Congratulations to our finalists

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On Wednesday 31 July 18 of New Zealand's most successful entrepreneurs were announced as the 2013 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Finalists in front of an enthusiastic and positive crowd of fellow entrepreneurs and members from the business community.

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award’s Director, Jon Hooper says “Despite the diverse industries they operate in, nearly all have achieved double-digit growth during the past four years, proving that entrepreneurs have a natural ability to identify and monetise opportunities in the market,”

“Equally important in the current market is the growth of employee numbers that each of this year’s finalists has achieved. This makes it vital that the contribution entrepreneurs make to our nation’s economic and financial viability is acknowledged by giving them a seat at the table with policy makers.”

“We wish each of the finalists all the best in the coming months as category winners are chosen, and the overall winner is selected by the judges.”

New Zealand’s 2013 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year category winners will be announced on Friday 23 August 2013.

You can find out more about each of the finalists below.

Dr. Hartley Atkinson: AFT Pharmaceuticals
'The Best Medicine'

A bitter pill some major pharmaceutical companies around the world are having difficulty swallowing is the on-going success achieved by Dr. Hartley Atkinson’s creation AFT Pharmaceuticals. 

In particular is the large player who tried to kill off the venture from the outset by dropping their prices 66% to scuttle the upstart.  A series of personal visits to pharmacies around the country saved the day.

Though it is still somewhat of a David among the Goliaths of the global marketplace, AFT is well on its way to becoming a significant Australasian pharmaceutical company with its DNA also in drug development.

AFT provides pharmaceuticals in New Zealand and Australia via its own sales force.  In addition the company has set up in Malaysia and Singapore with the registering of pharmaceuticals and preparation for launch.  AFT has successfully developed its own patented combinations which have been out-licensed to over 40 countries. 

Since its first product launch in 1998, sales have grown each year on the back of an ever increasing portfolio of patented and niche pharmaceuticals. 

Two major successes stand out for the company.  One is the invention of an analgesic with significant synergistic combination analgesia that are marketed under the Maxigesic or Maxiclear Hayfever & Sinus brands—the other is the discovery of a major finding in the cold and flu treatment market and subsequent IP position that will cut across over a billion dollars of product sales globally. 

Given the capabilities of its founder and current owner it is little wonder AFT is a healthy enterprise.  Hartley has a Masters of Pharmaceutical Chemistry with Distinction (1983) and Doctorate in Pharmacology from Otago University (1989). He published 17 research papers and 2 book chapters prior to entering industry. Before establishing AFT Pharmaceuticals Hartley had 8 years in multinational pharmaceutical companies in various positions including Medical Director and Sales/Marketing Director.

Dr. John Penno: Synlait Milk
'Milking the opportunities of dairy exporting'

The combination of innovative dairy processing company—combining expert farming with state-of-the-art processing—forms the basis of Dr John Penno’s Synlait Milk. 

Up against the giants of the industry both here and abroad, the company is quietly steering its way in fruitful markets by producing a range of nutritional and ingredient milk powders. It operates on a model producing small volumes of products with healthy margins. 

Operating from a single South Island site with a staff of 150, Synlait’s focus is clearly global with over 50 countries buying their products.  Yet the opportunities in Asia are clearly where the geographical side of their revenue bread is buttered on.  Bolstering this strategy is shareholding support from Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co plus China’s Bright Dairy. 

A dairy farmer himself, John began the overall venture by creating Synlait Farming, a 4,500 ha, 15,000 cow corporate dairy farming business in Canterbury.   From there the processing arm of the business took shape. 

John admits that taking on the likes of Fonterra—which controls 95% of New Zealand’s raw milk supply—is not for the faint hearted.  Rather than follow the traditional commoditisation model the founders of Synlait instead focussed on looking for export possibilities among value add, nutritional and specialist milk products.  

Further testing their resolve, to establish the Synlait processing plant in 2005 required a NZ$70 million investment. This has been parlayed into current assets of over NZ$280,608 million, including the NZ$100 million state-of-the-art purpose built infant formula dryer.

Away from the milking shed John was named the Inaugural Federated Farmers Agribusiness Person of the Year and also was awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Trust, Emerging Leaders Award.

