Local business profile: Surge Life Electrical

Local business profile: Surge Life Electrical

“Hungry” and with everything to lose…

By Abbey Palmer.

I sat down with Surge Life owner Shinya Manabe to find out what it took for a young sparky to build an electrical company from the ground up.

When Manabe first left school at 16 he had no idea where he was going to end up, but one thing was for sure – it wasn’t going to be pushing paper in an office job.

Fresh out of the fifth form and working as a forklift driver, he managed to save up enough coin to spend the next three years travelling the likes of South East Asia and the Americas.

A handy-man at heart, Manabe returned to Wellington at 21-years-old with the goal of getting “stuck in” with a labouring trade.

Despite the anticipated major pay-cut from his previous job as a storeman, he knew the only way he was going to be fulfilled was if he learned the ropes of life as a sparky.

“I just realized, I wasn’t gonna get anywhere driving forklifts. I had to start working nights to make rent, but I wanted to get a qualification. I was always into building and making stuff, so I thought that’s where I needed to go.”

“I followed round a friend of mine who was an electrician and that’s how I discovered I was into trade work. I didn’t want to be a builder because, well you know, you gotta be fit and sculpted, he joked.”

After enrolling in Weltec’s trade course, he committed himself to toughing out the next few years of study to get where he wanted to be.

His big break came after a work-experience stint with a company in Newlands who thought he made a good enough impression to take him on as an apprentice.

“That’s your time to shine, doing a placement is usually how you get your apprenticeships because you prove yourself to your boss and hope they’ll take you on after tech. That’s how I got my first job.

“I worked during the day and took night classes to get qualified. Some people take six or seven years, it took me three. It just depends on how bad you want it, he said.”

Manabe said it was important for him to respect the company who first employed him by staying with them for several years before moving on to build on his trade knowledge.

“I took on a new job at another company because I wanted the chance to learn the business side of being an electrician. It was all new to me, I was always a worker.”

It was there he learned the ins and outs of how to create a start-up business, growing his contact list for when he was eventually ready to go off on his own.

“I came up with a name and a logo which was really hard. Getting tools and a vehicle were big ones too, it’s a huge expense.”

“It was a big risk to take. I’m the sole income earner because my [pregnant] wife can’t work. I have everything to lose, I have my boy and another one on the way. Failing is just not an option for me,’ he said.

Picture: Shinya with wife Brooke, son Akira and dog Dre
Shinya with wife Brooke, son Akira and dog Dre

Committed and untouchably driven, Manabe has relied on advice from friends who have been running their own trade businesses for a few years to master his own.

“We all tend to bounce ideas off each other and give each other work. It’s great being my age and having a lot of friends running their own trade businesses because I can learn from them.

“We have an accountant now, my wife Brooke handles the social media side of things and supports me with the business,” he said.

He said while being good at what he does is important, half of the job is about building trust with customers and how well you represent your company.

When asked what the biggest misconception people have of electrical companies was, Manabe said it was difficult for people to understand the costs involved.

“With some clients, you get to the end of the job and they can’t understand why it costs what it does. You can re-wire an entire house back to its original condition and the client might complain that it looks the same. But all the hard work is behind the walls,” he said.

With business on the rise with the influx of heat-waves and the New Year Boom, his goal is to keep doing what he’s doing until he has worked hard enough to “get off the tools.”

“Finding trustworthy staff is a big one, I have one employee currently who I’ve been working really well with for the last five months. I eventually want to get about two more staff and one apprentice.

“I want to get to a point where I’m just quoting, helping my guys and just running the company side of things.

“I want the Hilux truck you know, to just be in a comfortable enough position. Not to go super big-time, but to be comfortable. I just want to be able to say I did it, I built that company from the ground up.”

From Relatable: If you need an electrician, we thoroughly recommend our good friend Shinya! You can contact him on 0275054554.

Surge Life Electrical

Article by: Abbey Palmer

Abbey Palmer

“With a shared love for telling stories and putting pen-to-paper, my zealous for journalism and the characters it allows me to meet has made hard work a hobby.”

Read more about Abbey

Surge Life Electrical


Andrew Duncan

I love working with nice people, enjoying plant-based food, CrossFit, NFL and living in Wellington, New Zealand.

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