Lakes Business June 2023

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June 2023
Rebecca Freeman and the Tāhuna Hideaway team
Women in business

Businesswomen in the region

For June’s Lakes Business, we’re taking a look at women in business as Queenstown Chamber of Commerce are preparing for the 11th annual Westpac Queenstown Women in Business Conference. When pulling together this issue, we discovered some common threads from the women we interviewed, namely, just how important it is to uplift one another and highlight women in business. As Simran Kaur, founder of Girls that Invest, puts it, “You cannot become what you don’t see.”

This month we had a 5-minute chat with Ally Kettle, who explains her newly-created role as Programme Development Manager at Queenstown Resort College and her experience working in the STEAM education space across Australia and South Korea. Yasuko Joll takes us behind the scenes of her sake kasu business, which has taken the fermented residue from sake processing and turned it into a profitable business. Melissa Brook of Queenstown Airport tells us about her move to the airport’s newest senior leadership role – General Manager Strategy.

Simran Kaur sheds some light on the scary world of investing money and explains why she wanted to make investing more accessible and understandable to women. Penny Clarke recalls her decorated 54-year career in the hotel management game – and tells us how times have changed for women in business. And Martin King of Winter Pride and Pride Pledge gives some pointers on how to make your business more inclusive and your workforce more diverse. So, let’s dive in and take a look at the trends we’re seeing for women in the workforce. Aotearoa New Zealand is seeing an increase in self-employed women, with Stats NZ reporting an increase of 14% to 143,500 in the year to March 2021. They also report that women make up almost half of the paid workforce at 48% of the total, however, many more women than men are working in part-time positions. While the gender pay gap is starting to trend down, it still exists and men are earning on average 10% more than women. Additionally, Employment NZ reports that women are under-represented in higher-level jobs – many women are employed in industries where more than 80% of the workers are women, which tend to be lower-paid occupations.

With women running approximately one-third of high-growth businesses worldwide, people are now paying attention to their different approach. A 2016 study that collected data from 55,000 professionals across 90 countries found that women score higher than men on emotional intelligence competencies such as conflict management, teamwork and adaptability. These ‘soft skills’ have been shown to be an important trait of effective leaders and their ability to boost business performance.

The annual Westpac Queenstown Women in Business Conference hosts an array of speakers each year that deep dive into their experiences, stories and journeys in the business world from a female perspective. The theme of this year’s conference is Creators & Change Makers and it’s the biggest event to date, having sold 250 tickets.

“This year is pretty exciting – it’s going to be bigger than previous years as we’ve moved into a new venue, which is QT Hotel Queenstown,” says Sharon Fifield, Chief Executive at the Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce. “Again it sold out really quickly, within 24 hours. We have 250 women coming along and really, the day is an opportunity for women to come together to network and hear from really inspirational speakers. Generally, the speakers will talk about their career journey, advice on what has inspired them or how they’ve gotten to where they are. We have a really good line-up this year.”

This year’s lineup includes Kate Rodgers, Newshub’s Entertainment Editor and Film Reviewer, Simran Kaur, who we chat with in this issue, and founded Girls that Invest, and Roxanne Jacobsen, founder of Saben and much-loved figure in the local fashion scene. Dame Fran Wilde, former MP, Cabinet Minister and Mayor of Wellington will also speak alongside SingerSongwriter Anika Moa, CEO and founder of Ethique, Brianne West, as well as journalist, political editor and Today FM Radio Host Tova O’Brien, and TV presenter, radio host, podcaster and media chaplain, Petra Bagust.

“A lot of planning goes into it, and Westpac is a really valuable partner for us – they’ve been super supportive.

It’s a good six months plus of planning in sourcing the speakers, and this conference is really well-known for

great goodie bags. This year, we’re really excited to have the CEO of Westpac speaking to us as well. It’s really one of our key cornerstone events for the year.”

The event’s audience is made up mostly of women in coming from the Queenstown and Wanaka area. While it’s hugely popular, Sharon explains that the event can only grow as much as venues in the area will allow, so they are sitting at capacity for now, although they’re blown away by its popularity each year. In closing, Sharon adds “The whole purpose is really just for women to walk away feeling really energised and inspired – that’s the purpose.” While tickets have sold out, there is a waitlist on the Chamber’s website.

The end of May also saw the Chamber kick off the 2023 Queenstown Airport Women in Business Morning Tea series. These events celebrate women in business and the achievements of female business leaders. Past speakers have included apprentice Carpenter and Chair of the National Association for Women in Construction: Queenstown Chapter, Willow Rolton and IRONMAN Oceania Regional Director of NZ, Amy MacCormack.

This year’s first speaker was Elizabeth Barbalich, Founder of Antipodes, who discussed her journey to make her own natural skincare brand.

Looking at the issue on a more global level, the theme for International Women’s Day this year was ‘embrace equity’ – something that’s a little different to equality and an initiative that aims to close gender gaps. Equality means that everyone has the same resources or opportunities, whereas equity refers to fairness and justice, recognising that not everyone starts from the same place; therefore, making adjustments and providing tools/resources to make adjustments to imbalances and reach an equal outcome for all. The goal of the theme was to get people talking about why equal opportunities are no longer enough and that they can, in fact, be exclusionary.

Just by flicking through our pages, it’s evident that the region has an abundance of thriving businesses that just so happen to have women at the helm. With Tāhuna Queenstown and Wānaka’s business sector growing, it’s crucial now more than ever that we harbour a positive and inclusive environment for all.

Entrepreneurial women of Queenstown

Grit and determination. That’s what it takes to run a business in Queenstown Lakes.

As you’ll see in this issue – we have that in abundance throughout our business community.

In writing this column I asked Chat GPT (why not) to outline what makes an inspirational woman. Here are the ingredients according to AI;

1. Passion and Purpose

2. Resilience and Perseverance (in other words ‘Grit and determination’ – I think we can all relate to that!)

3. Leadership and Empowerment

4. Achievements and Impact

5. Compassion and Empathy

6. Authenticity and Courage

7. Continuous Learning and Growth.

While I think these are all qualities that make up an inspirational ‘person’, I’m confident that the woman we are going to hear from on June 16th, as well as the local women featured in this issue have the above in spades.

The theme for this year’s Westpac Women’s conference is ‘Creators and Changemakers’. A fitting theme as we all need to adapt to a changing world and be conscious of our footprint. We have some amazing speakers and will also be joined by Catherine McGrath, the CEO of Westpac, our headline sponsor. The event’s reputation preceded itself with the 250 tickets selling out within a couple of days, and a lengthy waitlist of keen attendees began.

I’m looking forward to this year’s conference, it will be my first from the Chamber side. There is an incredible amount of planning (i.e. grit and determination!) that goes into these events behind the scenes.

What I love about these events, and the Queenstown Business Chamber, is that when we come together and connect, we do it with the purpose of lifting each other up. We all share a common love for this area, and face similar challenges, so the chance to take time away from our busy day jobs to listen and learn is nothing but positive.

And a final note: If you want any support with your business, our door at the Chamber is always open for a cuppa (or other beverage).

See you soon, keep on inspiring. Ngā manaakitanga


June 2023 | Issue 30 SOUTHERN LAKES BUSINESS MONTHLY Queenstown Office: Level 2, Craigs Investment Partners House, 36 Grant Road, Queenstown Wanaka Office: Level 1, 78 Ardmore Street, Wanaka
021 568 315 | 03 441 2743 Providing specialist advice on family matters: Relationship Property, Contracting Out/Prenuptial Agreements, Separation, Family Violence, Protection Orders, Care of Children, Guardianship, Dissolution of Marriage, Oranga Tamariki Proceedings and PPPR Act Proceedings. CONTACT US
Sharon Fifield, Chief Executive of Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce

Putting money into the hands of women

Simran Kaur is an authority when it comes to empowering women financially and she’s coming to Queenstown in June for the Westpac Queenstown Women in Business Conference. She wrote Girls that Invest and now runs the business of the same name with Sonya Gupthan. The pair produce a podcast and offer an investing course that provides tailored investing education to tackle the wealth gap women are facing.