He also holds a position on the advisory board of the New Zealand China Council aiming to build a strong and resilient relationship with China in both public and private sectors.

Cecilia Robinson: My Food Bag, Au Pair Link
'The Couscous Connection'

Cecilia Robinson goes by the ‘nom de pantry’ of Couscous—together with her fellow partners in thyme Lemongrass, Turmeric and Wasabi.

These aren’t cartoon characters but instead represent the collective nicknames of the founders of a business recipe known as My Food Bag.  For in 2012 Cecilia teamed up with Masterchef winner Nadia Lim, business dynamo and investor Theresa Gattung and food retailer Mike Wales to set up My Food Bag. 

Literally four hours before going into labour Cecilia submitted the final business plan and the concept ready to bring to life.     

The venture is fashioned on the premise that healthy and delicious food can also be convenient and exciting. 

The business plays to New Zealanders’ particular penchant for sustainability and eating fresh by delivering the best of this country’s seasonal produce—and related recipes—straight to the customer’s door. 

My Food Bag comes to the party by sniffing out the best produce, supporting sustainable and free-range farming practices plus being au fait with the journey food makes to get to the nation’s plates.

This is not Cecilia Robinson’s first foray into the fields of entrepreneurship.  Arriving in New Zealand from her native Sweden in 2005 ostensibly on a working holiday away from law studies, she soon parlayed her skills learned as an au pair in the United States to set up what has become Australasia’s largest nanny referral and training company. 

Known as Au Pair Link the venture has earned Cecilia various accolades including Her Business Woman of the Year in 2012. Cecilia has also achieved a world first—licensing the company as a Home Based Early Childhood Education Provider.  This enabled the company to provide a world leading curriculum and enable access to early childhood funding. 


Georgie Falloon: Willow Shoes
'Big Shoes To Fill'

Georgie Falloon unashamedly describes herself as a down to earth Kiwi country girl...with particularly big feet.  Not that this size issue ever particularly bothered her.  Until, that is, she experienced the defining demoralising, frustrating and very unfeminine shopping search for wedding shoes. 

Eventually being told to go to the men’s department to see if she could find something that suited she concluded the market was ready for something with style and size.   

At the time no-one was specialising in nice long size shoes. Shoe shopping was a random, negative experience for women with long feet.  There was a lack of styles available and women looking for something with fashion were often the recipients of offhand service.  Often the solution was to jam one’s feet into something smaller and make do. 

Georgie created the Willow brand figuring the tree represented something that was long, tall and elegant.  With seven years of corporate sales and marketing experience under her belt, she understood the need to identify with her market.  

She pictured her clients as tall and probably having foot problems due to tight fits.  Georgie also imagined them as sporty-playing netball, rowing or basketball. The ideal client would likely marry a taller man and breed more tall customers looking to wear stylish footwear.  Her modus operandi became:  Treat women nicely, offer them the best selection and great style choices, and they’d be customers for life. 

Willow has retail stores in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and an integrated online website.  The company has marketed directly to its customer database since 2001. 

The business was originally cramped by limited styles—only 27 were included in the initial launch phase as compared to 300 available today.  It was also a hard road convincing manufacturers to make amazing shoes in large sizes and break down negative attitudes that existed towards the market segment

Guy Horrocks: Carnival Labs
'Life is like a Carnival'

Guy Horrocks wants global brands to ‘step right up’ to Carnival Labs to truly gain the riches on offer in the topsy turvy world of mobile marketing. 

Dubbed the ‘buddy media for mobiles’ Carnival’s creations allow brands to publish shareable content and campaigns among their ever wandering and connected audiences. 

This is done by a mobile marketing suite, known as Core Push, which provides brands with the tools necessary to aggregate and manage their mobile user-base from one place.

Such as what was created by global snack food giant Nabisco and their campaign piggy backing off boy band sensation One Direction.  The campaign delivered unlockable content, geo-location based Face Time calls and 24/7 new updates.  Or the over 100 mobile apps for the 2012 US Elections, the 2013 Super Bowl, NCAA March Madness, and Coca-Cola.

The ‘core’ of mobile innovation Apple has featured those apps over 70 times (including three Apple TV ads) resulting in trophies such as Webby’s, Cannes Lions, Ad Age and World Mobile Marketing Awards with over 80 million downloads.

