Congratulations Peter Beck, the founder of Rocket Lab

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At New Zealand’s most prestigious ‘yellow-carpet, black-tie’ occasion we were delighted to announce Peter Beck as EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016.

Peter is redefining how we access space. Powered by the brand Rutherford engine; small, fast and agile, Electron can rapidly deliver small satellites to dedicated, commercial orbits at world-first frequency. Space is now open for business!

Peter will now represent New Zealand, and compete against over 60 national winners for the coveted title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ in Monte Carlo next June.

Exceptional Services to Entrepreneurship Award - presented by ASB
Ted Manson ONZM was presented with the Exceptional Services to Entrepreneurship Award - presented by ASB, as recognition for his lifetime commitment to entrepreneurship.

Family Business Award of Excellence – presented by Rangatira
The Gallagher Family was announced as the winner of New Zealand’s inaugural Family Business Award of Excellence. This award recognises leaders of outstanding entrepreneurial families who have demonstrated a successful balance between business and family issues, growing the business and taking responsibility for others by their philanthropic or social engagement.

Congratulations to all of this year’s category winners who illustrate ‘disruption’ and ‘diversity

Find out more about each of these exceptional entrepreneurs.

Colin & Dale Armer, Armer Group
Dairy doyens

Colin and Dale Armer’s farming conglomerate is a major New Zealand agribusiness success story.

The Armer Group owned by Colin and Dale is a dairy farming business based in Te Puke with farms in the Bay of Plenty, Central Plateau and Taumarunui areas.  Their brand proposition could well be:  “evolving the farming tried-and-true.”

Being on both sides of the farming ‘fence’ has given Colin and Dale Armer a particularly strong insight into the workings of New Zealand’s most important primary sector business.

As a Member of the Institute of Directors, a former Fonterra Director and on a number of other business boards the Armers have an understanding of key business concepts of governance and the responsibilities that entails.

At the same time they’re ‘hands on’ farmers intent on being stewards of the land and responsible dairy farm owners.

From share milking beginnings with a herd of 140 cows and no capital, Colin and Dale Armer have grown the Group to 15 dairy farms and three support blocks milking some 14,000 cows. They milk another 48,000 in associated companies.

Given this production it’s no wonder the Group is one of Fonterra’s major suppliers.

Bucking the industry trend in terms of supplementary feeding, and a higher cost of production model, they continue to operate a farming system developed out of scientific findings that has been adopted and adapted for large scale multiple farms.

It also allows for a simple, but successful, set of business drivers to be applied.  Namely that high pasture utilisation, driving a low-cost production system, will result in a superior EBIT that will more gently ride the ebbs, and flows, of commodity prices which dairy farmers receive.

Colin and Dale are also the sole remaining foundation shareholders of Dairy Holdings in the South Island which owns and operates 58 dairy farms plus supporting grazing blocks. The couple worked with their legal and advisory team to protect their ownership of this entity, now owned by the Armers and two other influential farming entities.

It was a lesson for them that traditional values, knowing what is right, and treating people with respect should never be disregarded.

Carmel Fisher, Fisher Funds Management
Fishing for investment success

Investment expert focused on Mum and Dad investors has Kiwis flying

The kingfisher is resourceful, steadfast, skilled at acquisition and even has certain sacred qualities. Fittingly it is the brand identity of Carmel Fisher’s investment company, a New Zealand-owned and operated fund manager, and KiwiSaver provider, managing NZ$7b on behalf of more than 255,000 people.

The business has been in existence for close to two decades but founder Carmel Fisher’s tenure as one of the country’s more astute investment experts is even more established.

After working for several financial entities, in 1998 Carmel decided she’d create her own investment vehicle that would specialise in the New Zealand share market. Her target market was what she called ‘Mum and Dad’ investors who would be attracted by her mantra of making investing profitable, understandable and enjoyable. 

She had the unwavering belief that if the returns generated were high then investment monies would flow through the doors. The only problem was that at the time of launching, interest rates were high, property investment was king, the share market was considered a risky proposition and her competitors were financial entities with big brands and even bigger pockets. 

How a husband and wife ‘start-up’ working initially from a home office would prevail in these rather unforgiving circumstances was anyone’s guess. Early on in the journey Carmel recognised that where personal savings are involved, investors value a personal connection rather than dealing with faceless organisations. A consistent investment approach and candid client communications allowed her to successfully manage risk and volatility for both her business and her clients.

She was also an early adopter to KiwiSaver and re-oriented her business away from pure fund management to become one of the flagship carriers for this New Zealand savings initiative. In 2013 she made the bold, and some even said audacious move to purchase Tower Investments, a business that was four times larger than her own. This move was transformational in terms of funds under management, number of clients and the breadth of operation.

Today Fisher Funds is the country’s fifth largest fund manager and the largest of any purely ‘Kiwi’ operation. 

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab
Making Space Accessible

Houston may well have a problem as Peter Becks’ Rocket Lab opens up outer space for business. Peter Beck has a proposition that he’d like people to think about. Consider the data output from a single climate monitoring satellite. Then multiply this one thousand-fold and reconsider the possibilities. Then put a thousand more satellites in orbit and watch high speed internet go off the planet. 