The Girls that Invest website ( reports that men worldwide typically hold 50% more wealth than women, and only 15-25% of women are investing – Simran recognised the discrepancies and wanted to help. The business was a Covid baby, born in 2020 after the stock market drop in March when Simran noticed that many people around her weren’t as financially educated as she had thought.

“The conversations around it were very fear related – there was a lot of fearmongering, there was a lot of ‘Oh, I should pull out my KiwiSaver and move it from a growth fund to a conservative fund because I’ve lost $2,000’. When you have financial literacy, I think you can make less fear-based decisions and realise these are the steps, this is quite normal – the markets usually drop,” says Kaur.

“Girls that Invest just came from a place of; okay, what can I do to help make this more accessible? I think the main issue was not that people aren’t smart enough – that’s not the concern whatsoever – it’s more that the information has never felt like it is for the everyday person, or didn’t feel like it was for specifically women or minorities. I just wanted to create some kind of community or resource where people feel like; this is for me, I can learn this information and it’s actually not that hard.”

Girls that Invest has seen the Kiwi entrepreneur talk at TEDx US and the UK House of Parliament. The podcast has amassed over 2.5m downloads, becoming the world’s #1 investing podcast for women. Simran says the feedback has been amazing – she hears from people wishing they had access to this years ago and saying they’re feeling empowered to make their own financial decisions.

“I think when you feel like you know something or when you have access to that language that maybe professionals use, you just have a sense that you’re on this journey with your advisor or with a professional, as opposed to feeling they’re just telling me what to do and I have to blindly trust them.”

Recently the podcast has introduced a new segment – Girls that Business. Once a week, Simran and Sonya de-jargon how to start a business and how they’ve gone about it. “Only 2% of women of colour run businesses that reach the seven-figure mark – because we’ve been able to do it, we believe there’s a duty in sharing how and making it less uncommon.”

Simran is excited to return to Queenstown and to present at the conference. It’s where she came to write her best-selling book, so the town holds a special place in her heart.

“Westpac have always done a lot of good work, like the awards that they do, to encourage female entrepreneurship. I really believe that you cannot become what you don’t see and if we don’t get access to seeing how other people that look like us or sound like us achieve things, then you almost just think, well, it’s not in the cards for me,” says Kaur.

You can catch Simran at the Women in Business Conference on Friday 16 June.

Backing our businesses

Queenstown is known as an adventurous tourist destination, but what may not be so well known is that it has a vibrant community of women leaders shaping the local business landscape.

More than half of the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce Board as well as the Chair and the CEO are local women business leaders, and women are leading exciting new and established businesses throughout the region.

Then there are women who are leading the social and cultural innovation ecosystem including things like Te Atamira, Impact 100 Wakatipu, and Baskets of Blessing to name a few. Women in business are contributing to our diverse multicultural community in many different facets.

The Queenstown-Lakes area has benefitted from having these women, and many others, at the helm of their organisations. The National Party has long recognised the incredible talents of women including fielding New Zealand’s first female Prime Minister Rt Hon Jenny Shipley. Many hold lead roles in Caucus including Nicola Willis, National’s Deputy Leader, and Finance Spokesperson.

Nicola Willis, along with the rest of the National Party, have recently finished one of the busiest weeks in a Parliament year. Budget Week is one of the most critical weeks for New Zealand as they learn the current Government’s fiscal plans for the next year.

If you were hoping for some relief for your business in the Blowout Budget 2023, you will have been sorely disappointed.

The Labour Government had promised New Zealand a prudent budget, but instead New Zealand has been faced with a reckless one.

Grant Robertson has his foot to the floor with spending. The Reserve Bank has been pumping the brakes on the economy by raising interest rates for some time now, Robertson is not getting the message.

Robertson and the Labour Government are creating pressure for the Reserve Bank to continue hiking the official cash rate putting further pressure on the housing market, which Treasury sees crashing to 21 per cent below its November 2021 peak. Inflation will last longer resulting in 60% of kiwis paying more on their mortgages. Repayments on a $500,000 mortgage fixed just two years ago are already up $700 a fortnight.

The long-term effects of Robertson’s Blowout Budget are as worrying as the short term. With a forecast debt blowing out to $95 billion by 2026, they are saddling our children with debt.

National will fix the economy by adjusting tax brackets for inflation and end wasteful Government spending. Allowing hard-working New Zealanders to keep more of their hard-earned income while reducing the Government spending that is fanning the flames of inflation.

National will back our businesses who have done an incredible job during a tough trading environment, keeping our economy going and people in jobs. With the biggest balance of payments deficit in the developed world, it is more important than ever that we can confidently trade with the world.

I recently hosted Chris Luxon in Queenstown. It was great to help Chris connect with our business community once again. Queenstown is full of hard-working, innovative people and it was good for us to hear direct from source where solutions lie.

National will bring back trust to the relationship between business and Government.

Funded by the Parliamentary Service,

Authorised by Joseph Mooney, Parliament Buildings,

June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS

Healthy and beautiful skin

People and place: the key to success in Queenstown

Queenstown’s Skin Institute is proud to have two female leaders at the head of the business, helping with skin cancer, veins and appearance medicine. Dr Megan Reilly is a partner and one of the main doctors – she specialises in Skin Cancer Medicine, Surgery and Appearance Medicine, while Carly McCarthy is the Clinic Operations Manager, looking after the team of 25 and ensuring everything runs smoothly.

The dynamic duo believe that everyone deserves healthy and beautiful skin, which is something that the Skin Institute has been delivering for the past 28 years. Dr Megan Reilly discovered her niche while working across the ditch in Melbourne, before returning to New Zealand in 2015.

Carly started her journey with the Skin Institute 13 years ago as a receptionist. She’s worked her way up to her current role, which has her overseeing scheduling, employment, marketing, financials, HR, and ensuring everyone’s happy. She recently put on a project management cap, too, as the clinic moved into a larger new and modern space.

“We look after basically anything to do with skin and we run a full in-house service. Our experience is all about the patient,” says Carly. “We pride ourselves on doing everything to the best of our ability, so you won’t have to go anywhere else.”

The focus at the clinic is to ensure you’re feeling comfortable and relaxed during your service. They offer free spot-checks and full body skin cancer consultations, and if further investigation is needed, they also offer biopsies, surgical excision, and have a visiting specialist Head and Neck Facial Plastic Surgeon, Dr Mark Izzard, who performs micrographic margin control skin cancer surgery.

“We serve quite a large region – we have lots of patients travelling up from Southland and Invercargill, lots of the farming community will travel two hours to access Skin Institute’s team of skin specialists. So, we have a really vast range of patients coming through the door because we’ve got a really good service and are quite well-known for our skin cancer treatments.”

You don’t need a referral to go to Queenstown’s Skin Institute, so if you’re thinking about a check, are concerned about some veins, or are looking to improve your appearance, get in touch with Carly and the team on 03 442 2255 or book online at

Like many others, I moved here 23 years ago for a snow season, fell in love with the town, and never left. For the first few years, I worked in the tourism, beauty and hospitality industries (I was even one of the first waitresses to dance on the bar at Winnies), and for the last 15 years, I have had the absolute pleasure of growing my photography and casting business here in Queenstown.

To be a photographer here is nothing short of a pleasure – every day is different. I could be on a Heli-Shoot, in the studio, out on location on a movie, or at a stunning one-of-a-kind home that is prepping to go to the market. All this has been built from my love of creating beautiful images and sustaining great relationships with my wonderful local clients.

Queenstown is a great place to start a business because there are so many options and motivated people to work with. But to succeed in business here can be a totally different ball game. From my experience, and in my personal opinion, to be successful in Queenstown, you have to be reliable and offer a good consistent product, but more than all of that – you have to be a good person.