Carnival Labs’ success has stemmed from the coming of age of Smartphone’s and the transformation in advertising opportunities this technology has allowed.  That at least is the theory but in practice the ‘smarts’ in the phone and the ad-serving providers totting their wares in the space are using fairly unsophisticated techniques. 

Guy Horrocks is planning to change all that to capture his share of the estimated market size for branded advertising on mobile in the US at US$2.6 billion, and the global market at US$11 billion.

This is growing at a much faster rate and predicted to far exceed that of social media. The company currently operates primarily in the United States but will likely pitch the Carnival tent anywhere to help clients deliver products globally. 

Ian Kuperus: Tax Management New Zealand
'The Robin Hood of tax solutions'

Ian Kuperus’ Robin Hood-esque approach to taxation is so clever it could be criminal.  Using the world’s first tax pooling venture he has created the means—via Tax Management New Zealand--whereby overpayments and underpayments between parties can be traded. 

Over the ten years since it was launched, his company has saved over 21,000 clients more than $100 million collectively.  Moreover, the ‘Sheriff of Nottingham’ in the equation—the IRD—totally approves of the process.

Even more legend making is having the amazing distinction of getting New Zealand tax law changed and then driving a business from it. 

Ian has been tax oriented for most of his professional career.  He began by working with the IRD in 1978 and from there moved to roles leading the tax divisions at the National Bank in 1986 and New Zealand Dairy Board (later Fonterra) in 1988.

The genesis of the tax pooling gold mine came in 1988 when the then Labour Government introduced the Use of Money (UOM) concept.  Ian spotted how businesses could trade their tax positions and take advantage of interest rate differentials. 

Still at the National Bank, he got his employer’s blessings and promoted the concept to the IRD and the then Minister of Revenue, Hon Trevor de Cleene. Both parties were unconvinced by how this pooling might work.  This could have drowned the idea but Ian figured his time would come. 

Having by then moved to the Dairy Board he gave up the security of a prominent role, leading the tax division at New Zealand’s largest and most international business, to launch his concept.   

Investing substantial time and his own funds, the trick was to convince large corporates to pay their income tax through a corporate trustee, rather than directly to IRD.  Without liquidity in the pool, the concept would flounder.   

Given that this was a legitimate way to avoid paying the ‘hated’ UOM to IRD, the concept, and the company, soon flourished. 

Jennifer Boggiss: Heilala Vanilla
'Anything But Plain'

The story, and leaps of faith, behind the creation of Jennifer Boggiss’ Heilala Vanilla are certainly not mundane.  When the focus involves what some say is the world’s most sensual, and exotic, flavour and aroma it would be anything but plain. 

The seed of the idea began with the gift of land from a Tongan chief that initially started as an aid project that involved Jennifer’s father John. 

Coming from roles as the financial controller for TV3 and a successful consulting accountant,  the last thing she thought was part of her life path was leaving the corporate world to create a vanilla brand from scratch.

Having seen her brother launch what became a global vodka business from his garage, Jennifer decided to go tropical in 2008 to bring to harvest what is considered the richest vanilla grade in the Asia-Pacific region. 

As its reputation has grown so too have export markets which now include   Australia, Singapore, Japan, Denmark, Brazil and USA.  Sales growth has been 275% over the last three years.  Personal accolades have come from celebrity chef Peter Gordon and also William Sonoma USA—one North America’s most prestigious food retailers. 

One of the tricks of the trade that makes the product stand above the rest is the near perfect natural growing environment found on the Tongan island of Vava’u.  Using organic growing principles the crop is grown in organic virgin soil, on coconut husk frames. 

It is then pollinated and dried under the pacific sun to then be stored at optimum conditions to ensure full flavour develops. 

From there in the company’s Tauranga-based processing plant it is turned into a variety of products covering the full spectrum of vanilla offerings including beans, extracts, paste, syrup and sugar.  A partnership with Massey University has helped secure world leading food technology capabilities to further enhance the brand and business.  

John Fiso: New Zealand Institute of Sport
'A sporting chance'

The New Zealand Institute of Sport started in a small office in Poirua, lodged between Leaders Real Estate and the Sprocket Shop.  Hardly household names in academic or sporting circles yet from the outset founder John Fiso had the clear notion that he wanted to take his concept much further afield.

