6 gems of advice from leading New Zealand female entrepreneurs

If there is anything that running a small business teaches you, it’s how much there always is to learn.

In that spirit, we’re marking International Women’s Day by asking six leading New Zealand female entrepreneurs to share with us the advice that has helped animate their business success.

1. Believe that you belong

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Kaiwhakahaere (CEO) Hiria Te Rangi says the most powerful piece of advice she received came from former boss, Jay Daley.

“When I started out, I was always of the mindset that I wasn’t meant to be in certain places. There was a lot of impostor syndrome,” she says.

“I was given the chance to be part of a particular high-tech program and I said to Jay, ‘I don’t think this is really for me, I think there are better people who deserve to be here more’.

“He said, ‘You have as much right to be there as anyone else, even more because they actually asked you and everyone else had to apply’.”

Rangi says she took this advice with her into her new venture.

“When I go into a boardroom, I keep that mindset; that I’m meant to be there, that people are literally waiting to help me,” she says.

“Think better of yourself and just get it done.”

2. Sustain the pace

HR and recruitment tech guru Dale Clareburt co-founded Weirdly to help recruiters find people who’re the right fit for their companies. For her, the best piece of advice is simple but vital.

“Business is a marathon, not a sprint,” she says.

“You start out with enormous amounts of enthusiasm and a little bit of naivety, which isn’t such a bad thing, but you need to prepare your business and yourself for the fact that you’re going into a marathon.

“It’s alright to have bursts of sprinting but it’s important to have downtime as well, so you can keep going in the long run.”

Clareburt adds that when it comes to advice, when you receive it can be just as important as what it is.

“I’ve been given advice and thought, ‘That doesn’t help me now,’ but in a year’s time it does,” she says.

“If you’re not ready to receive that information, you won’t hear it because it’s not relevant at the time.”

Dale Clareburt - Female Entrepreneur

3. Back yourself

At just 19, serial entrepreneur Brianne West started her first natural cosmetics business and ran it successfully for five years. Next cab off the rank was a confectionary company.

Then, in 2012, she founded Ethique. The company produces vegan beauty products that come in solid bar form, using no plastic packaging, formaldehyde, sodium lauryl sulphate or water, and are shipped to customers around the world.

West’s favourite piece of business advice?

“Don’t discount your opinion and gut feeling just because someone else who may have more experience thinks differently,” she says.

“It’s important to back and believe in yourself and your abilities.”

4. Embrace the discomfort

Frustrated by the knowledge that many people felt locked out of the share market, Sonya Williams and her colleague Brooke Roberts launched Sharesies. It’s an online investment platform that makes it easy for people with as little as $20 to invest in shares and gain access to invaluable investment advice from people in the know.

She says the best advice she ever received was some that came from more than just one person.

“It’s to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable,” she says.

“It’s about understanding that the path you’re on is completely unknown, so make sure the vision you have is big enough and be brave enough to go for it.

“You see a need in the market – in this case it was that investing wasn’t a level playing field – and you wonder how you’re going to solve that problem, should I go harder, should I quit my day job now? Believe you can be the one who can make change, feel the discomfort and do it anyway.”

Sonya Williams - Female Entrepreneur

5. Take the first step

Maru Nihoniho designs, writes and develops video games, founding Metia Interactive in 2003 to tell video stories with important learning objectives. One of these is SPARX, a 3D animated mobile app that gives young people skills to overcome depression and anxiety.

“When I first started off on this adventure of game development, I was really excited about it but then the doubt phase came in. ‘How will I make it work? Can I make it work?’” she says.

“At that time, the best piece of advice I had was from my mum.

“She said, ‘You won’t know until you try. If you don’t even make that first step forward, how are you ever going to get anywhere?’”

Nihoniho also frequently calls on another piece of advice – don’t overthink things.

“Keep your goals clear and work out the steps towards them,” she says.

