Real Life

Babies are our business!

First came love, then came marriage, then came the babies – and a nappy business. Pia D’Ambros-Smith and her husband Kevin’s eyes first met across a crowded advertising agency, but it wasn’t until a year later – after a tipsy kiss at the office Christmas party – that love blossomed.

Now the couple are running their own successful business, inspired by starting a family and realising first-hand the difficulties faced by new parents. Thinking about what would have made life with a baby easier, they came up with a service delivering disposable nappies and other babycare essentials door-to-door. And that idea became Nappies Direct (www.nappies.co.nz).

Kevin (44) and Pia (34) are a true 21st century couple – not only are they equal partners in their business, when they married, Kevin (formerly Kevin Smith) was keen to take Pia’s surname, D’Ambros. Although working together comes naturally to the Auckland duo, they confess there were a few teething problems when Kevin first left his job at Saatchi & Saatchi to help with the new company. “He was out in the warehouse in the cold, and we made him pack all the orders,” Pia chuckles. “There were a few power struggles between us.”

“I was used to having young account executives I could delegate to – then suddenly I was at the bottom of the food chain,” Kevin adds with a grin. And when Nappies Direct won a business enterprise award in 2005 and the oayor of North Shore City sent Kevin a letter of congratulations, Pia felt miffed that she had been ignored.

But after working through their issues, the pair have developed a healthy working relationship and now feature on a Westpac business banking TV advertisement. “We started to focus on our strengths. I know what Kevin’s good at – business relationships and things – and he knows what my strengths are, like managing staff, and he stays out of that,” Pia says.

owning their own business also makes it easier to bring up their young sons Leonardo (5) and Roman (2). But Pia says it wasn’t so simple when Leonardo was born, less than two years after Nappies Direct had been launched. “There were a lot of sacrifices because Leo was four months old and he went to daycare oonday to Friday, which was a very emotional time for us. “But by the time baby number two was born, I only had to work one day a week. And now there’s always one of us who can pick up the children.”

Kevin still has to pinch himself that he gets to finish work while it’s still daylight. “In the corporate world, you work very long hours. I used to wonder how anyone could be out with their kids at five in the afternoon. “Now that person is me,” he smiles.

– Vicky Tyler

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