He hit the field running with the belief in the importance of providing valuable educational opportunities and sport performance opportunities.   From a strong Phys Ed teaching background, having represented New Zealand in Volleyball and formerly a World University Team representative in Rugby League, John had experienced the highs and lows of life as a professional athlete.  He wanted to share his lessons with people looking to build a career in sport. 

Similarly, after 10 years of teaching in lower decile schools in the country, he felt he could do something different to bring about more enduring and positive outcomes to students.
At the start of play 18 students enrolled.  From there the numbers, and sites, around the country started to grow to where NZIS has six sites in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

At the time NZIS began in 1996, New Zealand was looking to emulate the structure and achievements of the Australian Institute of Sport which had the track record of turning out world class athletes across a number of disciplines. 

John’s concept was different.  It had a sporting and excellence focus but his approach was to create the ability for lifelong learning and an understanding of the principles of education.  With no external support or Government funding few thought NZIS would go the distance. 

Along with subsidiary company New Zealand Institute of Massage, NZIS today offers degree and diploma level courses across a whole spectrum of subject matter.  Over 900 students are currently enrolled in programs—testimony to the notion that if you build a quality facility and curriculum people will come. 

John Plato: Plato Design Company
'Two sizes of the story'

Philosopher Plato would have his mind full in trying to explain how something could be both big and little.  His namesake John Plato seems to have no problem with the dichotomy in describing his design company as the ‘big, little agency.’ 

With a staff of 24 there is certainly nothing tiny about his people power capabilities.  Nor is there anything minute about Plato Design’s ability to score large contracts from its Christchurch base, to the point the agency won the 2012 AUT Business Awards for Sales and Marketing. 

Perhaps the biggest part of the story is the fact John left home at 16 to become a certified diesel mechanic for winning the reputation of being regarded as New Zealand’s most skilled and respected diesel mechanic for Case IH equipment.  It took John marrying a woman with design skills to turn his attention from machinery to marketing. 

The ‘small’ part of the equation is the attention to service, community support and team building that has allowed the business to grow—despite market forces and those of nature. 

John knew that part of his competitive advantage in being ‘small’ was filling a void that existed in the Christchurch advertising and design scene. He wanted to improve on the ‘typical’ big-agency hierarchy and high cost structures.

An integral focus from the very beginning was to present affordable and transparent pricing to remain cost effective.

Like all Christchurch based enterprises the earthquakes have shaken up any notion of business as usual.  Being on the ground—albeit still uneven—was one factor in the agency winning the highly sought after design services contract for the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority.  

Though the earthquakes were a major disruption John’s focus throughout was to keep the business running so his team would have jobs and his clients support.

Lester Binns:
'Many happy returns'

Lester Binns reckons too many New Zealanders are paying too much in taxes.  His solution was to put his mouth where other people’s money might be by setting up a venture called 

He discovered that over 90% of his ever growing client base (currently 200,000 +) had, in fact, over paid. Lester’s job was to reverse the flow and return the monies to the rightful owners.  The business returns over NZ$34 million a year to people wanting a literal return of their capital. 

Lester’s path to the world of reverse finance started with his leaving school in Year 12 to instead attend Otago University.  He completed a Diploma in Business before studying psychology. 

The world of entrepreneurship came into being during his second year of university. He travelled Thailand where he was offered the job of ‘middle man’ between textile suppliers and New Zealand-based clothing suppliers.  The ability to be agile, take risks, and remain calm, came into his world. 

He eventually graduated from university as a primary school teacher but the desire to set up a business of his own once again changed Lester’s focus. 

Lester secured a job with a Nelson-based accountancy firm.  Parlaying his educational background into the commercial arena he created a training initiative called Orbus Business Services.  Litigation from a supplier almost railroaded the operation but working 24/7 to continue to generate revenue kept Orbus in orbit. 

In 2008 Lester saw the opportunities in the tax refund area and set up his own venture.  From the outset business flowed until, inexplicably, his main source of new clients Google Adwords banned the MyTax account for 48 hours.  Other challenges—including the IRD changing various rules of engagement at critical points in the expansion of MyTax—came and went.  But Lester and his operation have prevailed and now is the number two supplier in the tax return sector.   