“When you’ve ticked off one step, go to the next one. It helps me to think clearly and focus on the goal, rather than all the little pieces.

“I use that advice in everything I do in my business. I mentally lay out my plan in my head, get it on paper and then I follow the plan. And before you know it, I’m there.”

6. Know when to reach out

Hospitality maven Mimi Gilmour Buckley’s restaurant, Burger Burger, was a runaway success from the moment it opened its doors in 2014. Her commitment to keeping the prices low, the burgers scrumptious, the music pumping and the ingredients ethical saw her serve 160,000 people from her first location in Ponsonby, in the very first year. Burger Burger now has a presence in five locations across New Zealand.

The number-one piece of business advice she’s received on her journey?

“Understand where your strengths lie and don’t be afraid to ask for help in the areas that you’re not as strong,” she says.

“Because at the end of the day, it will save you money, time and energy – the three things that none of us ever has enough of.”

The wrap-up

  1. Believe that you deserve the opportunities that come your way.
  2. Business is a marathon, not a sprint, so give yourself the downtime you need to stay strong.
  3. Having less experience than someone else doesn’t automatically mean they’re right. Know when to back yourself.
  4. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
  5. You’ll never know where a path can lead unless you take the first step.
  6. Don’t be shy about asking for help – it’ll save you money, time and energy.

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

The small business grants you could be taking advantage of

Sometimes it truly is not who you know but what you know – like which small business grants you might be eligible for, and how they could put some extra wind in your sails.

There are a host of government grants available for small businesses looking to innovate or grow, and used properly they could be the difference between a dream and a reality.

For instance, after the 2011 tsunami wiped out many of Japan’s seaweed farms, Lucas Evans (pictured below) saw an opportunity to develop a market for New Zealand’s invasive Undaria seaweed as an edible delicacy.

Evans’ Coromandel-based business, Wakame Fresh, is now using a $75,000 Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures grant (SFF Futures) from the Ministry for Primary Industries to work out if it’s commercially viable to harvest, process and export edible seaweed products (‘wakame’) to Japan.

Evans says securing the grant has been a game changer.

“The grant has provided us with the opportunity to develop a comprehensive approach to assessing the feasibility of exporting New Zealand wakame to Japan,” Evans says.

Wakame Fresh invested $114,000 into the project as a co-investment. It is now looking to identify other suitable funding pathways to support future steps.

Small business grants to take advantage of

Available small business grants in New Zealand

Not all grants are suitable for all small businesses but here are some of the key grants you could consider applying for:

Getting Started Grant: Provided by New Zealand’s Innovation Agency, Callaghan Innovation, these grants are designed to “give you a kick-start” and take your business idea from development through to commercialisation. Grant recipients receive 40% of their eligible research and development (R&D) project costs, up to $5,000. You can find out more here.

Project Grant: This Callaghan Innovation grant is for larger or more challenging R&D projects. Again, it can cover 40% of eligible R&D costs but it’s not capped at $5,000. For further information, including eligibility criteria, head here.

Provincial Growth Fund (PGF): If you’re operating in regional areas of New Zealand you may be able to tap into funding under one – or more – of the following categories: regionally-focused projects, sector-focused projects and infrastructure-based projects. You can apply here.

International Growth Fund: For those offering a product or service that is not business-as-usual, and looking to do business overseas, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise offers up to $900,000 in funding. It’s a co-investment initiative which requires you to stump up 60% of the investment. You can find out more here.

He Tupu Ōhanga – Commercial Advisors Scheme: Offered under the Te Pūnaha Hiringa: Māori Innovation Fund, successful Māori collectives are granted up to $60,000 to work with a commercial advisor for up to 18 months. Find out more here.

Regional Business Partner Capability Voucher Scheme: This voucher scheme subsidises registered business training and coaching services for eligible small businesses by up to 50% (capped at $5,000 per annum).

Small business grant application tips

There are plenty of small business grants on offer, all with varying criteria and application processes, but how do you successfully secure one?

