Published on 29 November 2017
While some couples might find it a struggle to live and work together, Hanneke and Octavian Lazin have gone several steps further. The childhood sweethearts married in 2013, went to university together, and are about to graduate from the same Masters degree course – all while running their own exclusive car parts business together.
Hanneke and Octavian, both 26, met as teenagers on a school trip to Holy Island and became close friends, then a couple, then they eventually married. This week (29 November) was another landmark in the couple’s lives when they both graduated with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Sunderland.
And as if their graduation wasn’t enough of a family affair, they were joined by Octavian’s mum, Daniela, who herself graduated from the university in 2006, and now works for Sage (UK) Ltd.
“I loved my time at the University of Sunderland,” says Daniela, who studied BSc Computing Studies, before landing a role as Senior Test Analyst at Sage, “But Octavian chose to study at Sunderland himself, though I think the great memories I have of studying there may have influenced him.”
Her daughter in law Hanneke agrees: “We love the region, and Sunderland is a really up and coming city, so the University seemed like the ideal place for us both to come.”
Her husband Octavian started his business while still at university, aged only 18.
He says: “At the time it was a way to earn extra money while I was studying, and I never really thought anything of it beyond that. Within my degree I was lucky enough to land a finance internship in London, and I did think about just letting my business go, but the orders kept on coming through and it was sustainable online - so it made sense to expand the product range.”
Their business, Adjust Your Auto, sells car parts online that are designed to enhance cars, selling wiper blades, suspension, grills and HID lights.
A HID is a High Intensity Discharge light. A high-intensity lamp that it much more powerful and efficient than traditional fluorescent car lamps.
Octavian says: “We’re selling our lighting as a safety feature for night time driving, and it’s proved really popular, particularly amongst taxi drivers. People do sell HIDs and they don’t have the beams aligned, so they can dazzle other drivers, but the ones we sell are correctly aligned, and improve night vision.
“When I started at university I started importing HIDs from China, and I was the only supplier in the North East. It was a brand new technology, and I spotted the gap and got it first to the market.”
As their fledgling business started to grow the couple realised they needed a more professional business grounding, and decided to both return to the University of Sunderland to study for their Masters. It proved a great decision – not only has their business continued to grow, but Sunderland’s position as a global university right on their doorstep helped the couple from Washington further expand their business overseas.
“There’s been so much we’ve been able to take from the MBA which has added so much value to our business,” says Octavian. “We’ve met students on the course from China who’ve been able to talk directly to our supplier in China, which has had an impact on our costs, a lot of which have reduced by 10 or 15 per cent. The University of Sunderland has so many students from around the world, and it’s been a real platform for our business.”
But while managing their business is very important to Hanneke and Octavian, they have also worked hard on managing their relationship.
Hanneke says: “While we were studying the same degree, we have taken different routes to cover more areas. We do talk about the degree, and learn from each other, but I’ve focused on the business plan, or enterprise and entrepreneurship, while Octavian is focused on e-marketing.”
Octavian added: “We weren’t in all of the same classes. I was really focusing on the logistics of websites. So I might work on marketing and Hanneke on the operations aspect of the business.”
Hanneke says: “We both have our strengths and we work well together. We’re able to communicate now more easily about the business, and we both love cars – which helps!
“We were friends before we got together as a couple. We’ve essentially grown up together. We’re used to each other and share a common purpose: to achieve the goals we have set in our business.”
The young couple also worked with media students at Sunderland to create an advert for their business.
“That really added value, as we’re now the only company selling HID lights in England who have a video advert!
“In the long term we’d like to open a retail shop in Sunderland. We’ve studied here, we live here and it’s something we’d really like to bring to the city.”
Octavian added: “I think people see that we’re only 26 and think we’re rushing into the business – but I started online when I was 18. I thought by the time we were 21 we would have our own shop, but we’ve taken our time to grow, added value to the business and added some unique products to the markets.”
His mother Daniela is looking forward to seeing the couple pick up their MBAs, and is optimistic about their future.
“I’ve learnt that if you can hang on to enthusiasm and ambition throughout your life those gifts will lead you to success,” she says. “My advice to them is to keep on following their dreams, and don’t be afraid to fail.”