Twenty Seven Names on ethical fashion and why the plan on staying proudly 'Made in New Zealand'.

The original post was crafted by local Wellington blogger Lucy Revill, founder of The Residents. A special thanks to Lucy for letting us share!

View the original piece on The Residents.

Introducing Founders' Next Door - A Collider series designed to take you behind the scenes of your fave Welly brands! We kick off the series with Wellington-based fashion label Twenty Seven Names.  

Who are Twenty Seven Names? 

The brains behind this iconic New Zealand fashion brand are friends and business partners, Anjali Stewart and Rachel Easting. Like Thelma and Louise or Romy and Michelle, this dynamic duo is the true gold standard for BFF’s, meeting at primary school, attending the same high school together, studying in the same university town before starting a business together. Now, along with growing their label from strength to strength, they’ve even had little ones around a similar time. Honestly, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit their tight-knit friend-coupling didn’t make me a little emerald-green-eyed!

How did they get here?

Rach and Anjali were both born and raised in Wellington. “We both went to Karori Normal Primary School and then we both went to Wellington Girls College” Rachel explains as we sit together on a long floral couch in their workroom. “We’ve been friends for a long time!”

How did their friendship begin? I ask. Anjali replies: “We met playing a game of tag around 6 years old – the sort of tag where once you get tagged there is a pack of people tagging everyone. At our primary school, it was called ‘Black Panther’. Rachel and I got paired up because Rachel was a fast runner and I was a good hider. We won that particular game.”

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While they may have taken out the Karori Tag Title, the pair were in different classes up until the age of 10. “We weren’t best friends straight away” Rachel explains. “Over the years, we both grew up together and were into whatever the other was into.”

After finishing Wellington Girls High School, Rachel decided she wanted to study fine arts and Anjali wanted to study fashion. “We looked at the places which were available to study in the 2000’s, and we decided to go and study in Dunedin because both our brother and sister were there and Otago Polytechnic had a really good arts' school and a really good design school.” In 2002, they migrated from Poneke to the deep south of Otago.

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Rachel and Anjali began the journey of their label at university making clothes just for fun. “We made T-shirts and hoodies. Our friends really liked what we’d made so we started making clothes for them too. When I [Anjali] finished school, Rachel still had a year to go of her fine arts degree. At the same time, a friend opened a store in Dunedin selling clothes. So, as a side project, I stayed in Dunedin and we made a small run of T-Shirts, Hoodies and Sweaters. One thing led to another and then we started the brand in Dunedin. We moved back up to Wellington and started to supply to more stores.”

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The pair’s lives became that of travelling salesmen, bundling in the car and travelling around New Zealand to sell their wares. “Back then, when it was the 2000’s fashion retail scene, you’d have an appointment at a store, or you’d cold call them,” explains Anjali. “We’d show them our 11 items and explain they could have them in 6 months time if they ordered them from us. It was really different from how we would go about things now, but back then the climate was REALLY different. That’s how we started.”

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What was the 2000's fashion scene like in New Zealand? How has it changed to today in the mid-2010's?

“It was so buoyant!” says Anjali. “The economy was so strong before the global financial crisis.” Rachel echoes her statement. “There were so many brands starting up at that time,” she says. “We started a really similar time to ten other New Zealand labels that are now really well established. There are not really that many which have come through from that point. It’s become so much harder to start a fashion business in New Zealand.”

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Another feature of the fashion scene in the mid-2000’s which has changed to today is that back then there were far more multi-brand boutiques throughout New Zealand, some of which have had their spaces filled with large international chain stores (as a teenager in the mid-2000’s, I remember this well). “Multi-brand boutiques used to be this whole THING. Lots have now closed. We were quite young and were starting at a really different time” laments Anjali.

What are the highlights of Twenty Seven Names?

Rachel and Anjali willingly admit they’ve been “really lucky”. Within a year of starting their business, they were catapulted into the spotlight. “We entered a competition really early on – Deutz Fashion Ambassador in 2006,” the pair explain. “After ending up as finalists, Twenty-Seven Names debuted at New Zealand Fashion Week with 3 outfits we’d ourselves. Amazingly we met fashion writer, Stacey Gregg – she was the biggest thing in fashion back then. She introduced us to Showroom 22’s owner, Murray Bevan – and we are still with him to this very day.”

Opening their Vivian Street flagship store is another highlight they agree on. “When you are stocked in other people’s stores, you can never really show it the way you imagined you would” Rachel explains. “…and in its entirety, as well” Anjali adds. Now, Wellingtonians can browse their line the way they imagined they would.