Evans’ advice to other businesses is to do some groundwork before applying.

“You’ve got to ensure that you’re spending public money in an appropriate way and managing it properly,” he says.

“People really need to prepare for that by having a business plan, and putting governance and financial arrangements in place.”

And while a grant application process can help you bolster your own business plan, Evans says you should be wary not to unnecessarily overhaul your business’s M.O. in order to meet certain application criteria.

“There’s a risk in finding yourself bending your approach to meet the requirements of a grant pathway or funding pathway,” Evans says, “because with funding comes a number of obligations.”

That said, looking back on the process, Evans says the funding has been a significant boost for Wakame Fresh.

“It’s played a critical role in mobilising and engaging stakeholders,” he says.

If you’re not eligible for a small business grant, but you still need funds for your next big step, then there’s always a Prospa Small Business Loan. Find out more from a Prospa business lending specialist by calling 0800 005 797.

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

How to find peers and support for your small business

New Zealand is a nation full of small businesses. In fact, of the 400,000 small businesses operating across the country, 70% are owned and operated by just one person.

Not surprisingly then, research from Business Mentors New Zealand has found 80% of business owners have felt a sense of isolation.

However, there are many opportunities for owners of all stripes to link up with like-minded peers to trade tips and small business advice – from chambers of commerce to meet-ups and online forums.

Join small business Facebook groups

Sam Frost, who runs his own digital marketing consultancy, keeps in touch with the business community by being a member of the Facebook group Business Networking NZ, which consists of about 1,000 members.

“As I work largely by myself and from home, it can be an isolating experience,” Frost says.

“Having peers – even if they’re just digital ones – gives me an opportunity to voice frustrations, ask for help, and have my voice heard by other business owners who may be going through similar challenges.”

Frost says since joining Business Networking NZ, he has received small business advice and developed knowledge outside his usual expertise, which has made him a more-rounded business owner.

“It’s all too easy to be insular and ‘stick to your knitting’, but being a member of this group makes it easier and more accessible to develop knowledge in other areas of business,” Frost says. “It’s also refreshing to see many different perspectives on a topic.”

Beyond that, it has also led to more business, he says. When he provides input on his area of expertise, people see and follow up with him.

“Business Networking NZ has been an excellent resource for getting more members to my own digital marketing for business owners group, but I’m careful to not push this aggressively. The referrals come through adding value to Business Networking NZ,” Frost says.

“It’s somewhere I can go to ask questions and share my advice, and where my voice feels valued.”

Attend meet-ups

Wendy Calder, Owner of Auckland-based Calder Interiors, has been attending The Business Owners Forum meet-ups for the last nine years and says she “couldn’t speak more highly” of the group.

“There hasn’t been a single meet-up that I haven’t been interested in, or that hasn’t upskilled my knowledge,” says Calder, whose manufacturing business has been running for 23 years now.

Through forum speakers and attendees alike, Calder has learned valuable lessons on issues ranging from cash flow to staffing, employment law and legislative changes.

“They provide you with the tools and information you need to be able to plan your next year to five years, or to work through different scenarios,” she says. “We’re now in a much better position financially.”

Calder adds that the community is incredibly supportive and honest. “It’s really good for just laying your cards on the table,” she says.

“No one is there spinning a yarn because they want your business – you know that when you talk to people, you’re going to get the absolute truth and the information you need.”

The meetings – held every couple of months – have boosted Calder’s confidence and reduced feelings of isolation.

“Often a business owner will bring up a situation that someone else has gone through, and you’ll think ‘Oh my god, I’m not the only person who has had this problem’,” she says.

“It’s given me confidence that – even in the hardest times – there is an answer out there for everything.”

Almost 100 NZ-based small business groups are listed on Meetup.com, while Facebook has legions on offer for those who prefer an online approach. Other leading small business networking groups include The Networking Group and New Zealand Leaders.

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.