Mark Bryan: VetSouth
'The animal asset manager'

Living past 30 and making it 7900m up the north west face of the 3rd highest peak in the world  Kangchenjunga (8586m) without oxygen are what Mark Bryan considers his greatest achievements. 

For the farmers, pet lovers and animals of rural Southland (and now other parts of New Zealand), creating VetSouth beats the other two hands, paws and hooves down.  For them he is the asset manager who keeps domestic and farming animals alive and producing.   

VetSouth was born out of the belief that being rural and far away shouldn’t compromise the quality of veterinary services available.  Particularly, from an agribusiness point of view, as this part of the country is among the most productive and profitable.  

The challenges were largely around sourcing and retaining professional staff plus there were also issues around with supply chain failures. VetSouth prides itself on having attracted 40 very high quality vets from over 11 countries. 

Like the mountains he climbs, Mark is never daunted by conquering new heights.  At the time he built a brand new clinic with a price tag of NZ$1.6 million the consensus was that this was ‘way too big.’  When he developed a simple but unique concept called KeyVet—which aligns a specific vet with a specific farm for continuity of service—he caught his competition napping.

The development of a veterinary network is somewhat of a change of direction for someone who once considered himself itinerant.  He had no aspirations to become a shareholder or businessman yet now finds the opportunities and challenges to ‘do more stuff’ enticing. 

With his fellow itinerant wife—a UK born doctor that he met in New Zealand—Mark established roots in various parts of the South Island before basing the family in Southland.  As well as the various practices Mark is involved in a 520 acre sheep farming operation and also owns 25% in a local 600-cow dairy farm.

Murray Holdaway: Vista Entertainment Solutions
'The movie manager'

It used to be that going to the movies was as simple as sitting in a chair and watching the latest offering from Hollywood or other regions.  The lights would go down, the projector would start up and, in between licking an ice cream or munching on some sweets, the show would go on.

As with much of the world how times have changed.  Cinemas are now very big business often involving multi-screen facilities and a whole host of services and offerings that need to be linked.  The ‘behind the scenes’ management system and software that is keeping things together in over 55 countries has been developed by Murray Holdaway.

Aimed at companies that operate one through to hundreds of cinemas, Vista Entertainment’s highly scalable options take care of the variety of profit and service centres that are now part of the movie game. 

Cinema ticketing—the function of the box office—is clearly a priority but other applications include centralised management and analytics capabilities; food and beverage point of sale management; web ticketing; rostering; social media applications; scheduling; cash and audit functioning and a whole cast of other high tech machinations. 

Vista’s creation is not exactly a ‘rags to riches’ Hollywood blockbuster story but the beginnings started in a low key manner.  Having formed a company called Madison Systems, Murray set up a new ticketing system for Village Cinemas.  The first was installed in the Highland Park cinema on Christmas Eve in 1995.  The next year saw Vista established as a joint venture with Village Cinemas and from there the rest is, as they say, history.  Vista today has headquarters in Auckland with a team of 113 and sales offices in Los Angeles, Shanghai and London employing 47 people.  Vista now looks after 2,500 cinema sites worldwide.  A major coup came in 2013 when Vista secured USA cinema giant (with 600 + sites) Regal Entertainment as a customer. 

Phil Pietersen: ClearPoint
'IT’s real thing'

It is a long road from Chingola—a copper mining town in Zambia—to heading up a leading IT consultancy dubbed the ‘real thing’.  Add in having to deal with civil warfare in Zimbabwe, the loss of family and friends from shootings, and the divorce of his parents, and clearly Phil Pietersen doesn’t lack from resilience. 

Following studies in South Africa, and a stint in the United Kingdom, in 1997 Phil and his wife decided to immigrate to New Zealand. Having left behind all that was familiar to him several times in order to start a new life elsewhere, he decided to settle in New Zealand, start a family and ten years later a  technology business called ClearPoint.

A veteran with over 20 years experience in the IT industry Phil and his team have worked with some of the leading companies in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.  The group’s strengths are the ability to design and build solutions for any enterprise that are efficient, scalable, fast and robust. 


Arriving in the country with little money and no support networks, Phil took up a number of IT-related jobs with other companies.  During this time he became dissatisfied with the way in which many IT services partnered with technology brands to sell their products.