When you possess these qualities, good local businesses will choose to work with you, and together you will create great work.

I feel it is actually that simple; be a good person and do solid work, and good people will choose to work with you. This formula has worked for me, and I am so, so proud to say that I am a successful businesswoman here in Queenstown, working within an amazing business community of great people in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Jackie Gay is the owner and director of Still Vision, an award-winning photography service and professional casting service for commercials and stills, with over a decade of experience Sponsored


Rulers of the travel universe

We didn’t set out to become rulers of the travel universe, but it seems like destiny had other plans for us. When we first started xtravel, we focused on creating unforgettable travel experiences for our clients, not on conquering the world. Our deep love for travel, exploration, and adventure inspired us to share our expertise and experiences to craft bespoke journeys that would blow people’s socks off.

At the core of xtravel lies a set of values guiding our every move and interaction with clients. Integrity, honesty, and transparency are embedded in our ethos, and we believe in providing accurate information, managing expectations (sadly, your hotel room doesn’t come with a fridge full of ice cream), being open about costs, and ensuring our clients trust us implicitly. By conducting our business this way, we’ve earned the respect and trust of our clients and also the New Zealand travel industry. What started out as three of us operating out of a living room has grown into a team of 12 across Aotearoa, and we don’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, we’ve just signed a lease on an office space that’s so large it could double as a roller disco. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, we’re punching above our weight. While the rest of the travel industry was in hibernation, we dove headfirst into the stormy waters of the Covid tempest. And we didn’t just survive; we pirouetted all the way to success! While other agencies were letting go of staff and praying for a miracle, we adopted a Southern, can-do, womenget-shit-done attitude, chartering Boeing Dreamliner planes across the Pacific Ocean to bring stranded travellers home. This led us to create a South American arm of the business, advise governments on logistics, appear in international media, make aviation history, and win all sorts of awesome awards.

Our bold and innovative approach paid off, and xtravel became one of the few agencies that grew during the pandemic. By combining our expertise, knowledge, and, above all, empathy (we’ve mastered the art of comforting travellers with virtual hugs), we were able to offer secure advice and care to those lost in the travel chaos.

But now we face a tricky challenge. Before Covid-19, New Zealand had 5,000 travel agents. Now there are only 1,500, and with everyone desperate to hit the road again and abandoned clients searching for new agents, we’re like popular kids at the high school dance, trying not to step on anyone’s toes while dancing like nobody’s watching. However, tricky challenges are our speciality. Our success is a testament to our resilience, determination, and adaptability. In an industry which adapts daily due to weather disruptions, schedule changes, security threats and shortages of beer in Rarotonga, we’ve got to be nimble and think outside the box. Every single day we have to rise to the challenge.

We’re not ashamed to admit we’re learning as we go. Each new challenge sharpens our business skills and fortifies our expertise. Our aggressively positive attitude and ability to face any challenge have catapulted us into the travel industry spotlight. And in an industry traditionally run by men while women work the coalface, we’re proud we’re becoming role

models for other women in the field and that we are quietly (but not always humbly) poking a big stick up towards that glass ceiling.

Our success story is a reminder that even in adversity, there’s a way forward for those brave (or crazy) enough to take a risk, embrace change, and keep their eyes on the prize. We’re really excited about the future and where it will take us, and we’re proud that our success means we can support different local initiatives and charities, including the Wakatipu High School Foundation, the Uplift Project providing women in the Pacific with bras, local theatre and sporting groups and so much more.

It’s been a wild ride, and we’re only just beginning. So, buckle up, fellow travellers, because your journey is part of ours, and it’s bound to be filled with adventure, laughter, and enough memorable moments to make your friends green with envy (or maybe that’s just motion sickness).

June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS
Owners Niki Davies and Tori Keatingwinners of the inaugural Silversea New Zealand Travel Industry Heroes Award, 2022 Owners Niki Davies & Tori Keating

5 minutes with Ally Kettle at Queenstown Resort College

Queenstown Resort College (QRC) has recently employed a new Programme Development Manager to take their tech teachings to the next level. Ally Kettle has taken the newly-created role off the back of working in the industry in South Korea. Originally from Australia, she’s excited to make Queenstown her home and give Wellington and Auckland’s technology sectors a run for their money.

Kettle gained her Master’s in STEAM Education in Australia, which is science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. She wrote the curriculum for four STEAM schools in Melbourne before being headhunted by someone in Silicon Valley, who was opening 21st Century marketspaces in South Korea.

“At first I thought absolutely not, there’s not a hope in heck that I’m going to South Korea,” says Kettle.

“Then, of course, about two days later I thought that this is a once-in-alifetime opportunity – I can’t not go. Originally it was only to do two schools, but by the end of the first one they realised I had a bit of a knack for it and that I was very passionate and energetic about doing it, and that I’d smashed them out really quick, so we moved really quickly to the third school, which was in Songdo in South Korea. That was just partnering with some of the electronic companies – some of the big ones are Kia, Samsung and Hyundai.” Kettle partnered with the companies and showed them what she was doing in the education sector and worked alongside them to write the curriculum, integrating their software. Her dad is based in Queenstown, so on her way back to Australia she stopped in and arranged to meet with QRC to find out more about what they were doing in the tech space. The school were so excited they created this new role for her. As the Programme Development Manager, she will both develop the curriculum and travel around the country for tech recruitment.

She’s currently working on seven new micro-credentials to submit to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority for accreditation. These will form shorter courses that can contribute towards a degree. The idea is that these short courses will run across approximately ten weeks but only require three or four days of on-campus learning, making it suitable for those who are working.

“I’m writing one at the moment about leveraging AI models for business growth – that’s the next course that we’ll offer. It’s a big endeavour, but it’s exciting and once we get it up and running Ngai Tahu has come out and said that they’re interested in having their managerial staff undertaking those courses. A lot of people in the Queenstown tech hub are now picking up that we are about to have some offerings in the AI space, which is exciting for such a small, niche little area.”

This year, the University of Otago had budgeted for 4.9% more students than were enrolled – they’re reporting enrolments are down by 0.9%. This is one example of many that universities and polytechnics around the country are echoing. Kettle says they’ve seen a rise in students wanting to dabble in smaller courses rather than committing to long degrees since Covid.

“What they want is to specialise in one niche area, for example, machine learning or digital marketing. They then come up against somebody who has a Bachelor’s in the same discipline, but broader, and essentially know more than that person in one area because they have a very specific microcredential in it. The data is pointing to a lot of 17- or 18-year-olds, rather than having $40,000 worth of debt, choosing to do micro-credentials and stacking it towards something,” says Kettle.

Ally Kettle and Pradeesh, the college’s Machine Learning Tutor and Tech Ambassador, will be hosting a Tech Talk at QRC on 8 June at 5:30pm. They’ll be talking about tech, AI and ChatGPT for business with guest speakers Dave Hockly from Data Story and Giovanni Stephens from Liger Trading. Registration is necessary and you can do this at


Meet Melissa Brook: General Manager of Strategy at Queenstown Airport

Melissa Brook became Queenstown Airport’s newest senior leadership team member when she was appointed General Manager Strategy last year. Melissa is responsible for all local, regional and central government planning activity and also oversees the delivery of key projects to bring the airport’s 10-year Strategic Plan to life. She holds Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Bachelor of Law degrees from the University of Otago.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I have always considered myself a ‘Central girl’. I grew up in Wānaka, and when the opportunity to come back home presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands. My partner and I now live in Pisa Moorings and love the opportunities the Central Otago lifestyle provides – the walking and biking tracks and being five minutes from the boat ramp for an after-work fish.

I have always been very close to my family. My Mum and Dad supported my drive for success, and it never occurred to me that I couldn’t achieve whatever I wanted to do. My brother is my reality check, ensuring there is no chance I might delude myself that I am the centre of the universe!

What led you to your current position as General Manager Strategy with Queenstown Airport?

