Hooked on Dunedin | ABC Business

Hooked on Dunedin

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Dunedin has a strong sense of place and cultural heritage. As a compact and welcoming city, it is a gateway to the South Island boasting some of the most affordable housing in the country. For business owner David Law, the move back to Dunedin was about choosing the lifestyle he wanted – and then living it.


Originally from Hong Kong, David came to Dunedin in 1995 to complete secondary school at Kings High School following his older sister and fulfilling a dream to travel overseas. He continued on to study Finance at the University of Otago and found himself immersed in the ‘scarfie culture’ of student life living in a flat of 6 boys, and making the most of the social atmosphere this bought to weekends, and the odd trip to the Captain Cook pub.


After completing his degree in 2002 David felt the pull of the graduate crowd to Auckland. Working for a number of large banks David enjoyed roles in customer service, and as a mobile mortgage manager and was successful in securing a financial milestone in buying his first home in Auckland. However, he began to feel the itch of needing a change in his life and wanted a better life for his wife Hetty and young son Arthur.


The need for a change

David had built up security for his young family, however had begun to acknowledge a need to create financial independence and long term stability. The necessity he found that surrounded a normal 9-5 day began to seem finite to help achieve these goals. The only way to get around this was to buy a business.


“After making the decision to buy a business we didn’t want to go back to working 9-5, and earning less. Why do we have to work more to earn more? At that point in time we had built up a bit of equity in our house in Auckland so we were presented with an option to sell the house and buy a home in Dunedin, and an interest free business which was an attractive proposition to meet our financial goals” says David.


After contacting Dunedin Business Partner Jono Kennedy, David felt as though the wheels had been put in motion to make the move back to Otago, a city he feels a real connection to. “Jono mentioned that he had done an appraisal on a business the other day and that the owners were thinking of selling. The cafe wasn’t even on the market yet. When he arranged a viewing, I felt a real sense of connection to the Dunedin I grew up in and knew that this was the right move for us”.


A Dunedin state of mind

David was most grateful for the advice from Jono that helped him to reconnect to the area. “You can get a lot of good businesses in Dunedin, but you need to adapt to the lifestyle. I didn’t quite understand Jono’s advice at first, but after dealing with local accountants and lawyers, both from Dunedin who said the same thing to me, it was good advice to change from an Auckland mindset”.

 “After taking over the business, I fully understand what they meant and I’m happy that they gave me advice to not charge ahead and change everything. Jono really understands what Dunedin people are like and Otago offers a different perspective compared to the life we had grown accustomed to in Auckland. It was a relief to have some straight talk about what to expect when buying this business, so we could start off right.”


It’s a city we want to stay in

David feels that the cafe that he bought, centred in the middle of the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, was the best one around at that time. And the rewards are already paying off.

“My wife and I both worked in Auckland whereas now one of us looks after the business or we job share, leaving one person to look after our son which is the whole purpose of the exercise at the end, to spend more time with our son.”


David’s wife Hetty had never thought about living in Dunedin until they had their son, and was attracted to the quality education available. Initially worried about the city being too small, she is excited for building to start on their Tainui home this August to have a bigger house and garden they were priced out of in Auckland.


David has now turned his focus to helping attract others to the region to discover the same opportunities they have found. “Dunedin has lot of opportunity that has yet to be realised and it’s a city we want to stay in. When I left 14 years ago I knew I wanted to come back, you could say I was hooked”.


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