From a sink and a tap in the backyard – to thriving national business

Many of us know the feeling – the frustration when we can’t find just the product for our home renovation project. Nicolas Hermence certainly did, but as an international flight attendant he was able to look a bit further afield for the perfect product. “I had started to renovate my house and couldn’t find a fireclay sink, or the right tapware,” he reveals. “So during my UK run, I started going to design stores in London.”

Nicolas found and purchased just what he was looking for, but getting it home was interesting. “Customs said to me: ‘Now we’ve seen everything – including the kitchen sink!’”

So began Nicolas’s journey to what would eventually become Canterbury Sink and Tap (CST) an importer of artistic bathroom and kitchen fittings, exclusive to CST and sold through selected retailers. “I started with one sink and one tap,” he recalls. “I have the ability to find beautiful products that are in demand, meeting a need in the marketplace. My goal was to deliver great customer service along with beautiful unique products. I met manufacturers at trade stores and was introduced to suppliers along the way.”

CST is the official importer into Australia of the Nicolazzi tap range, manufactured in Milan, Italy. “It’s an exquisite tap range,” Nicolas says. “Unsurpassed in the market. Having exclusive distribution rights allows me to approach companies like Reece and offer them part of my huge portfolio of tapware.”

When Nicolas approached Reece, they incorporated CST’s Adore tap into their VAP range. “That’s Value Added Product,” Nicolas explains. “It means it’s exclusive to Reece. I stock it and they sell it in their 400 stores.”

When it comes to his business success, Nicolas believes that the experience he provides for his customers, along with his beautiful range of products are key. But nothing is more important than his passion for his business. “When I met with Nicolazzi, I was like a kid in a lolly shop,” he recalls. “Their tapware was simply breathtaking, and I knew I could sell it! I love their range, and they say that no one is more passionate about selling Nicolazzi than Nicolas.”

Nicolas had previously believed that business growth was his worst enemy – an interesting viewpoint. After attending ANZ’s Business Growth Program in May, that viewpoint was significantly enlightened. “I came away with a plan, a focus, and a vision,” he reveals. “Growth is achieved with the right plan, the right team and a great bank who’s behind your goals as much as you are.”

Tips for success: love what you do
So what advice does a flight-attendant-turned-business-owner have for anyone else thinking of turning their love and passion into a business? Nicolas has some tips:

  • Find something you are passionate about – “if there’s no passion, forget it,” Nicolas advises. “It will be like a balloon with no air – it won’t go anywhere. Passion will move mountains and get you over the finishing line faster than Usain Bolt!”
  • Listen to your customers – be attentive to their needs, and listen to what they tell you – the good and the bad. “If you work with them to resolve problems, and be prepared to lose a little for the big win, you will move forward in leaps and bounds,” Nicolas says.
  • Start small – “find a product you like and then rest it in the market,” Nicolas advises. “I started with one sink and one tap in the backyard!”
  • Talk to your bank – having a good relationship with your business banking manager is of major importance, as you need to be able to talk through any issues with them. “Make sure you are comfortable with your manager,” Nicolas says. “Yogesh and I talk frequently – he knows a lot about my business.”

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