In 2010 the pair also had a photographic exhibition and gallery exhibition of Rachel’s drawings in Redfern, Sydney. “That was one of the collections which we really, really, REALLY were behind” enthuses Anjali. “That line sold into Japan and Asos. The line we’ve just done, ‘Leave no stone unturned’ is a homage to everything we’ve been trying to say up until now. There are so many happy moments we’re so proud of.”

What things have the pair made to be a more ethical fashion label? 

While Twenty-Seven Names don’t market themselves overtly as an ethical fashion label, you’d be surprised at the amount of thought these two entrepreneurs put into making sure their label treads as lightly on the world as they can. Rachel explains that with every single garment, there are decisions along the way that are relevant to how they make their clothes more mindfully. They do this in three key ways:

1.     They’re Staunchly Made In New Zealand (and Will Continue To Be)

 “From the very beginning,” Rachel says. “we’ve been staunchly made in New Zealand. Many brands start as being made in New Zealand, but understandably want to grow. They know that at a certain point they’ll need to go offshore. For us, we want to grow and develop in our own timeframe. We definitely want to be New Zealand made.”

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Anjali agrees “If that means we have to be a smaller business, we can’t offer the same margins and be stocked at certain places, the that is a sacrifice we are willing to made to protect our ethical standpoint of being New Zealand made.”

There is another less obvious, yet highly important, reason why Twenty-Seven Names staying made in New Zealand helps to grow future fashion businesses in New Zealand. They help to keep all important manufacturing skills here. Anjali explains: “As a more established brand, we need to help create a precedent for manufacturers to help other small brands be manufactured here. If there isn’t an industry in New Zealand, other small brands can’t start - they can’t go to a Chinese manufacturer and say ‘Can you make five of these?’ The company simply won’t do it! Even more so, if we move offshore manufacturers won’t make 5 of something either because it can’t support them without a proper bulk of work coming through. There will be no industry here if people don’t actively support it.”

2.     They Use Up Excess Fabric From Suppliers As A Core Part Of Their Range

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Twenty-Seven Names also buy fabric offcuts from bulk fabric suppliers, who have extra fabric which would otherwise be thrown away. “We make a choice to use up waste fabric rather than using new fabric, to get a more exclusive run of a piece from a collection” Rachel explains. “We’ll look to those wholesalers first and try and, as a small manufacturer, try to base our collection around the excess of other fabrics,” Anjali says. “If someone tells us they only have 500 m of fabric, we go ‘OK, we can work within that’. We’ll only make 5 things and make to order on those.”

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3.     They Avoid Harmful Chemicals and Processes & Work With Other Suppliers Who Care Too

In all other areas, Twenty-Seven Names try and source fabrics that have a smaller environmental impact. “We try and keep down our use of fabrics where the processes are harmful to the environment,” Rachel says. “Our suppliers, for example, our silk supplier overseas who we’ve been working with for many years now, are really careful about what factories they’re working with now. It is nice to know that companies like this know their provenance about where it comes from so we don’t have to fly to the factory. Sadly, New Zealand doesn’t have any of the mills it used to. We had to get wool made in Italy because it doesn’t exist in New Zealand anymore.”

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What should New Zealand women look for in clothes?

“Longevity,” says Rachel, “I’m a huge advocate for clothes that you wear, and you wear a lot. I hate making clothes that are too frivolous or would date really quickly. I love the idea of buying a jacket that you could wear every single day for five years, until it wore out. You might not wear it as much, and it would last even longer. I think that looking at the quality of the fabric is very important; choosing something with life in it rather than something you wear a few times and then throw away.” They also say to look at the cost of what you are buying. “The price of something is indicative of the fact something has gone wrong. If something costs $10, why does it cost that?”

They also say to buy second hand or vintage is another great way to explore style and reduce environmental impact. “Buying older items, like leather jackets or accessories, bring newer items to life.”

Why Wellington? 

Twenty-Seven Names isn’t leaving Wellington anytime soon. “The support we have here is amazing. Our families and friends are here. Our partners are here” says Rachel. “We couldn’t just up and leave. It is also nice not to be as distracted by the scene the way we could be in Auckland. We live in a bubble and get the work done.” Rachel loves that she can walk from her home into work, just 4km out of the city. “It’s like, where else could you live in the world where you can walk into a city as compact as Wellington!”

Sum up!

