovation, Idea Developments has designed and produced a modern version of the tea pot – a Verdure Electric Tea Kettle.
Based in Manawatu and China, Idea Developments provides custom designed product and manufacturing supply solutions to international and local brand owners, manufactures and entrepreneurs, backed by 25 years of experience.
"Through our market research we saw a strong need for a more simplistic tea maker, without too many gadgets, electronics and attachments, because it was taking away from the traditional tea making," Idea Developments director Kim Scott says.
"We wanted to simplify the process and enhance the user (tea-making) experience. We developed a patented, user friendly sliding switch at the base of the kettle. With one touch this switch places the kettle into boiling mode, and activates the 'auto-warm' feature keeping the tea at the required temperature automatically."
The Verdure is attracting particularly strong interest in the Turkish market. "They are big tea drinkers and have a tremendous traditional tea making process. We found in our research that the Turkish community resent the cheaply made tea kettles," Kim says.
Without the Callaghan Innovation grant, Kim says they wouldn't have been able to produce a well-developed prototype to show potential customers. "The funding allowed us to expand our internal technology resource, to do research and development to a required level. We haven't needed to cut corners. It let us build up our customer base and present working prototypes."
"While our core is product design and development, we have now grown our manufacturing solutions to around 45% of our revenue."
After 10 years' working at Sunbeam, Kim decided to branch out on his own and in 1998 he established Idea Developments. The business has designed products such as the Lawnmaster lawnmower, which is manufactured in NZ, field hockey goalie helmets, the SpiderTracks GPS - an aircraft tracking device - and kitchen appliances for Chinese mass manufacturing companies.
To generate more interest in the international market, Idea Developments set-up a booth in the annual Hong Kong electronic and homeware fair last October. "We would like to launch the Verdure into the New Zealand and Australian market as well," Kim says.
Callaghan Innovation Investment manager Sean Sharman says Idea Developments was a good business to fund because they already had a good customer line up, a clear business plan and knew what they wanted to do and why. "They also had a willingness to back themselves."
The grant has transformed the business and Sean says their revenues have doubled, staff numbers have increased, and a JV manufacturing facility was set up in Hong Kong. The business is now a team of six in its office/design studio in Manawatu. Its Asian sales office and manufacturing support is in Shunde, China, which has three staff.
"Through the display of their Verdure at the Hong Kong electronic and homeware fair, Idea Developments have picked up a further two large international clients looking for a similar product for their own markets," Sean says.