When Southlanders Gareth and Melissa Dykes first applied for a loan to start their business, the bank declined it.
Two decades on, the pair are spearheading a multi-award-winning and internationally recognised business right from the heart of the deep south, and it’s only just the beginning.
This month will mark 20 years of the fi company — which has grown from one customer and one employee to hosting over 25 staff across a myriad of disciplines and projects.
Now existing under the company umbrella is Invercargill-based fi innovations and additive manufacturing hub fi additive, as well as their most recent purchase, Auckland company Complete 3D.
Gareth said it had been a long journey of trials and tribulations, but having an ambitious vision and a strong team to see it through had made all the difference.
“To look back and see how much growth the business has experienced and all the leaps, bounds and a lot of lessons along the way, it’s just been awesome.”
For him, it all started at about age 16.
“I dropped out of school halfway through year 11 and found myself getting into a bit of trouble, so my grandfather took me under his wing and gave me an apprenticeship.”
While he was not the best academically at school, he was hands-on and looking for an opportunity to gain a sense of purpose and enjoyment.
“I’m a big believer in the trades and the fact that just because you don’t follow the school system well, it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in a trade-based environment.”
After finishing his apprenticeship, he and Melissa, who had just completed an Honours degree in Chemistry at the University of Otago, headed over to Greece to work together on a flotilla of yachts.
Upon their return, they started their own business in 2003 which continued to grow after successfully buying the contract to supply Stabicraft Marine with its fibreglass boat tops.
In 2009 they purchased Southland Fibreglass to expand their industrial offerings, and as time progressed, the business transformed into what it is known as today — fi innovations.
“From then on, we were on a mission to keep expanding our services in the industrial space, pursuing excellence and looking into new ways of doing things through the latest technology.”
The next big shift came in 2019 when Gareth’s curiosity towards the 3D printing sphere led them to purchase their first additive manufacturing machine.
Fast forward to now, their dedicated additive manufacturing business is home to eight machines, including one of the first of its kind in Australasia.
“We like to keep our finger on the pulse with the world of additive manufacturing so we’re constantly looking at the shifts in the industry and how we can keep up with it.”
While all additive parts are produced on the workshop floor, their client base covers everything from the aerospace, marine, automotive and medical industries, where revolutionary parts have changed the way vital systems function.
Always looking to what’s next, the fi company recently purchased 3D printing machine retailer Complete 3D, and is also in the process of building a brand new facility for fi innovations, right next door to their existing building and due to be finished by the end of the month.
The Dykes’ business portfolio has also received widespread recognition for its success after being dubbed finalists and winners at a variety of awards, including at the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards, the Best Awards and the Southland Business Excellence Awards where their team most recently brought home the 2021 Supreme Award for the second time.
As for the plan for the next 20 years for the couple and their business, “watch this space”.