Ethical fashion can be seen as a loaded term. But it can be as simple as buying locally made clothes, like Twenty-Seven Names. Personally, I’ve always loved buying locally made clothes. I’ve been a huge fan of Wellington Designers and New Zealand designers all my life. Now, more than ever when it feels like everyone is wearing the same Asos off the shoulder top, it is important to think a bit more about how you’re voting with your wallet and the greater impact that spending more on good clothes has, from Wellington to across the globe.

Collider Founders' Next Door with Twenty Seven Names.

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What matters to you can matter to many, but how do you take your values and build that into your point of difference? 

Join us at the Twenty Seven Names studio on Ghuznee Street to hear from Anjali Stewart & Rachel Easting, the duo behind local fashion label. In the fickle land of fashion, Anjali and Rachel Easting have created a distinct brand with a loyal following and stockists. So what happens behind the scenes?

Tickets are limeted and it's first in first serve so get in quick! 
Grab your ticket and read more about the event here. 

Founders Journal - Jaemen, Richard & Cazna of SimplyFi

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The elevator pitch, and introduction to SimplyFi — what is it and who’s it for?

SimplyFi is an application that helps Private Collectors catalogue and manage their collections, giving them the ability to share their collections and stories with institutions all around the world. We simplify cataloguing for private collectors, incentivizes quality provenance building and streamline curator workflow.

We create an ecosystem of trust, security, and efficiency so more stories and collection items can be shared and appreciated the world over.

The founding story, where and when did it all begin?

The journey started with our experience at Te Papa. We had heard about the Mahuki business accelerator and decided to apply! We looked at the problems being faced by Te Papa and the industry as a whole. We identified the problem that best fit our personal professional background and experience.

What’s a typical day like at SimplyFi?

A typical day at SimplyFi is interesting to think about and our teams’ dynamics may differ from the usual start-up! First of all, we’re a family and we live with one another. The day often begins at the breakfast table (for those who haven’t had to rush out). There is a lot of outreach trying to breach the secure networks of Private Collectors and Curators, lot’s of time spent on the phone or in email threads. BizDojo acts as a central home base for us all, a place of work and focus.

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We’re stoked to have you apart of Collision Labs, what do you hope to get out of the programme?

We’re so excited to be a part of the programme and we hope to make friends with the rest of the community. Being new to Wellington, we are still finding our feet here and would love to rub shoulders with others here ‘fighting the good fight.’

How are you finding coworking? What have been your favourite moments so far?

Coworking has been amazing! We have been blessed to share experiences and lessons with some of the others humans in the Dojo, we’re looking forward to tapping into the diverse range of expertise and getting amongst the community events.

Startup life ain’t easy! What have been some key learnings since you started the journey?

Short and sweet — Passion carries you when Money cannot. So being passionate about what you’re doing is the real secret sauce to start-up life!

What’s on the horizon for SimplyFi — what are you guys working towards?

We are looking to consult with some people who know a little about blockchain development as we lean closer and closer towards building our very first MVP.

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Anything you like to add?

We’re a shy bunch at first but we are a team of characters with a wide array of interests & skills between us all! Please feel free to come by and speak with our team. We need more Wellington/Start-up/BizDojo friends. Yes, we’re from Auckland but try not to hold that against us!

Founders Night Insights, Nic Gibbens CEO at PaperKite.

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Nic founded PaperKite in 2010 and has gone from running the company in its first year on close to no income to multi-million dollar business today. PaperKite has built some of New Zealand’s most successful apps with heavy hitting clients such as Air New Zealand, BP, NZ Rugby, Coca-cola, and MetService just to name a few. Also, for any beer lovers out there, you would have experienced their world class ingenuity first hand if you attended Beervana and downloaded the interactive app.

The beginnings of Paperkite, where did it all begin?

I started PaperKite in March 2010. Really it was the culmination of a huge number of factors that all came together so vividly for me that I really had no choice but to quit my job working for ANZ and to go out on my own.

 I had spent 10 years working for large companies where I was a small cog in an enormous machine and over those years I saw that these companies were built with enormous redundancy. Their job was to be stable and as such, I felt I could have fallen off a cliff and there wouldn’t have even been the faintest ripple of impact on the company.

I watched people vying for position and being pushed into roles that were unsuitable for them and realised that the values and culture of these companies didn’t align with mine and ultimately, even though I was very well paid, I really wasn’t happy or fulfilled.

Then in 2007, Apple released the iPhone and I was immediately smitten. As soon as they became available on eBay I ordered one to be delivered to NZ and I’ll never forget the experience of opening the packaging and it being charged ready for use, its hard to remember now, but this really was exceptional at the time! When the App Store was opened a year later I was fascinated by the business model that became available overnight. 