Having trained as a lawyer, I have always had an interest in strategic planning and policy development. Most of my career has been spent in the local government sector, where I built my skills in community engagement, innovative thinking, and long-term planning. After a brief stint at Queenstown Airport in 2019-20, I returned in 2021 to the role of Strategic Planning Manager and led the development of our 10year Strategic Plan. When the plan was finalised, I was promoted to General Manager Strategy – a new role with a focus on ensuring we deliver what we have set out in our strategy.

Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women?

Definitely! As a nation, we have many inspirational women to look to as role models. Those who have had a direct impact on what I chose to study and where I have made my career include former High Court judge and Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, and Dunedin barrister and King’s Counsel Judith AblettKerr.

I’ve also been lucky to work with some impressive women. The one who comes to mind as encouraging my professional growth is former Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley, who taught me it was okay to be bold and decisive. She taught me that the right decision might not always be popular, but it is important to own the decision anyway.

I remember Clare inviting me to attend executive leadership team meetings, challenging me to bring my own views, and cautioning me to be ready to have them tested. This opportunity fed my desire to be at the top table.

What is one thing you wish you had known earlier in your career?

I wish I had realised earlier that it is okay to be completely and uniquely me. During my early career, I often tried to emulate people who were in positions that I aspired to. What I have learned is that good

decision-making and senior leadership don’t require cookie-cutter replicas of those already in leadership roles but diversity of thought and approach. Thinking differently, bringing my own viewpoint, and seeking to understand the ‘why’ are strengths I bring to the senior leadership table.

A former boss, and ongoing mentor, gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I have received in my professional career, and that is don’t self-reject. Think of all the things you can and will bring to a role, not the areas where you might still need some guidance. The best leaders are still learning. Put yourself forward and back yourself to deliver.

What do you want to achieve in your current role?

Queenstown Airport is a fascinating place to work, and decarbonisation of the aviation sector is going to create huge opportunities and raise challenges for us to meet. I’m under no illusion that it will be easy, but the whole ZQN team is up for the task. We take our role as custodians of an important community asset seriously. Our vision is to be ‘an innovative airport that people love to travel through, and the community takes pride in’. I want to find innovative responses to our continually changing environment and work for and with the community to deliver great outcomes for future generations.

June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS

Offering a youthful touch of class

Not only does Tāhuna Hideaway carry out extensive checks throughout the year to keep the properties well maintained, but long-term rentals are also checked every three months and short-term ones every stay.

“We go the extra mile for our property owners. We’re extremely personable and they can flick us a text, or call, so we can keep them up to speed if they would like this kind of relationship.”

The company’s affiliation with a top channel management system is a big attraction for clients and ensures that any properties listed for short-term rental get maximum online exposure.

“Our channel management system holds property information in a synchronised booking calendar for each of our homes,” says Freeman.

“That system then pushes our properties out onto the likes of Airbnb,, and Marriott International.”

This system also itemises all accounts and expenses for each property so that owners can monitor which bookings provide the best returns.

Launching her new Queenstown business at just 22 during the first pandemic lockdown, QRC graduate Rebecca Freeman has proved hard work, perseverance and personalised service pay off.

In just three years Hawkes Bay-raised Freeman, now 25, has built a reputation for impeccable service at Tāhuna Hideaway (, her holiday home and residential property management company.

It all started with a massive leap of faith after Freeman had been working for a local property management company for 18 months when the March 2020 lockdown hit and staff had to be let go.

She’d planned to work her way up in the profession she loved for at least five years, but when some of her clients found out she was going, they stuck by her, fastforwarding her career plan.

“A lot of my clients said we’re listed with you for you, not the company, so little by little I started Tāhuna Hideaway,” says Freeman.

She started with four properties and now has more than forty: 29 holiday homes and 13 residential rentals.

“Initially I was on call 24/7 so now I really appreciate my staff – a property manager, admin marketer and contracted bookkeeper.”

For the first 18 months, Freeman supported herself from a small wage and her savings and kept overheads low, working from home for at least two years.

With repeated lockdowns forcing Tāhuna Hideaway to expand from just holiday rentals into longerterm rental properties in its second year, Freeman studied for her Level 4 NZ Certificate of Property Management.

“I learned a lot, and that helped with managing shortterm rentals too.”

Tāhuna Hideaway’s short-term properties range from simple, well-appointed studio units to luxury, four and five-bedroom homes with hot tubs everywhere from Arrowtown and central Queenstown to Kelvin Heights, Jacks Point and in between. Most longterm rentals are near-new homes in Hanley’s Farm subdivision, often snapped up within a day. While holiday home rentals are back in huge demand, Freeman says she’s been glad to have those long-term options with such a shortage of rental housing for locals.

“These provided a source of cash flow during the lockdowns.”


Offering the personal touch is paramount for Tāhuna Hideaway, and Freeman takes pride in making that extra effort to ensure her holiday guests feel welcome. Expect a complimentary bottle of local Mt Rosa wine for a booking of seven nights or more, matched with a card for a special occasion like a birthday celebration or honeymoon.

There’s a big emphasis on local products and sustainability too.

“We put personalised local products into the homes, like breakfast boxes and platters, if requested,” says Freeman.

“All products we provide in the homes, such as shampoo and conditioner, are eco-friendly and we use NZ-made Real World reusable containers from Hawkes Bay.”

Children are well catered for with Portacots, complete with woolskin, wool blanket and a lamb stuffed toy.

Māori culture and heritage are important to Freeman. Her latest initiative ensures each home is graced with a framed story about Tāhuna, the meaning and significance behind Queenstown’s Te Reo name.

“We’re looking at implementing more Te Reo initiatives in our homes to inform guests of the correct meanings behind the places they visit and names to help them feel more of a connection to our land.”

Find out more: or 03 442 5185

Making it in a maledominated domain

Penny Clarke’s had a highly-decorated 54-year career in the hotel management game. It’s not been easy, she’s had to fight off stereotypes to rise to the top and forge a path for others.

British-born Clarke entered the hospitality industry at 18, working as wait staff while travelling in Perth, Australia. She arrived in New Zealand in 1972 when hotel management was a male-dominated arena and women weren’t allowed a bank account unless their husband was part of the process.

“If only some of the younger ones realised what us older women went through to have a job in this environment,” says Clarke.

“I didn’t think I could ever be a manager as I had no mentor. They were all men.”

It wasn’t until two male bosses approached her when she was assistant manager at Auckland Airport Travelodge in the mid-1980s that she even considered it. “They had to convince me that I could,” she says. She worked hard, applying common sense and passion to the job and quickly brought the hotel up to scratch.

“I took the team with me, inspiring them to have the same passion to move forward.”

Ever since her motto’s been ‘give and take’.

“We take energy and skill from staff every day, so we need to give that back, taking time to teach and upskill them.”

Clarke’s managed top hotels, including as an area manager, across the country and even across the ditch in Australia’s sweltering Northern Territory. This included a stint at the Crocodile Hotel and tour operation in Kakadu, where she won Northern Territory Businesswoman of the Year.

In 1991, she won NZ Hotelier of the Year while managing Auckland Travelodge – the same year, she “made a baby and gave birth” to son Richard. A single mother all of Richard’s life, she “broke the mould”,

incorporating quality time with him into her long busy days by employing a nanny.

Pregnant hotel managers were unheard of back then and there was no such thing as maternity leave.

“The boys didn’t know how to cope when I said I needed two weeks’ holiday to have a baby. I didn’t want to rock the boat. The firm obviously looked at that on the basis that if anyone can possibly have a baby and be back in two weeks, Penny can, so let’s give it a go,” she says.

“The hotel performed well and I came back to work, fed the baby and got on with the job. After that, a lot of our female staff, who’d looked at me working and very pregnant started getting pregnant too, as in those days, if you told the man boss that you were pregnant, you had to leave.”

While men have their own qualities, Clarke believes women bring more empathy to management roles. “As women, we’re able to read the room and how people are feeling,” she says.

