Sophie Cocks and Jamie Prebble make a formidable team.
Sophie, a former Blacks Sticks striker who played more than 100 tests for New Zealand, and Jamie a New Zealand and Olympian freestyle skier, are the brains and brawn behind Truly Yours, an all-in-one design and hire service, specialising in weddings and leading industry events throughout the South Island.
The married couple are not only business partners, but best friends, whose combined drive, endurance and savvy that gave them both the edge in their respective sporting fields has stood them in good stead for their new business, which, one year after inception, already has 40 weddings booked for next summer - well ahead of their initial expectations.
The couple reached out to Business Mentors New Zealand for support at the beginning of their business journey when they were still unsure what direction they wanted to take.
The idea for Truly Yours came about after the Christchurch-based couple couldn’t find what they were looking for when preparing for their own wedding day.
“We had the land to stage the wedding and a vision of what we wanted, but everything we loved was in the North Island,” Sophie says. “We couldn’t find anything in the South Island that offered stylish, high quality product.”
Though they had skirted around other potential business ideas, the concept for Truly Yours ticked all the right boxes – offering Sophie, not only an opportunity to combine her creative passion, love for people and marketing skills, but for Jamie to unleash his vast business and financial skills, and, fortuitously, his experience in erecting and dismantling marquees.
In April 2019, just two months after their initial concept was conceived, the couple launched their business, hitting the road running with two custom-built marquees, a furniture range they designed and built themselves, and a ton of determination, dedication, drive and passion to see them through the season.
One year later, the company has expanded to include four marquees, a vast range of accessories, a storage warehouse in both Christchurch and Wanaka, and more recently a Design Studio, offering guests a selection of design and styling packages to ensure each event receives the ultimate “magical” touch.
Sophie says it has been a “tough” first year. Like many start-up businesses, the couple has done most of the work themselves – from designing and building the event tables, to setting up and dismantling the marquees – alongside all the behind-the-scenes operations needed to set up and run a successful business.
“It’s been full noise so far. When you start a new business, you have to do every role and so while it has been very rewarding, it’s also been very full-on,” Sophie says.
“We feel worn out quite a lot but I guess we’re used to high performance sport and running on low energy 90 percent of time, so we can go hard and then make sure we take down time when we can".
“It’s really good having two of us, if one of us is tired, the other one takes charge a bit”.
Also rewarding was their relationship with, and input from, Business Mentors New Zealand mentor Ann Inglis, who came on board when the couple were still juggling ideas about what to do.
“Ann was amazing,” Sophie says. “She gave me lots of advice and help in so many areas that I hadn’t thought about before, and she helped me think about things I wouldn’t have thought about, such as making the right contacts, and how important it is to reach out and get our brand in front of people and create relationships".
“She also had experience sourcing furniture and products, which proved invaluable and saved a lot of time.”
And while Sophie and Jamie are full of praise for Ann’s guidance and advice, Ann says she too, is inspired by the couple’s passion and enthusiasm and has enjoyed watching them spread their wings, sharing with them what she has gleaned from over 50 years in business.
“They deserve to do well, I am so excited for them,” she says.
While essentially a two-man band for the first year, Jamie and Sophie enlisted the help of family and friends as needed. But, with the next season filling up fast, and with each marquee taking five people between four and five hours to set up, Sophie says they will need to bring another team on board.
Luckily COVID-19 came along towards the end of their busy first season, however they still had to postpone five weddings in April.
And while lockdown has given the young couple some much-needed breathing space, they are using what would traditionally be their winter downtime to prepare for the next season.
“At the moment we are preparing for next summer, getting everything ready and in place so that when the time comes we are prepared for the incredible wedding season,” Sophie says.
Sophie and Jamie’s 3 key takeaway points for business are:
1: You don’t have to reinvent the world but need to be able to stand out from the crowd
2: Invest in your core offering
3: There will always be new companies popping up but you need to focus on your brand and your core offering, ensuring you stay in your lane and do what you’re good at.