It reached the point that starting his own venture was the only logical next step which he took in 2007. ClearPoint would remain independent of technology vendors and work at a strategic level, employing senior IT talent to solve complex business problems. Only then, he believed, could an IT services company be of real benefit to business, developing technology solutions to align directly with desired business outcomes.

Business has been on the up and up as well as team members reaching the 100 mark. Over the last 12 months alone the company has worked on projects in Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Dallas and the United Kingdom.

Rod Drury: Xero
'Love is in the air'

Visit Rod Drury’s Xero website and the first thing you’ll see is that a love-fest is going on.  The ‘beautiful’ ‘cloud’ accessed accounting software he’s created is adored over 200,000 people worldwide.  The aim is to attract millions more. 

From a zero base in 2006 Xero is used in over 100 countries.  With 400 staff globally and with 60% of very sizeable revenues achieved offshore, Xero clearly is keeping the customers satisfied. 

When Rod Drury achieved School Certificate he had taken the family’s academic track record to the highest point of achievement to date.  A fascination with Apple computers—and learning how to program via BASIC—soon taught him that you could use your brain—and technology—to build things.  From there he was hooked on computers. 

After stints working for a variety of business services and related ventures, Rod began his own journey of company creation that included service business Glazier, Context Connect, AfterMail, Pacific Fibre and involvement with the sale of TradeMe.  He believes that Xero will be his last ‘gig’ as CEO.

All the ideas come from what he says are real experiences where he sees important things that are ‘broken’ and he wants to fix them.  Taking on really big challenges is what excites him most. 

 One of the truly massive—some said outrageous—steps he took in building Xero was launching an IPO for the business before it had any revenue.  Most of the capital involved initially was from the sale of AfterMail.  His task was to convince a dubious marketplace that if they backed Xero they’d truly fall in love with this investment. 

Through force of will, and after dodging invective arrows from industry peers, Xero listed.  To date the money raised has turned into NZ$2 billion of share holder value with the price set by sophisticated overseas investors allocating funds to a New Zealand-originated global company.

Ryan Sanders: Haka Tourism Group
'Tourism venture a game changer'

In 2006 former professional rugby player Ryan Sanders was disillusioned and bored.  He was travelling down a corporate route working at the Royal Bank of Scotland in a strategic HR role.  He was in charge of 25 managers—many of whom had been faithful servants for over 20 years but dreamed of more autonomy and accountability. 

His solution—what else but form an adventure tourism company and return home to New Zealand?  After six months of market research looking into feasibility, the Haka Tourism Group took form.  He managed the operation long distance from his base in Scotland for the first 16 months before moving back to New Zealand. 

His research told him that the major route to market for tour operators was via commission based retail and wholesale networks.  The going rate seemed to be 25% which, to Ryan’s astute eye, seemed a poor pathway for many happy financial returns.  At the time few operators were taking advantage of on-line channels for business generation.  Though there were risks involved the Web strategy offered a point of difference and the potential for cost savings and greater economies of scale. 

The first figurative cab off the rank started with Haka Tours in 2007—from there a number of vertically integrated businesses aimed primarily at people 18-45 were created.   In 2010 upmarket Haka Lodges were launched. This was followed in 2013 with Haka School Tours and Haka Custom Tours which has taken the brand into the international education and private tour group markets.
The Haka approach allows customers—via an on line account—to pre-book and pay for a range of activities.  They are also able to upgrade options to customise their tour. There is an intentional ‘blurring of the lines’ between fixed group touring and independent travelling.  Only three percent of customers have any contact with Haka staff in making arrangements.

Sam Minnée: SilverStripe
'The Tech Guy'

Sam Minnée has been a software entrepreneur since he was 18.  Though he could claim the limelight as one of the founders of international web development company SilverStripe, he seemed happiest working behind the scenes.

That changed with the departure of their previous CEO and, with board approval, Sam was handed the reins.  Daunting at first, but soon his innate desire to persevere took hold.  Having gone through periods of poor financial performance, poor market perception, and frustrations between co-founders tenacity was a trait he knew something about. 

The change at the top has coincided with a ‘silver lining’ in fortune change as the company redefines, and refines, its offerings in cyberspace.  