Clarke’s empathy for staff and her own experience working up through the ranks have been key to her success.

“Human beings need to feel appreciated. It doesn’t take long to say ‘thank you’ to your staff,” she says. But Clarke’s worried by an increasing trend of, particularly younger people, who don’t say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.

“We’re getting worse at using those personal niceties. It’s a quality I’ve always looked for in staff.”

Managing men keen to climb the ladder has been frustrating at times but being tall has given her that extra boost of authority.

“Unfortunately, men tend to get bogged down in the importance of their title and position, and sometimes their egos get in the way, rather than just getting on with the job,” says Clarke. “So often it was the first question they’d ask me, ‘What’s my title?’.”

“Women who want to pursue their careers and run their own businesses certainly can these days. I did it back then, but you just need a job that’s flexible and hotels function 24/7, which was ideal.”

June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS

In pursuit of timeless design and ethical luxury

Elle Pugh, the co-founder of Elle & Riley Cashmere, has revolutionised the cashmere industry alongside her mother, Yolande Ellis. With passion, creativity, and a commitment to sustainable practices, the duo has taken the brand from humble beginnings to global recognition.

Elle’s entrepreneurial journey began in 2016 with a vision and a genuine love for fashion. Inspired by the elegance and timelessness of cashmere, she created a brand that brings together premium quality, ethical sourcing, and timeless design.

“We have both always loved cashmere and wanted to ensure it was available year-round for Kiwis and tourists traveling to colder climates. Initially, we were an online-only brand, but with backgrounds in retail, it was a natural Segway into opening our bricks and mortar stores,” says Elle.

“Our customers just love it. The tactile nature of cashmere means that the in-store experience is so important to them, so we have created warm, welcoming environments that make shopping memorable.”

In 2019, the team decided to set up their second retail store in Queenstown, a place close to Elle’s heart. “We felt a pull to the area, and of course, the climate is perfect for cashmere. I’ve spent half my life visiting

Queenstown. I felt it was important to have a premium knitwear offering for high-net-worth tourists with more discerning taste.”

The gamble paid off, and the team has managed to survive a tough two years of border closures and no tourists.

Every Elle & Riley Cashmere garment is meticulously crafted by skilled artisans who bring out the inherent beauty and softness of the cashmere fibre. “Trends do not drive our collections. We love timeless pieces that can transition into any wardrobe. We focus on custom dyeing our yarns with subtle design touches as our point of difference. We cater to discerning individuals who are seeking opulence and sustainability with a focus on minimalist essential pieces.”

Their success is grounded in their commitment to sustainable and ethical practices, carefully selecting suppliers based on rigorous ethical and sustainable standards. Elle’s unwavering pursuit of excellence has not gone unnoticed, the brand has garnered a loyal customer base and received acclaim both locally and internationally. With its timeless designs and exceptional craftsmanship, the brand has become synonymous with luxury and sophistication.


Queenstown’s people-focused property experts

The soft skill of building relationships underpins the work of new Colliers residential real estate team, Raylene and Vera, with the support of their admin superstar, Sarah.

The experienced duo has all the industry knowledge and technical expertise you’d expect from professionals at one of New Zealand’s most trusted property agencies. But it is their deep community connections, support for each other, and commitment to providing the best possible process and outcome for their clients that sets them apart.

“One of the highlights of the job for me is when we get repeat customers,” Raylene says. “Buying or selling a home is such an emotional process, so if someone wants to work with me again a few years down the line, that’s a huge vote of confidence. “I see it as our responsibility to always go above and beyond for the client, guide them through, and exceed their expectations.”

Raylene moved into the Queenstown real estate industry seven years ago, after working as an interior designer in the UK. It’s a background that enables her to present a property in a way that appeals to modern buyers, especially at a time when an online photo is likely to be the first impression they have.

Vera is a born-and-bred Queenstowner, who developed and sold properties through Colliers while working as a teacher, before making the leap into sales three years ago. She prioritises honesty and approachability, with the same customer-focused approach as Raylene.

They came together into a team earlier this year.

“We were working alongside each other in the wider residential team and both looking for someone to collaborate with,” Vera says.

“It’s more fun working with someone to bounce ideas off, all three of us are mothers, so we can pick up the load when the others are busy. It allows us to support each other and always have someone available to meet the clients’ needs.”

Raylene lives in Jack’s Point, Vera in Arrowtown, and together they have an extensive network of contacts. That means if someone enquires about a property but misses out, they can often work with the buyer to find an alternative.

They also liaise with other divisions of Colliers, such as the commercial team or property management, to find solutions for any property enquiries.

“It’s such an experienced wider team,” Raylene says, “locals who’ve been here for a long time and have the wisdom gained from working through different Queenstown property cycles.”

Resilience mindsets and how to succeed in business and life

Change your way of thinking

When things in life aren’t going to plan, it can take a toll on your mental health. Spiralling into a negative place can feel inevitable, with your mindset and beliefs shaping your reality. This is the time when you need to change your thought process. Instead of thinking that life is working against you and things always go wrong for you, start to think that life is happening for you. By simply changing your way of thinking here, you will be able to learn from the obstacles in your path, the problems you are currently facing, and what each one has been sent to teach you.

“What is before me, is for me.”

Delete limiting beliefs

There are times in life when all of us will experience limiting beliefs. They are the invisible barriers you have put up between your existing reality and what you could create as a leader.

A limiting belief will become more powerful the longer it runs in your body. The belief runs on a neural network, so the more time this fires, the stronger the belief becomes. Deleting these beliefs is liberating; a journey of self-discovery, stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of your unconscious mind.

Focus on self-care

Dedicating some time every day to focus on yourself is vital. Turn off your phone, put your computer away and spend time doing things that make you feel good. This could be spending time with family and friends, going for a long walk, reading a great book, listening to an uplifting podcast, or having a pamper. Practising gratitude is also a great way to not only connect you to your unconscious mind – the place that stores everything you believe in – it is also a great exercise to make you feel calmer and more grounded.

Dr Amanda Foo-Ryland is a bestselling author, an international expert speaker in resilience, and founder of Your Life, Live It ( Foo-Ryland has over thirty years’ experience in Human Development and Coaching. With her team, she helps thousands of clients around the globe to achieve lasting personal change.

June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS
Contact details:
Raylene McQueen +64 3 441 0774 | +64 21 045 0813 Vera Stewart +64 3 441 0790 | +64 21 059 6266


Pembroke Pâtisserie delivering the goods

town. After four years of that, demand was high and their backyard shipping container that served as the commercial kitchen just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

“That got too small and we got too busy – we had two kids. Matt does all the baking and recipes, he’s the chef, and I do everything else – all the marketing, admin and compliance. Our roles are pretty well-defined, we work together but separately. We opened the shop in 2018. We started to look for a new premises, which took us quite a while, then we found the spot in Albert Town and that’s where we decided to open the shop.”

The pair’s backgrounds suited their move to opening a shop – Matt has almost 20 years cooking experience as a Pastry Chef and Head Chef in New Zealand and abroad. Kirsty has a strong hospitality background, working in restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels – she’s also worked as a cheesemaker, studied French and completed a Master’s Degree in European Studies. The shop has been operating for four and a half years now and as the business and Kirsty and Matt’s family has grown, their roles within Pembroke have

Wānaka’s Pembroke Pâtisserie team are still buzzing from being crowned New Zealand’s Best French Bakery in March. They beat nine bakeries across the country and while the recognition of winning an award is amazing, it’s business as usual at the speciality store where they’re continuing to focus on making the best pastries, desserts and cakes, using the freshest ingredients and with the utmost care.

The Albert Town-based business won the People’s Choice, Best French Bakery award at the 2023 French New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Gala & Business Awards (FNZCCI). Receiving 45% of the votes, coowner Kristy Schmutsch was at the event in Auckland to receive the prize. She said the dinner was beautiful and it was a big event. She credits the win to the staff at Pembroke and the Wānaka community, who really got behind the cause.

