With his wife Michelle, Dion Kerr developed a unique system utilising aluminium panels, steel pegs, and custom-made clamps to lay foundations of buildings – providing an alternative to the traditional timber boxing model, and making light work of a very crucial part of the construction process.
Dion (who is of Te Arawa descent) can appreciate some humour in his success: “I’m the last person my family and friends would think to be near anything like a hammer and nail.”
Before they started Mr Box, Dion and Michelle had a company which recycled construction waste, reducing what was sent to land-fill. It was to be Dion’s first business experience with any environmental bent, and he was surprised to learn how much treated wood goes to the tip.
When the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 struck, their consulting contracts were put on hold – freeing up time to spend on their own building project already underway. In the backs of their minds Dion and Michelle wanted another business and thought they would probably buy a business.
“I asked the builders ‘what’s the hardest part of building?’, and they said it was the foundations. I wondered how then we might do this differently. Opportunity and knowledge collided and Mr Box was born.”
Mr Box won the Overall Small section of the Sustainable 60 Awards recognising sustainable business practice in 2014.
“A big benefit of entering awards like Sustainable 60 is the amount of media exposure you receive,” says Dion. “We entered a well-respected award which supports your credibility, and the business received a very in-depth evaluation.”
Dion is quick to recognise the support his business received from the Te Puni Kōkiri Māori Business Facilitation Service, when Mr Box was in its early formative stages through to its recent success.
“So to anyone with a new or established business I say – apply!” says Dion. “The process of working with the Māori Business Facilitation Service can be an early evaluation of your idea. We adjusted the Mr Box business model to offer full installation of concrete foundations. We initially were going to sell or hire the system – however we found too many variables that would need managing, like training, damage during construction or to the tools, so we decided we would install it ourselves. We will franchise that and create a larger business.”
Dion says that he received lots of advice and suggestions from the Māori Business Facilitation Service on the Mr Box website and ‘we changed it 100 percent’.
Since going to market in April and has forecast a turnover of $3.2 million for 2014/2015. . There is potential for Mr Box to further its reach nation-wide when you consider around 5000 more homes are needed in the Christchurch rebuild, a housing shortage in Auckland, and social housing needed across the country.
"We want our business to prove a legacy of sustainable business practices that are profitable too."
Check out how Mr Box works on YouTube
Learn more about Te Puni Kōkiri Māori Business Growth Support on our website at https://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/whakamahia/maori-business-growth-support/.
Photo: Fairfax NZ / The Press