“We both thought we could do a lot of work for our businesses online in that time and really focus on it without working in the business for a while," Erin says.
It hasn’t all been holidays, though. During her travels, Erin has built BoxHill a new Shopify website, handled all its Facebook and email marketing, and manage its sales through the website. Her partner helps her with the more technical aspects of BoxHill’s digital presence.
She intends to join Sheila in the shop after returning at the end of this year.
When her father John Ford first suggested she set up a shop, Erin says, she felt both excited and nervous. With her parents’ help, the three of them got the business up and running.
Erin agrees that most 17-year-olds wouldn’t naturally target women aged 45+, but she loves working with that age group. She is now aged 31.
“We did start with a few younger labels at the beginning but we quite quickly found those things didn't sell so well and the people that were coming in were a bit older so we decided to go with what worked.
“I've thought about opening another store with a younger target market but I'm not sure,” she says. “I know that [45+] customer so well.”
Erin and Sheila have been working with one another and with their customers so long that they are now confident of their relationship with them.
“We treat them as friends. We like the shop to have a very relaxed feel. We don't hassle them or stand over them while they browse.”
The pair are passionate about being as helpful as possible when customers do need some advice, and they like knowing everything there is to know about their products.
Erin is aware that not everyone is able to work with their parents, but describes the experience as “amazing!”
“We are a great team,” she says. “Our strengths seem to complement each other's weaknesses perfectly and we always agree on what stock to buy for the shop.”
Erin is excited about the future of BoxHill. In the past, John has been the driver behind the opening of new stores, but Erin’s confidence has built over the years: “I’m not afraid to take the plunge when I see a good opportunity.”
Focusing all her energy on just the website and one shop has been a good decision, she says, as she now looks forward to opening more BoxHill shops outside Wellington.
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 745 August/September 2016