“I try to enter us into awards at least once a year,” says Schmutsch. “I was actually quite surprised that we not only won it, but how enthusiastic people were to vote for us – that was pretty mind-blowing. It’s really nice that our community supports us as much as they do, which is pretty cool.”

At the store you’ll find an array of delicious sweet and savoury treats, all of which are exquisitely handcrafted to get your tastebuds excited. Delicatelymade chocolate eclairs, crispy baguettes, creamy filled doughnuts, crisp and airy macarons and croissants line the cabinets and shelves.

“Everybody’s got their own favourite, but the almond croissants are really popular – they always have been. Our sandwiches, ham and cheese croissants, custard squares and doughnuts are also really popular. We have such a big range and we like to innovate as well, so we always have something new, depending on the season or what the chefs are focusing on.”

Pembroke had humble beginnings, starting out with just Schmutsch and her husband Matt doing the weekly farmers’ market at Pembroke Park. Their popularity grew and the pair started a wholesale bakery goods business, selling to other cafes and businesses around

developed. Kirsty works more behind-the-scenes these days and they have a strong team to support them. “We’re a pretty family-orientated business and we’re comfortable here, doing what we’re doing. For us, it’s always trying to perfect what we’re doing. It’s not necessarily about looking for the next best and biggest thing. People always ask us what’s next, and we’re still evolving what we’re doing. We haven’t reached that need to expand because we’re so focused on what we do – we just keep making beautiful food.

“Maybe I need a trip back to France for some inspiration – that would be good. In terms of the business, we just keep training our staff, looking after our people and keeping our customers happy. That’s pretty satisfying within itself,” says Schmutsch.

If you’re wanting a wee taste of France, a visit to Pembroke Pâtisserie is a must. You’ll find the quaint café tucked away at 20 Alison Avenue, Albert Town, which is just a five-minute drive from Wānaka. You can peruse their award-winning menu at



Celebrating the creative spirit

We’re Kimberly Whitelaw and Maranda Mitchell, founders of Whitelaw Mitchell –a boutique creative agency specialising in brand design, website development and strategic creative ideas.

As with all great duos, it’s about being complimentary, not the same. Kim hails from Edinburgh, studious and detail-oriented, Maranda a native of California, brings creative flare and confidence. A relationship founded on trust, a core value held at the forefront of everything we do.

Our process, values and tone-of-voice is like a straight shot of espresso – full of energy and definitely an acquired taste. We understand we aren’t for everyone, but it’s precisely why our clients are attracted to us. We’ve remained small on purpose, it provides us with the ability to work directly with passionate business owners and decision-makers to create beautiful, thoughtful and transformational work. Working with like-minded people and founders is our first priority of business. Chemistry is the most important element of a fruitful partnership. Getting to know each other with open minds and open hearts helps foster the necessary connection to make professional and creative alchemy.

We feel very lucky that our partnership has gifted us the opportunities and lifestyle to do what we love day to day. But that doesn’t mean we don’t thrive on taking risks. They say that everything you want is on the other side of fear, so we don’t like to get too comfortable, and we’ll never be content. It’s not how we grow. it’s 50% terrifying and 50% exciting then we’re onto something good. spirit of risk-taking and creative growth, we ventured into a second, slightly more boozy business.

In 2021, we launched Limited Label, a boutique and exclusive botanical gin. With a saturated market, it was one of our biggest creative challenges to stand out from the crowd and use our career experience to differentiate our product and provide a truly unique experience for our customers.

Our concept is “the creative spirit”. It’s gin and it’s art, for lovers of both. We commission independent Kiwi artists to create a distinctive piece of art that is printed on our gin bottle. Each bottle is signed, numbered, and highly collectable; limited to only 300 bottles per artist edition. We collaborated with master distiller, Ben Leggett, who is no stranger to the world of gin. His own brand of gin, Roots, has recently been awarded the title of “Best London Dry Gin” at the World Spirit Awards. Our creative collab produced a smooth, premium gin with expressive aromatics that illuminate angelica and coriander on the nose and lifted iris root flower over an earthy backbone. A gin made to sip neat, and that’s how we like it. We have already released two Issues with Issue 03 in development. Issue 01 showcases the work of Wellington-based artist Ash “Chimp” Sisson, capturing the essence of a moment when two souls connect. Issue 02 features the creative mind of Littleton-based artist Jonny Waters, delving into the nuances of high and low art and exploring what art means to the eye of its beholder. We believe in using gin to sell art, not art to sell gin, creating a brand all about the artist, their story and their work, providing a magical recipe of creativity both inside and outside the bottle. As entrepreneurs, we appreciate the effort it takes to balance kids, dogs, friends, home life and paying the bills, so we work hard to celebrate women in business (and in life) every chance we can.

June 2023 | Issue 30

Our evolving expectations of ‘a good place to work’

When it comes to making your business more inclusive and your workforce more diverse, a journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step.

Winter Pride and Pride Pledge director Martin King has decades of experience helping organisations create the best working environments for their employees, making them welcoming places that draw people from all walks of life.

King says the most important thing a business can do is make a start.

“What we all too often see is that businesses are afraid to make a start or don’t know where to start,” he says, “so, begin with the commitment to make your organisation more inclusive.

“It could be that your business is traditionally maledominated. Ask the question, ‘how are we going to attract more women into our organisation?’ then actually come up with a clear goal and plan and start working on it.

“It might be ‘we have a pay gap; we know that women in our organisation are paid less than men’. Begin taking steps to change that, do something about it.”

Along with gender disparities, many New Zealand organisations typically find Māori and Pasifika, members of the rainbow community, as well as disabled and neurodiverse people, are underrepresented in their workforces.

Others, such as the insurance and engineering sectors, find they have an ageing workforce and need to adapt policies and practices to attract younger workers, while some businesses are on the other side of the equation, with inadequate provision for more elderly workers. “Usually, when an organisation begins to address one area, we see them making traction across the board.” Businesses should align themselves with an organisation that can help them with resources, advice, policies and training, such as Pride Pledge for rainbow inclusion.

“More broadly, Diversity Works New Zealand support organisations all over the country on the diversity journey, and there’s a range of other specialist organisations out there.

“Queenstown businesses should reach out to the Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce, even if they’re not members. They run a range of sessions and training throughout the year, lunches, the Queenstown Women in Business conference etc.

“The main point is ‘don’t be afraid, be curious’. Do some research on Google and ask around, ask what other businesses are doing.”

King says that while Auckland businesses tend to collaborate on such things, in Queenstown, the spirit of competition can get in the way.

“That’s one of the massive differences. In Auckland, it means companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They can see and learn from another organisation with women in leadership positions.

“In Queenstown, there are great companies doing incredible work when it comes to diversity inclusion, so people just need to feel confident to reach out and share.”

The Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to think differently about remote working and flexible working arrangements and realise there are alternatives to the office-bound 9-5.

And it also had a huge impact on workers’ expectations, especially for parents with young children and also Generation Z (born 1997-2012).

“Don’t try to fight to maintain what Gen X or baby boomers think workplaces should be like because Gen Z is a huge demographic bubble, and they’re going to make up the majority of the workforce soon.

“And they see the world in terms of equity, diversity and inclusion. When they’re looking for jobs, a company that is committed to diversity is in the top three things they look for.”

Some sectors are ahead of others, King says.

“You need a generation to make changes in some sectors, such as construction and engineering, which have been male-dominated for hundreds of years. Boys go through school and university with an engineering career in mind, studying maths and physics. It will take time.”

Overall, though, progress is being made, but not quickly enough.

“I work with 300 clients and I wouldn’t put my hand on my heart and say any of them are perfect, there probably isn’t an organisation in the country that is.

“That’s because diversity and inclusion are a journey, not a destination. Expectations change, as you see with work-from-home after the Covid adaptations, so what you do to make people feel valued, welcomed and respected is constantly moving and evolving.

