Owner / Retailer: Donna Butt-Kirifi

  • News
  • July 18, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
Owner / Retailer: Donna Butt-Kirifi

Position: Owner, manager

Business: Rhinestonz & Beads

Field: Specialist supply

Open since: 1986

Rhinestonz & Beads is a New Plymouth ecommerce business run by owner, Donna Butt-Kirifi, who was inspired to open the business after her own passion for dance required specialist costumes that the current market could not deliver. 

Donna Butt-Kirifi’s New Plymouth ecommerce business Rhinestonz & Beads was founded out of necessity. When Donna was a child, she took dancing seriously, and her mother June Butt made her costumes.

Donna ceased dancing in high school, but by that time, June’s costume-making had taken on a life of its own. There was nobody else then making specialist costumes, nor were there retailers who sold the necessary supplies, so June ordered her products from overseas by mail and made costumers for other dancers.

“She’s an extremely competent and creative dressmaker and designer,” says Donna.

Soon, word spread about the riches in June’s closet, and people began to ask about purchasing dance costume supplies from her. She successfully grew Rhinestonz & Beads as a mail order catalogue business out of these beginnings.

Donna formally joined the business in the early 2000s, when she returned home from a stint overseas. She took it over when June retired in 2010, by which time the fabric-sales portion of the business had been spun off and sold. Donna increased the businesses’ focus on rhinestones, and adjusted its structure so that it could be run from home.

Rhinestones are imitation diamonds made from crystal, glass or acrylic attached to a flat metal backing. They’re often fixed onto performance costumes to create a glittering effect, but also appeal to specialist crafters; those seeking wedding products; and designers.

“Everything needs to be sparkly if you’re going to be competitive these days in any field [of performance],” says Donna. “I absolutely love rhinestones.”

They’re also an ideal product for ecommerce. Rhinestonz & Beads is now onto its third website – the first was an online catalogue launched by June “back in the days of DOS” circa 2000.

Donna says her mother was brave when it came to diving into new opportunities: “She was always very innovative and ahead of her game, and willing to put in the hard yards and learn.”

The company’s web presence turned out to be the gateway to international business. Donna says Rhinestonz & Beads has had as much as 50 percent international sales, but unfavourable currency conditions have made domestic sales more attractive recently.

A few years ago, Rhinestonz & Beads was awarded the exclusive contract to supply premium Swarovski crystal rhinestones to the New Zealand market. It’s also the only authorised dealer of Preciosa rhinestones, a similar brand. These prestigious contracts have made a big difference to the business, cementing its reputation both within New Zealand and abroad.

Donna wants other SME retailers based outside New Zealand’s cities that regional businesses can be competitive on a global footing.

“I really don’t think that just by being in regional or in the provinces that that has to be a mindset,” she says. “There need be no limitation on us just because we’re not in the main centres.”

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 750 June / July 2017

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