Suddenly someone could create an App and have it available to people all around the world in a few days without all the traditional distribution logistics, packaging and all the rest that was the norm for software sales at the time.

When the National Bank decided to build the first banking app in the Southern Hemisphere I made sure I got onto the project team. The app was a great success and formed some crucial thinking that went on to become ANZ goMoney. Many at the company seemed to think it was all a bit of a techy gimmick and thought hardly anyone would use it but I was enthralled about the practical implications of it, such a vast improvement on text-based banking.

By early 2010 I was thinking of little else and one day as I was driving over the Rimutakas I realised I wanted to create an App for myself. There was a lot of unprecedented ‘overnight’ successes springing up on the store and I thought that it would be amazing to develop some of my ideas into practical realities. As I drove I reflected on the genius behind the App Store, the iPhone, the new iPad and I started to glimpse the ecosystem that Apple was creating and it stunned me. Here was a brand new market where whole new businesses could be born and create enormous value from single people up to massive companies, all working in this brand new ecosystem. At that moment I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and I HAD to get involved, not doing so was just far too scary. 

Here was a brand new medium that I was simply fascinated in that I was sure would change the world and I could become an expert in it if I put my mind to it.

Ultimately I wanted the chance to build a company where I could feel of value, where I could have the pleasure of creating amazing things and being paid to do so. I wanted to create a business where I could work with like-minded people who were as excited by the opportunities that mobile presented as I was. I wanted to be challenged and to be able to work for something I truly believed in. PaperKite was my opportunity to achieve all these things and in the end, I didn’t really have a choice, once I’d thought of it I couldn’t not do it.

The transition from 9–5 stability to running a startup, what are the standout lessons learnt?

Well in the early days it felt extraordinary to have the time and opportunity to work flat out on something I was so excited about. There is always something you can be doing to improve your business and I really relished the feeling of making a tangible impact both on the company itself and the products I was creating for my clients with every single thing I did. It was amazingly liberating and I realised I’d barely been engaging my intellect for years, it felt almost illicit it was so much fun! When your hobby/passion is the same thing as your job it’s amazing how much you can enjoy every minute.

I carried on working at ANZ for the first few months after I had started the company, finishing at 5:30 and then racing home to work through the night. To be honest it was a sad reflection on my previous role that I could do two jobs without any noticeable difference in my performance! In the end, I was getting pretty worn out and later in 2010 when I felt I had enough clients to support me without my day job salary, I left my job to concentrate full-time on PaperKite. By waiting those few months I felt I’d validated the market and felt the risk of going full time was one I’d happily accept.

As it turned out, all 3 of the clients I thought were in the bag vanished on me just after I went full time and it was a pretty scary time as Christmas rolled around. My initial optimism was pretty badly dented as I realised that just working hard and having a dream might not be enough if the market wasn’t ready. That being said, it made me ask myself if I was really just playing startup or if this was what I wanted my life to be. Of course, the answer was a resounding hell yeah so I just doubled down on my efforts and pulled back on my expenditure as much as I could as I waited for the companies I was talking to come through. I carried on working as hard as I could and learnt some hard lessons on how to get my message out and who to work with whilst living on noodles…day in and day out. With a total income of $16,000 in the first 12 months, I wasn’t exactly rolling in cash but I’d genuinely never felt so happy and fulfilled in my work.

Building upon your strong company culture, what are PaperKite’s company core values?

Everyone at PaperKite has the same underlying drive: to build incredible products for our clients. Every role contributes to this aim and our company’s Purpose and BHAG speak to this desire. Our Leadership Team are currently working hard to refine our core values into coherent, specific statements but the broad concepts are as follows:

  • Don’t f**k the customer! Always build the best outcome for the end user.
  • Together. Be Smart, Hungry and Humble.
  • Ask why. If you don’t understand it you can’t build it.
  • Be the change you seek. Continual improvement is our natural state.
  • Constructive Conflict. Always be brave enough to tell the kind truth.

We are so fortunate to be where we are when we are. Mobile is changing the world in so many ways and PaperKite has an incredible opportunity to build products of incredible value for the companies we work with and the customers they are providing for. One of my favourite poems is Ode by Arthur Shaughnessy where he talks of art and how it is the world’s creators who shape and define the world in which we live. The incredible line “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams” sums up the opportunity that we have at PaperKite. Every time we are engaged by a client we have the opportunity to imagine what might be and the skills to turn those dreams into realities. Each App and product we create should raise the bar and make a difference in the lives of the people who use it. It is my hope that this, in turn, will encourage others to aim higher in what they build and ultimately push us all forwards.

