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Business Success Story: Pacific Helmets

Some will remember the car-less days of the 1970s. To combat the rising price of oil the government introduced a scheme in which you could only use your vehicle on certain days of the week. Most families had just one car, and with motorcycles exempt from the use regulations, they became a popular option for getting to work every day.

Suzuki motorcycles were imported from Japan in large numbers, but helmets were virtually a banned import, a hang-over from WWII import controls. Working for Suzuki New Zealand as General Manager, David Bennett was authorised to initiate building a helmet factory and Pacific Helmets was born in 1980. David, with his wife Marion, later purchased the helmet factory and to this day he remains as CEO of the company.

When cycle helmets became compulsory the company diversified, pumping out more than a million helmets. When the NZ Fire Service issued a tender for new structural fire helmets, the company won that tender and, after more than 30 years, remains the supplier of choice to Fire and Emergency New Zealand.  Subsequent contracts for fire helmets in Australia, UK and Hong Kong were won, as well as rescue helmets for many markets including the USA.

Nowadays the Whanganui-based company has cemented its place in national and international markets as an innovative provider of top of the line safety helmets.

Pacific Helmets has had a long relationship with CEDA and Business Growth Advisor, Research and Development, Peter Ellingham. Through the Business Growth Support Programme Peter is in regular contact with company management, keeping them up-to-date with new opportunities and linking them to companies with similar needs and requirements.

The company prides itself on having the ability to work closely with clients to customise helmets that meet individual needs, without compromising on safety. Technical safety performance, practical requirements, comfort and aesthetics are the fundamental aspects that drive the design process.

“You don’t get a chance to get bored in this industry. Pacific Helmets is a very fast moving company that reacts quickly to customer’s needs or new developments in technology or safety requirements. The design and technical side of the industry is constantly developing,” says Sam Milsom, Technical Sales and Marketing Manager at Pacific Helmets.

Milsom has been impressed at the level of support available to progressive companies in the region, both through CEDA and Callaghan Innovation. CEDA assisted Pacific Helmets in securing a Callaghan Innovation Research and Development Grant to help in the development of state of the art design.

The chance to network with similar companies has also been invaluable.

“CEDA put us in touch with OBO who were able to advise us on a padding system for a new helmet, in return OBO use the testing labs at Pacific Helmets to test new products. It’s great that businesses in the region can support each other in this way,” says Milsom.

CEDA also supported Pacific Helmets in obtaining a Callaghan Innovation Student Experience Grant, a ten-week fully funded internship. Milsom notes that CEDA have the insight and expertise to identify opportunities for student interns and give advice based on their knowledge of what other companies have been able to offer students.

“CEDA has relationships with businesses throughout the region and is able to use their wide knowledge to assist us in coming up with ideas for utilising student interns most effectively.”

It’s all about working together for the success of a region and CEDA’s work with Pacific Helmets is a great example of the variety of ways the agency can offer support and advice to businesses.

For more information about Pacific Helmets, visit their website.

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This was published in the Success Stories newsletter on May 23, 2019. Sign up here to receive our newsletters directly

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