After reading “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” Rachel left her consulting job at KPMG and set up as a marketing consultant under the brand “Alexanders of New Zealand”, working out of a flat in Winchester St. Shelley Yeatman was one of our early employees. Shelley stayed for five years and remains close friends with Rachel.
Within a year, with a graphic designer on board, the company moved into a ground floor office in the Montreal St Le Bon Bolli building (now Fiddlesticks). As the business grew, we simply moved upstairs into a bigger office. Rachel was Chairman of Top 10 Holiday Parks which was right next door. It was a lovely location near The Arts Centre.
Business continued to grow at over 100% pa for several years. Then in 2000, Rachel was caught off guard when awarded Self-Employed Woman of the Year for the South Island. She had been playing polo and was thinking about not turning up to the awards when the organisers rang and said she’d better hurry up. Featuring on camera in casual, dirty polo clothes with a clashy orange vest helped the feature article in the Press stand out. It was brilliant PR but definitely not Rachel’s top fashion moment.
Taking the plunge and betting on continued growth, Rachel committed to leasing a whole floor (269 sqm) in Leslie Hills Drive, Riccarton. Friend Jude Meyer designed the interior. Although it was touch-and-go, with nail-biting break-even figures for a few months, the flash premises soon paid dividends with the team expanding to 12 over the next 8 years.
With a love for direct marketing and inspirational creative, the team was stoked to win the Supreme Award as well as a host of other awards at the South Island Advertising Awards. Rachel was at the time also Chair of the Direct Marketing Association Southern Branch.
Now with marketing depth in the form of three marketing minxes, the Charlies Angels team attracted clients including Skope Industries, Tait Communications and Christchurch International Airport with its refreshing, marketing-lead approach.
Turning five inspired a Back to School party featuring some wild costume themes from staff and clients. Live tango music by Rachel’s jazz tutor set a classy tone at the beginning, before the evening descended into revelry and debauchery!
Having used a contract web programmer, we committed to hiring a full time web designer, Andy who was formerly the creative director at Hairy Lemon
We celebrated turning 10 years old with a White Party on the lawn at Rachel’s home, featuring delicious Japanese tapas from the Tepanyaki Queens who also did a fire dance for us. In June 2008, Rachel’s son suffered a tragic head injury tobogganing and was flown to Starship where he was in intensive care in a coma for 5 weeks. John and Rachel took turns at living four days a week at Ronald McDonald House and later Wilson House on the North Shore while their son – who had miraculously survived but incurred a severe brain injury and permanent motor impairment – learned to walk and talk again. Over three months while commuting to Auckland, momentum dwindled. It took a monumental effort and incredible energy to get things rolling again. Faced with an impending recession, Rachel wondered if she could buck global trends and budget for 5% growth or if she should plan for a 30% decline. The latter ensued. Taking low hanging fruit, and with the loyalty of existing clients, the agency survived and went on to thrive.
With the recession hurting and subtenants thin on the ground, the decision to have a whole floor in Leslie Hills Drive became untenable. At the same time, based on measurable results from Adwords’ client campaigns, Rachel wanted to reposition as a digital agency, re-branding from “Alexanders Advertising” to “Alexanders Internet Marketing“. Critics said the move to digital was suicide. The agency moved into the back of Rachel’s house. Although it was not spacious, and we lost three chimneys in the earthquakes, we were able to continue operating more-or-less seamlessly. This “temporary” move for “a year or two” lasted seven years! Being based at home helped Rachel co-ordinate not only the team of six but her nanny and multiple physio/OT/vision therapists working on the lifelong journey to rehabilitate her son.
With demand for web layouts growing, we decided to offer web development to back up the design capability, and contracted Richard to provide local web development services, followed by taking on board a former programmer from Hairy Lemon.
Unlike many who had to move out of the CBD, we were able to stay in our premises in Fendalton, except for a short stint in a rented house in Memorial Ave while repairs were completed. Yay – the team welcomed a new wood floor and a waiting area where the chimney was.
Turning 20 is a milestone not to be missed. Here is the team at our Steampunk party at Fendalton Road.
With 9 people, only 7 desks and no room to expand, the team couldn’t wait to move into offices at 301e Blenheim Rd. It was timely – given the reducing use of the word “internet” – to rebrand from Alexanders Internet Marketing to Alexanders Digital Marketing. During strengthening, the office was decorated with a “Survival of the fittest” theme with a young stag’s head from Rachel’s partner’s farm, and an antique armadillo and boar. We also tripled our web team, with a dedicated developer, support person and project manager complementing the app team.
To meet increasing demands for faster load times Alexanders moved our services to Amazon Web Services to deliver faster performance.
In 2018, Alexanders studied and became certified as a Big Commerce Partner.
Big Commerce is a robust, scalable platform that complements our skills in WooCommerce.
In May 2020, after the staff enjoyed the flexibility of working from home during Covid-19 and a gloomy economic forecast, when our lease expired in Blenheim Rd, we moved the office into three rooms in Rachel’s home at 17 Wroxton Tce. Ironically, we have been very busy and have been lucky enough to work on some chunky government projects.