Avoiding Burnout. What are your personal top tips for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?

Unfortunately, I’ve had to read everything I can find on this topic as it is a very real problem that I’ve had to deal with on many occasions. If you can find someone who has a real and practical solution to this please let me know as I haven’t got it right yet!

The truth of it is that running your own business is, in a very literal sense, as close to an addiction as anything I have ever experienced. It is very hard to recognise that you are racing towards burnout until suddenly, one day, you look up and notice you haven’t really smiled for a long time and you would rather just hide in bed for the day or perhaps many, many days. When that happens you can find yourself making things worse by beating yourself up about it as you can’t really understand what is wrong with you. It is a really lonely place that is hard to firstly acknowledge and secondly to come to terms with. Building your way back up and out is hard and takes more time than you ever think it will so it’s extremely difficult not to try and ignore it and keep going. You feel you have no right to feel like you do. You worry about the company as you would a child and fear that not being there for it will lead to it being harmed. You feel you have to be the fearless unassailable leader that nothing can overcome.

 Of course, in reality, you are a just a normal person who is living with constant stress and fear for years at a time and in the end this burns you out if you can’t find ways to deal with it.

I have made some serious decisions to help me minimise these occasions by moving my whole family over to the Wairarapa where I have actual physical separation from work as well as space to breathe and relax. One day a week I work from home and try not to deal too heavily with the operations of the business and instead I read books by others who have run businesses or listen to podcasts as I mow the lawn! Taking this day a week has become vital for me and allows me to be far more effective for the other four days I am in the office as well as allowing me to be more present with my family at the weekends. 

I’ve recently signed up to Headspace, a guided meditation App and I’ve been impressed with its effectiveness. Trying to find time in my day where I can meditate is not natural to me yet but I hope to improve if I keep working at it. If this is the magic bullet I’ll be sure to let you know!

Get the full story

Founders Night w PaperKite’s Nic Gibbens #Techweek Edition.

Nic will be giving frank and open insights on what it has been like to build the PaperKite brand and the 22 strong team who come to PaperKite each day to work their magic.

Nic’s talk will conclude with a super informal fireside chat with BizDojo Co-founder, Jonah Merchant. This is a great opportunity to ask Nic any burning questions you might have.

RSVP your Founder Night ticket here!

Mark Antony — The Lost Futures of Exchange project so far.

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Collider Creative Series artist in residence Mark Antony held an ‘Each One Teach One’ last week to further discuss his project in greater detail with BizDojo’s Market Lane community. Mark used this time to dive deeper into the interpersonal connections of the Market Lane space, it was super interesting to find out more about such a historic building which has been in operation one hundred years this year!

The Lost Futures of Exchange 

The Lost Futures Exchange is a project I am starting in 2018 to gather stories, dreams and remembrances of place in the central area of Wellington. This is an evolution of the Ghosting About project I did for my masters’ study. I will collect and interpret and possibly interrupt the memories of the public who are engaging with my project

Futures: The myriad of possibilities that could happen from this point.

Lost Futures: Futures that never came to pass.

Exchange: Coming together to pass between. We are here to gain from one another, each one teach one.

 The planning stages, exploring the building through the power of Google Maps. 

The planning stages, exploring the building through the power of Google Maps. 

Each One Teach One, the exchange. 

Marks intentions were to find out what futures the Market Lane residents have in front of them. The following questions were openly discussed during the workshop; 

What can you tell me about how you ended up here? 

Is this the first time you have had an association with this building? 

What various futures could come about because of you being in this space? 

What ghosts travel with you?

In return Mark’s gift in this exchange was that he would inform the participants what he had uncovered about The John Chambers building so far. 

I want you to learn about this place from me. Our futures are informed by our pasts, what have we brought with us, who have we brought with us and what ghosts we carry. Our futures are also informed by the things that never quite happened in our pasts, that misunderstanding that lost you an important relationship, that bus you missed that meant you didn’t get there on time, the time you had two options in front of you and you could only choose one. The nostalgia that crushes us. The things that didn’t happen, the “what if’s?” pull and push us forwards. — Mark Antony.

The story so far, a timeline of events. 

