Rocket Espresso Limited

Coffee for this business is "modo di vivere" – "a way of life"

  • Rocket-Espresso - Wellington

    Andrew Meo with the stylish Rocket espresso machines in the Italian factory reception.

Six years ago, and after a successful hospitality career in Wellington, Andrew Meo left the bright lights of the capital with his family and headed for Crema, a small town south east of Milan, Italy, as the new owner of Rocket Espresso.

Andrew and wife Nicky had owned popular Wellington restaurant Pravda for 10 years and after the sale of Pravda, Andrew stayed in hospitality, with stints at Café Laffare and his coffee roasting business, The Immigrant’s Son. Café Laffare was the New Zealand importer and distributor of Rocket espresso machines, and when ECM, Rocket’s Italian manufacturing company, fell into financial trouble, Andrew made an approach to buy the business. However, buying the business also meant shifting countries, but Andrew says he was ready for a new adventure.

“The move to Italy was pretty straight forward,” he says. “There was of course all the paper work associated with moving to a new country and setting up a new business. Our son Felix was 10 when we arrived and went straight into an Italian school without really knowing or understanding a world of Italian. He is now fluent and Nicky is also pretty good. My Italian level is still quite basic as I spend all day working in English, which is the universal business language. In the office everybody speaks English and that’s safer to ensure we understand what needs to be done and that it is done correctly!”

For accounting purposes, Rocket Espresso is a New Zealand entity, operating with a branch in Italy. “This has some cumbersome compliance issues, in that we have to complete an Italian tax return and obviously pay taxes here, but also then complete a New Zealand set of accounts that then have to be filed there,” he explains.
Helping Andrew navigate the financial terrain between New Zealand and Italy is Moore Stephens Markhams Wellington consultant Gray Hughson, with whom Andrew has had a client-advisor relationship for the last two decades.

“Having your accountant understand your business and you as a business operator is crucial to the relationship,” says Andrew. “Being located on the other side of the world means I cannot just go into his office to get something explained, so I need to be able to understand the advice that is given to me. To Gray’s credit, his advice is clear and concise, which allows me to understand the processes immediately.”

Initially, there was a lot for Andrew and Gray to get their heads around in terms of compliance. “The VAT / GST system is very different in Italy in that you are given a level of purchasing VAT-free based on your previous year’s turnover. Once you pass this threshold you then start purchasing with VAT that is later claimed back. This means that for a company that’s growing very quickly in the manufacturing sector with relatively low margins, your cash flow can be really knocked about!”

Italy’s tax on wages and company income currently sits at 48 percent. It’s a big number that Andrew admits took a while to get his head around. “It is important to have a very good understanding of the tax system between the two countries. With such high company tax in Italy, we need to be as effective as we possibly can be.”

Andrew says he and his family are very happy in Crema, business is growing steadily and for the time being, Italy is home. “When I had the restaurant I used to joke that I had one more business left in me and I think that’s about right, as new businesses consume so much energy. Rocket Espresso has been a fantastic experience and building a brand globally has been an extremely satisfying process.”

Published Spring 2013.

Serious about your success?