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It’s not every day that an outdoor fire pulls up at your local fish and chip shop, but that’s exactly how Charlie Lawry got everyone talking about his new product.

The original outdoor fire idea came when Charlie was talking with his nephew who had built an outdoor fireplace, and they discussed how it would be so much easier if you could buy a fireplace all in one piece, ready to go.  Charlie thought the idea could be a winner, and set out to make a mould.  After six months of trialing different concrete, testing designs, re-pouring, and designing fireboxes, the Trendz outdoor fireplaces were ready for the market.

Since then, the firm has built a client base throughout the country.  Their landscape architect clients in Central Otago wanted a fireplace with a slim line steel flue, as large concrete chimneys obscured the panoramic landscape. Trendz recognized another opportunity and administration manager, Alex Lawry, approached Venture Taranaki for assistance with prototyping a new steel flue fireplace.

Venture Taranaki facilitated a Getting Started grant from Callaghan Innovation, which allowed the firm to design a new fire. The prototyping presented technical challenges because the design needed to be visually appealing, but not lose any of the quality and functionality.  The grant helped them bring on board experts to advise on the design and build. After two months of testing, Trendz had a product that they were happy with.
The next challenge was to get the fireplace noticed by customers. So Charlie and Alex cooked up a marketing plan with a difference. Trendz had a spot booked at the Wanaka A&P show and Charlie was travelling to the show by car, so they decided that the fireplace would come too.

On his way to Wanaka Charlie could pull up to a client’s premise and give a working demonstration of the fire.  The first stop was Venture Taranaki, in New Plymouth where business advisor Rachael Berndt got to see the result of the grant funding application she’d helped with. “Everyone in the office said they loved the fireplace and you just knew it would be a talking point”, she says.

As Charlie travelled the country people stopped to ask about his cargo. “I had enquiries at petrol stations and takeaway shops,” he says. “Everyone wanted to know about it, the fire just sold itself. Our existing landscaping clients loved it.  I could have just driven around the country and sold fires.”  Charlie and the fire reached Wanaka, where the fireplace wowed the crowds at the show. 

Expect to see the new fireplaces in homes and restaurants all over country. Trendz has had many orders following the trip - a great start for their new product.
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