Early 1900’s. The building was constructed in 1918 for John Chambers and Son, an engineering firm. Preparatory work on the site had begun in 1915 when a permit was issued for the construction of the foundations. The Wellington building was intended to be a warehouse, workshop, and offices and the construction of what is essentially an industrial building on the periphery of Wellington’s commercial zone was a statement of considerable confidence on behalf of the business. The ultimate fortunes of the company are not known, but they remained in the building (at least partially) until the early 1940s.

Mid 1900’s. The building suffered earthquake damage and had to be repaired 1943. Air New Zealand had offices and a cargo store in this building from 1966.

Late 1900’s. The space was outfitted with offices for the NZ film commission in 1993. In 1995 Rialto cinemas took space on the ground floor and had 3 cinemas constructed.

2000’s. At the beginning of 2009 Rialto cinemas closed for the construction of a hotel and apartments that never happened. Xero entered into a nine-year lease in April 2012 with BizDojo taking over the lease in late 2017. 

This week marks the halfway point for the Lost Futures of Exchange project. Mark has uncovered a diverse range of memories and insights from the wider Wellington BizDojo community and has a notebook full of stories. He has now begun the task of crafting these stories into a physical form and during his last drop-in session at the Dojo, he started creating! We can’t wait to see this creation come to life over the coming weeks so be sure to keep an eye out on our socials or go find Mark yourself and check out the build in person. 

 Mark will be crafting a model out of cardboard & balsa wood as well as incorporating a digital aspect with the use of mini LCD displays.  

Mark will be crafting a model out of cardboard & balsa wood as well as incorporating a digital aspect with the use of mini LCD displays.  

Mark will be at BizDojo Market Lane from 1:00 pm every Thursday.

Founder Journal, Jacinta & Miranda — Dignity.

About the founders.

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Jacinta

Jacinta grew up in Feilding and completed a Bachelor of Commerce at Victoria University in 2016. She now works as a Business Development Manager at Invoxy and on Dignity as one of the co-founders. A passionate entrepreneur ready to embrace the future of work through skills in sales, entrepreneurship, event management, public speaking, and time management.

Her strong belief in female empowerment is shown with the founding of the social enterprise Dignity for working women and helping schools girls in need. An experienced Council Member with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry.

Miranda

Miranda, born and raised in Christchurch, currently juggles Dignity and working full time as a social marketing consultant for Flinch Marketing. Miranda got into purposeful work due to her love for mixing creativity, business, and social good. Flinch is currently working with UNESCO on a global comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) advocacy campaign in developing countries. This campaign highlights the importance of healthy relationships, gender, sexual consent as well as de-stigmatising puberty and sex. Working on both Flinch and Dignity has allowed Miranda to gain an understanding of the importance of having an open cultural rhetoric on issues surrounding gender and puberty. As many other Wellington ladies, Miranda has developed an obsession with earrings of all shapes and sizes

The elevator pitch, an introduction to Dignity as a brand and product.

Dignity is a social enterprise that sells tampons and pads to business to support their female staff in the workplace whilst also giving the equivalent away to high school students who are lacking access. Jacinta (22) and Miranda (23) are directors of Dignity, with one casual employee. They are currently selling our product to Flick Electric, Xero, ANZ, and Cigna. They support 25 schools across Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch and plan to continue growing!

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The startup story, how did you get started and what sparked the initial concept?

Miranda was still a student and Jacinta had just finished university when Dignity started. We both didn’t have anything to do over the summer so we joined the Victoria University Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

Going into the Bootcamp we knew we wanted to make sanitary items accessible to all females in New Zealand after seeing media coverage on period poverty (girls who were missing out education due to a lack of access to sanitary items). This was a hugely emotional issue for us and as young women with motivation, we felt we had the opportunity to do something.

So we researched what we could do! After initial testing we found out a few things:

1. Women felt a sense of unfairness that they had to pay $15,000 over their lifetime for sanitary items while men didn’t.
2. There is a growing trend for workplaces to invest in initiatives that support diversity and employee wellbeing.
3. Social enterprises, such as ‘eat my lunch’ were becoming successful.

So we decided to start Dignity. After selling to our first customers we found that feedback was really supportive and we were having a genuine impact on both women in the workplace and girls in school.

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When did you kick things off?

We started the Bootcamp in November 2016 and have been trading for a year (May 2018).

What have been the standout learnings so far?

It’s ok to not know what you’re doing. No one does! 

There are constant ups and downs when running a business, but the people you meet and the personal impact you have on the world is what keeps you going.

You both hold down full-time jobs whilst working on Dignity, what are some tips you’d pass on to startups in similar stages?