The one variable to take this heavenly notion from the realm of science fiction into fact is having the commercially viable means to access space in the same way we can land, sea and sky. 

Rocket Lab is the possible solution. The company’s mission is to remove the barriers to take business into space. It was founded on the belief that small payloads require dedicated small launch vehicles, and a degree of flexibility, currently not offered by traditional rocket systems.

Fittingly the ‘small is beautiful’ solution has come from a New Zealander rather than the likes of NASA although this giant, along with Moon Express and Spire are signed on to take part in Rocket Lab’s Electron Program. Major investors such as Khosla Ventures, Bessemer and Lockheed Martin have also added fiscal fuel to the flight. 

Peter’s fascination with out-of-this-world opportunities started from an early age and progressed into adulthood. A role at Crown Research Institute IRL helped him gain some essential skills in industrial design and manufacturing. 

Having the passion and idea is one thing but navigating endless regulatory barriers, and essentially creating a whole new industry from scratch is another.

He also was stymied by the lack of innovation on offer in the wider aerospace industry. Peter soon realised following the status quo would always relegate him to being a small cog in a very large machine. The only solution he saw was to explore new ways of thinking and doing.

In November 2009 - using a name and brand identity he had sketched on a flight back to New Zealand from visiting US sites – Rocket Lab took off. Today it has over 100 skilled engineers on board and uses cutting edge technology, and materials, to construct both the rockets and the Rutherford engine propulsion system.

Jos Ruffell, Garage Project
Beer park

What was once a rat-infested petrol station, and Jaguar workshop, in Wellington’s Aro Valley has become a Mecca for microbrewery fans.

Jos Ruffell is a zymurgist; someone who is passionate about the chemical process of fermentation in brewing and distilling. As one of the three founders of Wellington based Garage Project he has turned a labour of love into one of the most followed, and progressive, breweries in the world.

They’re drinking Jos’s beer in mouthfuls in Wellington, around the rest of New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Norway and California. 

The Garage approach is to push traditional boundaries, reinterpret styles and overall challenge the notion of what beer can actually be. The finishing touch comes in picking product names that are as outrageously noticeable as possible. Beers such as Pernicious Weed, Hops on Pointe and Death From Above are among their more sober creations.

The amber liquid happens to be his entrepreneurial medium but from a young age Jos was captivated by the idea of creating businesses. He grew up reading autobiographies of success ‘greats’ such as Richard Branson and also became very close to John Britten during the creation of his world beating bike.

He spent time at university learning how to run companies but found that much of his time was dedicated to writing plans and pitching ideas for others including one that he sent directly to Virgin.

Leaving the ivory towers he founded a start-up game studio with a group of friends which lasted until burn out, and a need for change, took priority. The opportunity came to take over a senior role at New Zealand’s largest studio Biz Dev where Jos was instrumental in building the business. Armed with this experience he decided that his first founding company foray would be in brewing. 

Though the venture is Wellington based the Christchurch earthquake played a major part in Jos opening the Garage doors. He watched the destruction and devastation wreaking his home town and had to deal with the death of one of his friends. The message received loud and clear was that life is too short so get on with your ambitions.

Starting off with a concept they called 24/24 - brewing and releasing 24 different beers in 24 weeks - the Garage Project phenomenon bubbles on. 

Ranjna Patel, Nirvana Health Group
Perfect health

New Zealand’s largest independent primary health care group is founded on some very enlightened principles. 

Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness akin to the Christian concept of Heaven. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain, a pinnacle of enlightenment, where a person's individual desires and suffering go away.

Clearly Ranjna found this a most sublime concept on which to build a health business brand.

The Nirvana story began in 1977 when Dr Kantilal Patel and his wife Ranjna took over a one-doctor, one-receptionist practice. As an important part of the community they served the area’s diverse population. From there their concepts about ‘family values based’ health care took hold. 

Today their brand of health provision is delivered through affiliated general practices, urgent care clinics, specialist centres, occupational health clinics and pharmacies. Nirvana has over 55 sites across New Zealand and Australia, and serves over 1,000,000 customers a year.

The business is owned and operated by the staff and clinicians. This level of ‘buy-in’ ensures retention, information sharing and clinical acceptance to business grown strategies largely driven by Ranjna. 

True to its name Nirvana’s medical model allows a true “whole of system” approach looking at the total needs of patients and their families. The service not only addresses immediate problems but looks at prevention, self-management, and improving quality of life.

Ranjna’s personal mantra is part of the group’s overall service delivery. Here To Serve is based around the concept that if everyone can serve others through any interaction, and internally achieve pride and satisfaction in that, then happiness should abound in life, business and family.

Outside of business hours she is a strong advocate of helping her community achieve these goals. She and her husband funded and built a Hindu temple that 500 people regularly attend. As well as recent work around women leadership one of Ranjna’s more enduring initiatives has been the creation of Gandhi Nivas, a programme focussed on ending domestic violence.

She had identified that four out of 14 women killed from family violence were Indian and accounted for 55% of protection orders breached. Engaging with the Police and various counselling services helped her create this long-term generational change programme.