Reo Pēpi | Te Reo Māori alive and well in this new Dunedin business

Reo Pēpi | Te Reo Māori alive and well in this new Dunedin business

The adage ‘Don’t go into business with family and friends’ clearly doesn’t apply to Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson, two Dunedin cousins and friends who have launched a business publishing bilingual books for babies and young children.

“It’s so much fun,” says Kitty.  “Kirsten and I get each other, we get along, and wouldn’t be able to do this on our own.  We learned very early on that we needed to be completely honest and open with each other.”

It was after the birth of their babies, when the two women were on maternity leave, that they discovered there was a lack of the kind of resources they were looking for.  “We wanted bilingual board books, the durable, chewable kind, that were aimed at the under twos.  Not only are the books aimed at babies, they also help adults learn Te Reo with basic sentence structures and the use of every day language,” says Kitty.

The first series of three books was published in early 2016 and launched nationwide in bookstores, museums, galleries and Early Childhood Centres.  A website with online shopping was also set up and now thousands of books are being read in homes and pre-schools in New Zealand and overseas.   A second series is also underway, with two of the three books already written and illustrated.

The books are “growing up” with the women’s children. “The first series was aimed at babies and now that our children are four, the second series is aimed at three to five year olds and will be produced in both board and paper forms,” explains Kitty.

While Kirsten draws the beautiful illustrations, Kitty does all the “organising”, including the marketing, sales, distribution and the daily tasks of the business.

“We are both now business women,” laughs Kitty.  “My background is in project management and it’s been a steep learning curve.  I didn’t realise we’d end up having to publish these books ourselves.  So we started a publishing company!”

The two admit Reo Pēpi is a “labour of love”.  Kirsten is a full time dance teacher at Otago Girls High School and lives in Dunedin, while Kitty recently packed up the Reo Pēpi house bus and is on route throughout the country on a book, library and bookstore tour.

Helping the women to navigate owning a business is Moore Markhams Otago director Charles Craw.

“Charles came to us through a referral from another of his clients.  An accountant is a very important person in any business journey and we interviewed two other accountants and Charles came out trumps.  During the interview we asked him one question about pricing, percentages and GST and he gave us the answer there and then.  He was impressive!” says Kitty.

Charles handles Reo Pēpi’s finances and also does Kitty and Kirsten’s personal accounts.  While he does not act in an “official” advisory capacity, he has reviewed the pair’s pricing and partnership agreement. “Charles is very supportive of us and what we’re doing,” says Kitty.

Recently Kitty introduced Xero into the business practice. “This financial year we started using Xero and it’s great.  Charles is at the end of the phone if we need help.

“We’ve learned a lot setting up a business and my advice is that if you have good people with you, you’ll succeed.  Be kind to people, ask questions and build relationships.

“Anything’s possible when you collaborate.”