Use all the great software that is currently available to help balance everything and stay organised. As Jacinta works in the software industry she is constantly finding tech solutions for some problems that can arise when trying to juggle everything.

However, the most important thing is to make sure we are constantly communicating and looking out for each other. It’s an oldy but a goody. as It’s really important to not only stay on top of what is happening in the business but to communicate about how we are both going in all areas of our lives. Running a business has constant ups and downs and to make it through tough times in the business we need to take care of ourselves outside of it too.

What do you hope to get out of Collision Labs?

A place to meet and hang out with like-minded individuals that we can learn from and grow friendships with! We did our best work at the BizDojo during the Bootcamp and are so excited to be in the buzzing environment again! We’ve already gone to some of the events and want to participate as much as we can!

What’s on the horizon for Dignity?

Our vision is to get all business in New Zealand to supply tampons and pads to their staff. We hope to do this by onboarding 10 corporate customers and to be in 30 schools in the near future. 

Anything you like to add? 

Watch this space! Keep a sharp eye on our socials, exciting things are coming. 

Check out Dignity on Twitter & Facebook.

Founders Journal, Ana & Vlad - Excio

About the founders

Ana - Ana grew up in Almaty, Kazakhstan and from a very young she showed a flair for entrepreneurship by starting her first business with classmates while still in High School. Fast forward a few years, several University Degrees and over 14,000 km, and her passion for all things digital combined with her love of visual art lead her to co-found Excio, a mobile technology company. Ana believes that the 3D’s – Drive, Determination, and Dreams – are the key influencers in determining how successful someone becomes and regardless of your background anything is possible.

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Vlad - Vlad has been working in software development for almost two decades now in one capacity or another and has combined this technical knowledge with his strategic way of thinking to create some great applications over the years. When he’s not tinkering with software, he can be found discovering more about global history and politics or playing his guitar.

The project that Vlad is most excited about is Excio, which combines his passion for mobile application software with his desire to see technology used to enhance peoples’ lives. By utilising his technical know-how, plugging in his commercial mindset and building an intuitive user interface, Vladimir hopes to bring interesting, engaging and enriching content to a user’s mobile device. His attention and focus has always been – and will remain – on the end-user and he is proud that the Excio project has received such favourable feedback from all who have encountered it.
 

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The elevator, and introduction to Excio what is it and who’s it for?

Excio – direct visual discovery channel for home screens of mobile devices connecting people with places, culture, and heritage through powerful and intriguing visuals, personalisation, geotargeting and in-depth analytics.

The startup story, how did you get started and what sparked the initial concept?

Both I and Vlad use mobile phones a lot and with the developments in technology there appear to be more and more apps, more in-app advertising and mobile device boast for having larger screens, so all promotional messages when you open an app become really annoying. We started thinking how this can be improved - there must be a direct channel between people who want to share their message or story and people who want to see it. Our ‘eureka’ moment came when we realised how underused mobile home screens are and how they could be used to enrich people’s lives.

In 2016 we were invited to take part in the Mahuki programme and it was there when we realised that actually culture and heritage sectors including everything related to it - museums, galleries, archives, individual photographers, and artists have amazing content that they simply can’t share through existing channels and so the visual storytelling which is very important - doesn’t happen. Imagine if you are a museum (and usually museums have only 5% of their collections on display), sharing all of their collections through FB or Instagram is just not viable but hugely important for engagement with their visitors and followers.

By displaying an array of images right upfront on people’s home screens around the world means no matter what people do during the day, what apps they use, install or uninstall, they still will see their home screen and with Excio it is going to be something exciting! With a double tap on the photo, people can easily see who is the content creator, story behind the photo or visit any linked website. Excio is strongly focused around interests and with embedded geolocation targeting it can easily connect people to places and stories they want to discover.

How long have you been operating and what have been the stand out learnings you’d pass on to startups in similar stages?

We started in 2015 with the initial stage being R&D - we did a good market research, validation, applied for a patent. The development actively started in 2016 and 2017 was our big year - the launch of the app, recognition in multiple competitions and attention of the media. 2018 is our growth year - we have lots of exciting things to do!

Our major learnings along the way:

  1. Never turn down good opportunities coming your way - it may be as simple as a meeting or as complex as participating in a conference overseas, try to use your chance and get involved. First - you never know what it will lead to and second - you will see a whole lot of new opportunities around you, it is just how it works!

  2. Take part in competitions and challenges - it is a great way to get credibility, recognition and gives you a really good free promotion.

  3. For other startups in similar stages - always keep in mind: we are just at the beginning of something super exciting!

What do you hope to get out of Collision Labs?

