Meet New Zealand’s Local Business Hero of the year

Meet New Zealand’s local business hero of the year | Prospa NZ

There’s a small supermarket on the Kapiti Coast, 60km from Wellington, where the staff know their customers’ names, where home deliveries are free if you need them and where the owners work tirelessly to elevate their business.

It’s part of the reason why Quoc Tran (pictured), who operates the Waikanae Beach Four Square store with partner Thuy Vu, has been named the inaugural Prospa Local Business Hero.

The Prospa Local Business Hero awards, in partnership with Neighbourly, recognise the amazing work of small business owners across New Zealand.

“Our reward in running the store is the gratitude and relationships we build with our customers – some of them are even our personal friends. So, receiving this award exemplifies how much we are supported by them and this is extremely meaningful for us,” Tran says.

From humble beginnings

Tran originally arrived in New Zealand in 1994 as a refugee, taking a job at the New World store in Paremata. He was joined by Vu four years later, and they continued to work for the retailer for many years.

“Having worked there and across different New World stores, it had always been our dream to own our own New World. Purchasing a Four Square store was our first step towards this goal.”

That became a reality in August 2011 when they moved to the quiet seaside town north of Wellington and acquired the Four Square in Waikanae Beach.

Making it their own

“When we bought it, it was just a plain local dairy. We couldn’t afford to buy our own New World, so we wanted to make the best of our own ‘little New World’ and create a shop we were proud of.

“This included adding different departments to the store such as meat, a wide range of fresh-to-go food, fresh produce, more alcohol and more products to our grocery selection.”

Last November, they took “a huge risk” with a large investment in a major renovation – one they say would have been impossible “without the support of the Waikanae Beach community”.

“The store more than doubled in size, which completely took it to the next level, so that our customers can do their full shop with us.”

Sweat equity

Both Tran and Vu put in a marathon effort in the upkeep of the store.

Despite employing two full-time and 11 part-time staff, the owners “primarily work from 6am right through to 9pm when the shop closes, and then balance tills and clean the store afterwards”.

“We do this seven days a week, every day of the year, so it is a bit tiring, but also really rewarding too.”

Vu adds even an early labour couldn’t stop her.

“When I was pregnant with my youngest son, I went into labour about 6 weeks before my due date. I rang the midwife while making sandwiches for the store and she realised that I needed to get to the hospital straight way, but I insisted on finishing the job at hand!”

Winning attitude

In nominating Tran for the award, one customer said: “This man got out of Vietnam by himself when he was 13, sailed on a boat and spent time in camps before coming to NZ. He could not speak English. He purchased a local dairy and over the years has totally transformed and enlarged it, providing employment to a number of locals. He is the ultimate friendly shopkeeper.”

Tran insists adapting to customer needs and “being super friendly” are the key to their success.

“Our standards are high for ourselves, which we preach to our staff; they learn as many customers as they can by name so that they can feel extra special when returning to the store,” he says.

“We help our customers take their groceries to their car and make deliveries free of charge for those in need. In fact, if any one were to describe our store in one word, it would be caring.

“Business is more than just profit – you have to give to get, and by being selfless and giving to the community, this will make your business prosper.”

‘Many beautiful stories’

Being named the Prospa Local Business Hero for 2020 comes with $10,000 worth of prizes, including a $5,000 Stuff advertising package, a $2,500 Prezzy gift card from Prospa, a $2,500 Neighbourly package and a NZ Local Business Hero Winner Certificate.

Adrienne Church, General Manager of New Zealand at Prospa, says it was great to see so many Kiwis nominate their favourite local business.

“There has never been a more important time to shine the spotlight on small businesses and say thank you to the hardworking Kiwis that run them,” she says.

“The past few months have been a strong reminder that small businesses aren’t just vital for the economy, they also bring people together and give our local communities life.

“Thank you to everyone who shared their beautiful stories and cast their votes. Let’s keep supporting all the local business heroes out there getting back to business.”

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