Business proud to be in Southland Being in business has taught Fi Innovations owner Gareth Dykes resilience and perseverance. He talks to business reporter Riley Kennedy about growing an award-winning business in Southland.

Publication Date10 February 2022
Publication titleSouthland Express
In 2002, Mr Dykes and his wife Melissa started Fi Innovations, a fibreglass manufacturing business in Invercargill making boat tops for nearby boat builder Stabicraft

With one customer and one employee, it was a ‘‘very simple’’ business model, Mr Dykes said.

The couple bought the Stabicraft contract from Mr Dykes’ uncle, who was winding up his fibreglass business.

The business has since grown to 18 staff and, while it still produces fibreglass, it has expanded into resin flooring, cast urethane and 3-D additive manufacturing.

The company recently won the supreme award at the Southland Business Excellence Awards for the second time, something Mr Dykes was ‘‘blown away’’ about.

It previously won it in 2017.

On the morning of the awards, Mr Dykes told staff that just being a finalist was something to be very proud of and they should still hold their heads high.

‘‘But we got it, it was quite surreal, I’m still buzzing about it,’’ he said.

A born-and-bred Southlander, Mr Dykes struggled at school and started to get himself into trouble — ‘‘probably because I couldn’t comprehend the stuff that was put in front of me so as a byproduct of that, I used to, like, to play up’’ — including with the law.

‘‘For just very silly things, nothing major,’’ he said.

Despite not being able to officially, he left halfway through year 11.

His grandfather, who owned Invercargill fibreglass firm T.D. McIntosh and Sons, gave Mr Dykes ‘‘a good kick up the backside’’ and offered him an apprenticeship.

‘‘He gave me a chance.’’

Mr Dykes believed he came out of the four-year apprenticeship ‘‘a different person’’.

‘‘I found my purpose; I realised that I could make things with my hands and I was pretty good at it.’’

Wanting some experience overseas, Mr and Mrs Dykes headed to the Greek Islands, where he got a job as a fibreglass specialist at a boating tourism business.

The couple spent the next three years living on a yacht.

‘‘We would wake up every morning and dive off the back of the boat to wake ourselves up.’’

Initially, Mr Dykes’ role was just fixing fibreglass on boats, but after obtaining his skipper’s licence he headed out with visitors on the water.

After ‘‘such an amazing experience’’, the couple wanted to get back to reality in New Zealand.

They shifted home in 2001 and, soon after, the opportunity to buy the Stabicraft contract arose.

Stabicraft was going through a period of significant growth which Mr Dykes was able to capitalise on.

‘‘Ever since then, it has just grown...

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