What started as a general MS Access and web development company found its focus on content management in 2002 with the production of a proprietary CMS called SilverStripe.  The company changed its name to reflect this new direction.  In 2006 the decision was made to ‘open source’ this product.  Sam recognized that web developers preferred open source tools, and having an open source tool was going to massively increase their adoption, particularly internationally.  The logic being that a much more collaborative approach to software development was possible, the rate of adoption would skyrocket and it also protected IP infringement—nobody can steal what is given away for free. 

The gamble paid off. In New Zealand 6.4% of all CMS-powered websites are now built on SilverStripe software. Internationally the figure is 0.2%. 
In 2013, SilverStripe won the bid to implement New Zealand Government Common Web Platform making it a key piece of the web for the public sector in New Zealand.  This move also marks the beginning of another strategic shift. Previously, the company earned money as web developers.  The focus is on becoming a company that supports professionally managed platforms based on its own open source technology, and supporting the ecosystem of companies that work on that platform, both through informal ties, and formal relationships, such as its successful partner program.

Sean Armstrong: Loaf Handcrafted Breads 
'Using his loaf'

Celebrity chef Sean Armstrong believed Auckland’s bread offerings represented the slimmest of pickings.  Try though he did to find a consistent, quality supplier of baked goods to service his restaurant, his ministries ended up in frustration. 

Rather than cry over spilt flour he instead saw this gap as an opportunity and void to fill so in 2004 he launched Loaf.  Originally aimed at servicing the restaurant trade, the popularity of the brand meant that gourmet stores, food outlets and cafes around the country have been savouring the artisan breads, cakes, bakes slices and sweet loaves.  Loaf also exports products to lucrative markets in Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

Since the first bun came out of the oven, Loaf has been averaging 24% growth per annum.  This pathway to success, however, was not something that people predicted.  A fifth form teacher, holding Sean by the scruff of the neck, voiced major doubts about his ability to make anything from his life. 

Determined to prove him wrong Sean developed a work ethic that produced 100% commitment in everything he then encountered.  In the early days of Loaf he was still head chef at his restaurant.  He’d down tools in one place and then started with the jobs of baking, selling and distributing Loaf’s offerings. 

For the first four years he took no money from the business.  His personal life went on the back shelf to the point he even left an important wedding to head back to the ovens and produce bread. 
Another part of the recipe of success is the customer oriented approach Loaf takes.  Annual market research is done with consumers as well as retail and food service customers. 

This has resulted in a number of major new product innovations and successes including a new bun called Sliders.   In the last year 60,000 retail packs and 300,000 individual servings have been eaten.

Steve Gianoutsos: Mojo Coffee
'Bean there, done that'

A decade ago word on the street was that Steve Gianoustsos’ Mojo Coffee was running out of steam.  Blog sites were criticising him because the venture was growing.  People even threatened to boycott him largely due to the perception he was getting too big for his baristas. 

Whoever was in charge of the barrage clearly failed in their efforts, for 10 years later Mojo Coffee is now one of New Zealand’s most experienced and respected independent coffee roasters and cafe operators.  The company has 27 owner-operator espresso bars in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin and has even set up shop in Japan on its first overseas foray. 
Plans from the beginning weren’t necessarily grandiose.  Hospitality has been in Steve’s blood from birth.  He grew up serving coffee and eventually owned a number of restaurants.
He became more and more dissatisfied with the coffee being supplied.  Deciding to take the plunge he made a call to the bank manager, bought a roaster and set up the business. 
Rather than pretending to be a Starbucks wannabe, part of the Mojo experience is that each cafe is unique to it location and surroundings.  What is standardised, however, is the time Steve spends making sure that every one of the 55,000 expertly extracted coffees keeps the customer Mojo dependent. 

As someone with exceptional visual and verbal skills, his job is to manage what the shops look like, relate to what the customers sees, smells and hears, and also how they engage with the Mojo brand.  Right down to the sugar in the saucer, nothing is left to chance.  

The company adopts what it calls a ‘crop to cup’ approach.  Quality beans are imported direct from source and travel to one of two company owned roasting facilities.  Under exotic brand names such as Dr Mojo’s Medicine, coffee is supplied to cafes, restaurants, offices and homes around New Zealand as well as Mojo’s own sites

 Read the press release