‘If you keep at it, you can bring a market back’

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Making the cut . . . Happy Moose founder Alex Dong checks the knife on a cutter creating a dot decal for electronic commerce giant Amazon in Dunedin last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Word of a Dunedin photo printing business has spread to electronic commerce giant Amazon.

Happy Moose founder and chief executive Alex Dong (39) launched his online business about three years ago, after the birth of his child in Dunedin Hospital.

The proud father wanted to send photos of his newborn daughter to his family in China, but was disappointed with the quality offered by photo printing businesses.

In frustration, he bought a printer, wrote printing software and the business Happy Moose was born.

About a month ago, he moved the business from his home in Maori Hill to a smoko room in a decommissioned foundry on the corner of Tewsley and Mason Sts, in an industrial area near the waterfront.

From the room, he prints and dispatches products, such as removable wall decals, collage posters and framed prints, to customers across New Zealand.

The business did not advertise outside New Zealand, but electronic commerce giant Amazon had heard of the business by word of mouth, he said.

Late last month, Amazon ordered two removable “dot” decals, with a 60cm diameter, to use in its new artificial intelligence headquarters in the San Francisco area.

The order to Silicon Valley was “exciting” because it was “a big endorsement” for his business, he said.

He believed Amazon chose Happy Moose because he could write the software to deliver a small batch of a “unique” product at an affordable price.

Other photo printing companies were set up to deliver bulk orders and were restricted to a limited number of printing options, he said.

He was confident he could continue to deliver better quality products at lower prices than competitors based in China because his costs were lower, as he only employed one part time staff member.

Customer service was another point of difference from bigger companies, as he lists his cellphone number online so customers could contact him directly about an order.

A wall in the foundry smoko room is decorated with photos.

One photo is of his grandparents in China; another is of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, launching the iMac desktop computer in the late 1990s.

When the iMac was launched, many people considered the personal computer market to be “dead”.

When he started Happy Moose, many of his friends questioned his decision to enter a “dying” industry.

“I use the photo of Steve to remind myself – if you keep at it, you can bring a market back.”