“If you’ve ticked everything off your to-do list, you need to create another one.”

| Office: +64 441 0790 | Mobile: +64 21 777 772
I have an extensive national & international network and a wealth of experience in Commercial Real Estate. I’m proud of premium results I achieve for vendors, tenants, landlords and purchasers. Call me for an insight into the local, regional and national industrial market.


Be yourself, and success will follow

If I had to describe myself, I would say that I am pretty unremarkable. I don’t possess any particularly ground-breaking or innovative qualities that set me apart from others in the world. I’m just a girl from Gore and a member of a creative and tech community of individuals who enjoy what we do for work as much as we do in our personal lives. It seems that I stumbled into the world of business unintentionally to some degree.

I’m an introvert with a learned ability to be more extroverted and a side of social anxiety, yet somehow I find myself as the co-owner of Swordfox, a small powerhouse of unassuming creative and tech talent. My business partner, Graham McLellan, and I coined the name Swordfox when we needed a company name for tax purposes while freelancing in London after hours for our then-employers. We had a skill, a name, and a business followed from there.

Our journey was entirely organic, and we embraced the wins, uncertainty, and challenges that came our way. In the early beginnings, we worked from my parents’ lounge in Queenstown and enjoyed a very low square meter rental rate that we will never enjoy again. Although we didn’t have a detailed business plan, specific goals, or a particular gap in the market we were trying to fill, people liked what we did.

The most challenging aspect for me and my colleagues at Swordfox is that our personalities aren’t naturally suited for the commercial environment. Selling ourselves feels forced and unnatural. We’re not into polished pitches; we’re a little awkward, we don’t have expert negotiation skills, and we don’t enjoy networking. However, what we lack in smooth-talking, we make up for with our skills, hard work, and integrity. We still manage to win against other agencies for projects.

When it comes to success in business, the key is having a product or service that people genuinely like, along with being a decent human being. Polished pitches and fancy presentations may seem important, but being yourself, having a quality product or service, and doing right by people matter.

I can’t say that this is the model for every business, but it works for us. So be yourself, and success will follow. Maybe it’s what we need more of in the commercial world. Success is not always about being the loudest voice in the room, but rather being the most authentic.

If you feel like you have to be extroverted, polished, and smooth-talking to succeed, our story shows, there is an alternative path to success. By being yourself, working hard, and offering a quality product or service, it is possible to thrive even if you’re not a natural salesperson. The key is to embrace your unique qualities and use them to your advantage, rather than trying to conform to an idealised version of what a successful business person should be like. By doing so, you can create a business that reflects your values and personality.

Good luck out there. It’s quite the ride.

Georgina Cunningham is Creative Director and Digital Marketer at Swordfox. A marketing, digital, brand and creative agency, Swordfox boats a senior-level team with strong ties to the region. The team works with clients on a wide range of services from digital and print advertising to web design and branding.

June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS
Recent design work by Swordfox Georgina in the original Swordfox office - her parents lounge.

From the kitchen table to the top

I never set out to be a business owner.

My ambitious career trajectory was self-planned by the age of 16: I would go to university to become a journalist and work hard to earn a job as a TV reporter.

The TV opportunities presented themselves at the wrong time so I embraced my roles in print media, having the privilege of meeting and interviewing hundreds of interesting people, mostly in Queenstown and Wānaka, from 2003-2013.

I’d also never considered a career in public relations. The relationship between journalists and PR professionals can involve a difficult balancing act. But when the time came to start a family and the daily commute from Wānaka to Queenstown was no longer an option, I needed to decide my next career move.

I’ll never forget the advice at the time, from one of the best editors I’ve ever worked with. “You’ve just won a national journalism award, a new opportunity has presented itself, what have you got to lose? You can always go back.” These words were are etched in my memory and gave me confidence to do PR differently.

I’ve never looked back.

This month, Scope Media turns 10 – eight weeks before our daughter turns 10.

Starting out at the kitchen table, Scope Media has evolved into a multi-channelled, multi-faceted communications consultancy that constantly challenges the status quo, seeking to create lasting value for clients and communities.

We’ve embraced digital PR to the point where we have been told by a Kiwi industry expert that our PRfor-SEO service is leading the way in NZ. We create content and stories with authenticity – delivering what journalists want while serving our clients’ needs.

We’re now a team of five, with a purpose-built office in Wānaka, we do cool stuff for clients and in 2022 we won Best Small-to-Medium PR Consultancy of the Year at the PRINZ Awards.

I am so proud of how far we have come. I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of many, especially my insanely talented team – Rebecca Williamson, Steph Johnstone, Monique Wijnen and Aspen Bruce – and my husband Hamish and our two wonderful children.

Here are my top tips for anyone in the early stages of business, or considering going out on their own: View everything as an opportunity

Even when things don’t go the way you expect it –whether it’s market changes due to a pandemic, or feedback from a client – look for the silver lining. We constantly evaluate our service delivery and look for ways to improve customer experience, or internal efficiencies. In the case of Covid-19, we productised some of our services to make them affordable to SMEs, and looked at other possible revenue streams. Find team members who are better than you I’ve always subscribed to the mantra, ‘Our whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. When building a team, I recognise when people’s skills are compatible with mine, or better. I love the fact that my colleagues are better than me.

Focus on building a strong company culture

In my case, I lead with vulnerability and authenticity. Yes, I have the Brené Brown books but I didn’t need to read them to know that that’s what I do, inherently. We were a home-based business for eight years, so you really have to prioritise culture in a remote working environment.

If you don’t believe in yourself, find mentors to be your cheerleaders

I never anticipated how much confidence I’d lose after having children. I guess starting a new career can do that too. It’s no secret that I have battled with Imposter Syndrome, and continue to do so today. I have several mentors that I am lucky enough to learn from. These include two Auckland PR industry veterans, a Wānaka brand strategist and business and accounting mentors. Celia Crosbie is also the Wānaka Business Chamber vice chair and board member of Te Kupeka Umaka Māori ki Araiteuru (KUMA).

Award-winning Wānaka PR consultancy Scope Media celebrates its 10th birthday this month. Founder and managing director Celia Crosbie talks about getting into business by accident, the pursuit of industry innovation and her tips for anyone starting out in business.

Impact beyond measure

Impact100 Wakatipu proves the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

By the numbers, the concept is that 100 women donate $1000 each and the $100,000 total is given as a grant to a local good cause.

But the ripple effect of that simple idea has proved to be exponential, with a transformational impact not only on the organisations that receive funding but also on all the women involved in making it happen.

That’s one of the main aims of the non-profit organisation, to empower women to become philanthropists and overcome any barriers they face.

Created by American civil activist, social entrepreneur and philanthropist Wendy Steele, in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2001, the Whakatipu chapter was founded by nowtrustee Kristen Holtzman in 2020.

It has already raised almost $700,000 for projects by local charities.

Impact100 chair Clare Irons says women from all walks of life are involved, with about two dozen volunteering on its committees. All women over the age of 16 are eligible to become supporters.

“When you join Impact100, there’s no obligation to do anything more than that,” Irons says.

“Some women come to every event throughout the year, some come to just a few, and others want to get fully involved and serve on the committees.

“We cater to everyone and our committee members represent all stages of life; business women, mums, retirees. It’s brilliant. There are so many women in the region who have incredible experience, skills and expertise, and they volunteer those skills to help us.”

Impact100 works under the umbrella of the Wakatipu Community Foundation. Its governance committee, which reports to the foundation, consists of Irons and the chairs of its three sub-committees: grants, fundraising and marketing committee, and events.

The committees organise the various aspects of the organisation’s work throughout the year, from welcoming new members to assessing applications and site visits to the gala dinner each October, when the five finalists present their projects and members vote.

“We’re really looking for projects that will make a major impact, hence the name,” Irons says. “So, either a broad impact on a group of people or the community or a really life-changing impact for a small number of people.”

Last month, Impact100 Wakatipu announced it has more than 200 women making donations this year, so there is $205,000 in total grants available. Two charities will receive $100k each, and there will be a handful of smaller grants.

