Spark Lab presents Workbench

Spark Lab brings you Workbench, an opportunity to go behind the scenes of small businesses in Aotearoa to explore the wins, losses and what it takes to grow your dream. We explore the untold stories as these business owners share their personal journeys, lessons they’ve learnt along the way and some of the moments that have defined their business.


A little over five years ago, Laura Kerr and her partner Shaun decided to not only move to a new town but launch a business in the fledgling solar power industry – Ecoefficient. 

Watch Ecoefficient share their business journey


A rising industry.

With both Laura and Shaun being just 23 it was a steep learning curve, and over the past five years they’ve grown from a kitchen table to a team of five in a Napier office. From there they cover the Hawkes Bay area, north to Gisborne and across to Tauranga. Ecoefficient supplies solar power to both residential and increasingly commercial customers, looking for a sustainable future-focused energy source. 

Good business is good sense.

Laura and Shaun aren’t just focussed on a business that’s sustainable and good for the planet, they’re determined to run a business that’s good for their people.

It starts internally with a wellness program that recognises their staff’s needs, and makes taking care of yourself a target. This then extends into reward systems that recognise that success is a team effort.  By having flexibility in roles, they allow for people to develop their skills and play to their strengths. Ensuring their contractors are all paid the living wage has already revealed huge benefits.

To them it’s about doing the right thing, but it has benefits too – with strong relationships that have already proven themselves in tougher times. 

Hitting the speed wobbles.

From their first year to their second year, Ecoefficient tripled their turnover. Then, from their second to fifth year, they tripled that again. However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the business, with the third year being a make or break for Laura and Shaun. 

They’d built a business with a healthy turnover, but because they had reinvested so much back into their business without having solid processes, they had very little for operating cashflow. Ecoefficient was busy being busy but not busy being profitable – a small mistake that resulted in big consequences. Laura and Shaun started the business straight out of university, self-funding for the launch and relying on themselves rather than family or banks during the hard times.

Laura found herself having some hard conversations, but her and Shaun were determined to overcome the challenges and trade their way from bad to good. They made a commitment to pay back the suppliers they owed, which is exactly what they’ve done with all their suppliers wholeheartedly supporting this process. They ensured that within a reasonably short period of time, everyone was repaid their money and thrilled to see Ecoefficient thriving again.

Building a sustainable future.

By focusing on “busy being profitable”, and constantly checking the numbers, rather than “being busy being busy”, they haven’t just pulled themselves out of a hole, they’ve bounced back better. It’s growth that has impacted not just on their team, but the local community, with a network of contractors whose businesses have grown alongside the Ecoefficient team.

Ecoefficient have also increasingly evolved their offering beyond residential, extending this to include commercial solutions. This aligns with the Hawke's Bay region's sustainability goals to cut emissions and encourage businesses to help make a change to a sustainable future. 

Looking towards tomorrow.

Laura has implemented new processes based on her experiences to manage Ecoefficient’s next phases. She sums up the learnings from her experience:

  • Have a clear scaling strategy and manage your growth and the associated financial implications.
  • Keep an eye on profitability and expenditures.
  • Create systems and processes and build them into everyday practice.
  • Employ and contract work to the right people and work with them to succeed together.
  • Communicate well with all your suppliers and build solid relationships with them so you can be supported during hard times.
  • Stay on top of business technology trends and industry advances.
  • Stay true to your values and always do the right thing.

Find out more about Ecoefficient at

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