Our China Family

January 24, 2022

Joe, Lemon, Louis and Belle on their visit to NZ

Back at the beginning

When I decided that lighting would be my passion project back in 2013, I needed to find a reputable source of products that would fill the affordability brief, be electrically compliant and of excellent quality. Not easy when you are tucked away in New Zealand and have a tiny budget to crack off your business. We had already sourced some incredible products from NZ designers and recycled and refurbished mid-century lamps and lighting. Plus, we had our connection to Sweden with our NUD products, BUT I wanted to design and manufacture too...

So I picked three potential Chinese contacts, gathered samples from each and tested the service and product quality. Immediately we saw a big difference with Joe and Lemon, who had a small fledgling business like ours. We struck up a friendship that has endured through the last nine years.

It's been a long process to get to where we are now. Every product is compliance tested in a laboratory before being offered for sale. With Joe and Lemon's help, we have been able to design our own styles and have scaled and maintained a formidable collaboration. Last year we began phasing out polystyrene, which had been critical in helping glass survive the hazardous trip via courier to NZ homes. We now have amazing paper moulds covering about 80% of everything we sell.

Joe and Lemon have been our partners, and as we grew, so did they. We visit them, and they visit us (pre-Covid, of course). They have enabled us to diversify, and Kat and I continue to design products with their help. Here in Waikato, we continue to push the boundaries. 

I asked Joe to describe his life and how he has achieved a thriving lighting business (which is growing into new warehouse spaces) and how he's become a tea merchant and one of China's foremost experts in tea with a well-followed blog. 

Joe's story

Thank you for your interest in my story. I apologise in advance for my bad English.

I was born in Wuhan, China, which is in the middle of China (yes, that Wuhan, the Covid outbreak city). Due to the "one-child policy," I am the single child of my family. I was educated in Wuhan and majored in Foreign Trading English. After graduating in 2004, I went to Shenzhen city, initially working as a merchandiser in an arts and craft factory and then in Foreign Trading Sales in Furniture and Lighting.

I met Lemon in 2005, and she became my wife in 2009. Louis was also born in that year. It was a tough time. Lemon is also a single child, and our parents live far from Shenzhen. We couldn't afford to buy an apartment in Shenzhen, but fortunately, my customers liked my service and products, so my income was good, and I was able to rent. During that time, I switched to a modern lighting focus, after spending time in furniture because I could see the potential.

I started the lighting business in 2010 as a partnership and, by 2012, had my own plant. We moved from Shenzhen to Jiangmen because of the nearby spare parts market. Our business and reputation grew due to our service and the many quality issues we resolved. In 2014, we bought our own house (apartment), and our daughter Belle was born. 

In 2012, we met our most important business partner, Mr Ralph. Mrs Rachel Williamson and her husband Kevin Williamson have played the most important role in our growth, and with their feedback and assistance, we have improved most of our service and quality. This brought us to a higher level for all our plant, and we made money and experiences.

Regarding the tea business, we live in the tangerine peel region (like Bordeaux for red wine), so we started to collect the old peels and produced a new flavoured tea which our friends and relatives loved. We found a tea factory to produce our formula, and we also selected some of the finest dark tea, black tea, white tea etc. We turned this into an online business.

I came to New Zealand on 1st August 2019-8-1 to visit Rachel and Kevin. Since then, our relationship has grown, we know each other much better, and we have dispelled any misunderstandings. We are closer than ever, and our relationship is solid. After I finish building the new plant and R&D, I am thinking about immigrating to New Zealand to assist Rachel further in establishing her business empire. I have told my engineer and QC supervisors to be prepared to replace my position. It will be easier to communicate if I can be there each year, and it would make me happy to continue to supply to Mr Ralph forever!

 How time flies - we have been in business together for ten years now. What a remarkable partnership!