“As we are all volunteers, 100% of this is passed back to our local community through our major grants,” Irons says.

They are now calling for expressions of interest.

In September, the five finalists then meet informally with supporters, to introduce themselves and chat about the projects.

“Our supporters can then go away, do their own research, find out more, but we encourage them not to make a decision until they’ve heard the presentations at the gala dinner.”

Previous winners include The Order of St Johns Wakatipu, Pivotal Point Charitable Trust, Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust, and the Tom Pryde Centre.

“We find women involved with charities often want to become members because they’ve seen how it really makes a difference. We also have businesses sponsoring women to join us, and the brilliant Hugo Charitable Trust has sponsored five women this year.

“It’s a great way to bring women from across the community together; we are essentially a giving circle and the community knows what it needs. It’s inspiring for everyone involved to see women take the next steps on their philanthropic journeys.”

To qualify for consideration for the grant, applicants must be a registered charity, be based in the Wakatipu, and must have a project to the value of at least $100,000. Expressions of interest applications are on the website at www.impact100wakatipu. org and close at 5pm on 30 June.

June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS
John Halliday with (from left) grants committee chair Joan Kiernan, with Living Options’ Alison and Olivia Wildey, and Impact100 Wakatipu founder Kristin Holtzman, at the opening of the Tom Pryde Centre in Arrowtown, which received at $100,000 grant in 2022.

It’s long been known in Japanese circles that the secret is in the sake, but hidden in the residue from sake production is the best-kept secret of all.

Sake kasu – the fermented residue from sake processing- is renowned for its health and cosmetic benefits and its incredible umami flavour in cooking. Tucked away in Queenstown, three Kiwi Japanese women have taken recycling to a new level turning this sake kasu from Zenkuro Sake’s local brewery into a profitable business.

It all started in 2016, not long after Yasuko Joll’s husband, Dave, Zenkuro Sake’s head brewer and director, and his mates began producing what is now internationally acclaimed, gold medal-winning sake –NZ’s first and only sake.

Japanese women began lining up outside the Gorge Road brewery in search of sake kasu, the residue, or lees, left behind by sake production. Japan has long prized the by-product for its nutritional and health properties.

Before long, Yasuko Joll, and friends Noriko Sharp and Azumi Brewster, spotted a business opportunity and began making sake kasu soaps. In Japan, sake kasu soap is renowned for being beneficial for the complexion and is said to help alleviate skin conditions like acne and eczema.

It took a while to catch on, but during Covid times, Yasuko says the business really took off. Online sales blossomed as people focused more on their health. “One of our very good customers uses it every day on her skin or in cooking, and hasn’t been unwell for a couple of years,” says Joll.

Sake kasu’s slightly sweet, fermented rice flavours has also become increasingly popular with top chefs in

The secret’s in the sake

Queenstown, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Its pesto-type texture produces a delicious marinade for meats and other dishes.

Rata head chef Michael Bickford is turning out a mouth-watering sake kasu ice cream sandwich dessert at the restaurant. Nestled between sesame crackers, the savoury-sweet sake kasu ice cream sandwich is topped with miso-based icing.

“Fermented food is really good for you, and adding sake kasu brings out that umami flavour,” says Yasuko Joll, adding that it’s a perfect match with miso soups, seafood, fish and shellfish dishes.

Joll, Sharp and Brewster supply Wellington’s HanaAkari beauty salon with the product, where it’s used in cosmetic face masks. Noriko Sharp makes lotion with it, and Azumi Brewster makes sake kasu soap, selling the products online via Zenkuro’s website. The soaps are also sold at Buzzstop with Buzzstop’s local Manuka honey incorporated into one variety for its natural antibiotic properties.

Dave Joll says online sake kasu sales have grown by about 40 per cent during the past year, with the most significant market being home use for food preparation.

Close behind is beer brewing, with local craft beer producers Altitude Brewing winning an award for its sake kasu beer last year.

“It helps create a lot of body in the beer and gives it a tight, solid head,” says Dave Joll.

“As we increase our sake production quantities, we also create more sake kasu for the ladies to work with. This is ideal as demand for both products is steadily growing.

“More and more people are using sake kasu at home

in their cooking and food preparation. Interestingly, more Japanese are finding out about its availability and benefits too,” he says.

The Queenstown-produced sake kasu is now distributed in Auckland due to the growth in demand, and they’ve even had inquiries from Taiwan. With Zenkuro’s local brewery about to double in size, the women are expecting their burgeoning business to double in production during the next few years.


Tourism numbers plateau

While tourism bounced back when the borders re-opened last year, Infometrics CEO and Principal Economist Brad Olsen says that from early this year, tourism arrivals seem to have plateaued. At the end of December 2022, a strong recovery put tourism arrivals at 68% of December 2019 levels. By February this year, that had dropped slightly to 64%.

According to Olsen, card spending in hospitality was up 50% compared with a year ago, but that’s because the international borders hadn’t opened this time last year.

“Arrivals to Queenstown Airport are above pre-pandemic levels, which suggests there’s a lot of interest, particularly from a strong Australian market, which is encouraging to see that bouncing back.”

Queenstown a hit at TRENZ

The largest international business-to-business travel trade event on New Zealand’s tourism events calendar was back last month after a four-year hiatus.

More than 300 tourism businesses showcased their products and services to international buyers from 25 markets.

Destination Queenstown CEO Mat Woods said it was one of the largest Queenstown operator turn-outs ever for a TRENZ show; more than 30 operators attended.

At the TIA Tourism Symposium, TIA CEO Rebecca Ingram said the tourism industry was part way through an ambitious plan to reimagine its future. Projects include reducing tourism’s carbon footprint, supporting industry prosperity, embedding Te Ao Maori, and enhancing the use of technology.

Held at Christchurch’s Te Pae Convention Centre, the event is expected to have generated $174 of economic impact a minute over four days.

Wanaka launches own Monopoly Board

Wānaka will be immortalised in a special edition of the world-famous Monopoly board game later this year.

Well-known Wānaka landmarks will feature on the board, while businesses can purchase coveted spaces and pieces.

It’s an initiative from Wānaka Business Chamber, which is working in partnership with licensed Hasbro provider Winning Moves to create the board.

Demand is expected to be high, and businesses are encouraged to secure their place on the board as soon as possible.

Two spots have been gifted to community assets, Wānaka Wastebusters and the Wānaka Community Hub. A portion of the board sales will be donated to Food For Love.

Have your say on housing

Submissions close on 9 June for feedback on the Queenstown Lakes Joint Housing Action Plan.

It’s been identified as a priority initiative in the Queenstown Lakes spatial plan by the Grow Well Whaiora partnership, the group of local and central government partners tackling the district’s short- and longterm housing challenges.

The draft plan proposes nine solutions, each with measurable actions. Queenstown Lakes Mayor Glyn Lewers says the cohesive approach the draft brings to the range of interventions which come together to support the district’s housing needs, now and into the future, is pleasing. The draft Joint Housing Action Plan is available for review and feedback at

New Chamber professional development opportunity

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Sharon Fifield is urging local businesses to invest in training staff, with the Chamber and Marketing Association of NZ offering a specialist Breakthrough Marketing Plan Workshop on 4 July.

It’s the first in a series of training workshops as part of an exciting new partnership between The Marketing Association of NZ and the Chamber. “I think, given the focus on staff retention, it’s always an issue here, and more businesses are looking to invest in their people,” says Fifield. Participants will learn why some marketing plans fail and sit on a shelf. The workshop will cover the critical elements of a good marketing plan, the planning and strategy process, and how to write and present one.

Email: to book

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June 2023 | Issue 30 LAKES BUSINESS
12noon Tuesday Display Advertising: 12noon Thursday Queenstown Media Group 2nd Floor, The Mountaineer Building Cnr Beach and Rees Street PO Box 1546, Queenstown 9300
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