"Meet new awesome people, grow our networks and collaborate on new ideas!"

What does the future look like for Excio any exciting news to share?

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Stay tuned! There will be an exciting project (or potentially even 2-3) coming in the next 1-2 months, but can’t share the details just yet.

Anything you like to add? Are there any events or meetups happening we need to know about?

We are thrilled to be invited to talk about the importance of visual storytelling in our daily lives at Techweek headline event - Creative Realities on 24th of May and we will also have our Exhibition stand there from 12.00pm - 1.30pm, so make sure you book your tickets for it and we look forward to seeing you there!

Excio has its own magazine for photographers - NZPhotographer. It is a free online magazine and the only NZ magazine for amateur photographers, so if you are interested in photography you are most welcome to read it online: www.issuu.com/nzp_magazine

We also run three Meetup groups in partnership with New Zealand Photography Workshops - you are welcome to join any or all three of them:

Auckland: https://www.meetup.com/Auckland-Photo-Meetup-Group/

Wellington: https://www.meetup.com/Wellington-Photography-Meetup-Group/

Christchurch: https://www.meetup.com/Christchurch-Photography-Meetup-Group/

 

 

 

 

Collider behind the scenes #6: The Collider Tech for Noobs Series.

Earlier this year when we started thinking about our TechWeek ‘18 plans, our mates at WREDA shared some feedback on last years events (the first year for Welly events)... They said that while people loved having access to so much tech and innovation content, some events required a deeper understanding of tech. So a sort of ‘1-0-1’ series was suggested. We both thought we were the right people to help with this.

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We talked to our BizDojo community and Collider friends about what they would love to know more about. We made the decision to avoid all the buzzwords. And to focus on subjects that will be relevant and useful to your day job.

Here’s what we came up with…

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An intro to Agile - Nick White, Agile and Product management coach at Nomad8, will give us the low down on agile - an overview of the values and principles of agile, the benefit of using agile, and how you can incorporate agile practices into your team or business.

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Understanding Open Source Software - Nate McCall, founder, and CTO at The Last Pickle, will school us on the open source way, open source software, and the benefits of adopting open source methodologies in your business.

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SEO - what even is it? - Isaac Bullen, Asia Pacific Director at 3WhiteHats, will share his search engine optimization ninja skills! He’ll cover what it is, how it works, and how you can make it work for your website and business.

We hope the series will de-mystify agile, OS and SEO for you… you’ll be jargon-ing it up with the best of them.

See all you noobs in four-and-a-bit week at Market Lane!  

Founders Journal, Michael & Jarrod — StudySpy.

About the Founders.

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Michael: An expert in customer acquisition and all things digital, Michael is passionate about startups, and founded the team that won the 2013 Innes48 Startup Competition — the largest of its kind in New Zealand. Michael is a keen linguist and has studied German, Spanish, and Te Reo Māori.

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Jarrod: A full-stack developer, Jarrod is passionate about applying his technical skills to problems that affect societies around the globe. Jarrod is also a tech linguist and has studied C#, JavaScript, and SQL.

Let’s start with the pitch — give us a quick rundown on what StudySpy is? 

StudySpy is a course comparison site that helps prospective students make one of the biggest decisions of their life. StudySpy aggregates tertiary study information from across Ministry of Education, NZQA, Careers NZ, Tertiary Education Commission and Universities NZ. We display key information on tertiary study like price, duration, level and employment outcomes like how many grads get a job and how much they earn. Before StudySpy, not only was this information fragmented, it was also very inaccurate and out of date, that’s why we enable education providers to edit their information and ensure that information on StudySpy is the most up-to-date, accurate and relevant source of information on tertiary programmes in Aotearoa.

How did you get started with StudySpy? Why did you decide to launch this business?

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StudySpy came out of the 2015/2016 Victoria Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. The original concept was an online education agency for international students but upon testing assumptions and user feedback, we realised that the problem that we were aiming to solve — a lack of transparent information on study options — could be better solved by an online tool rather than a team of agents. Upon testing the tool for students, we were surprised to realise that domestic students were also getting huge value out of the site and this is where StudySpy was born.

How long has StudySpy been operating?

StudySpy was in development for 2 years, launching on 23rd February 2018 at the BizDojo. In just the first month, StudySpy received a huge response and on-boarded education providers across every type of provider in New Zealand: Universities, Polytechnics, Private Training Establishments, Industry Training Organisations and Wānanga. StudySpy is now even recommended by Careers NZ — The NZ Government career platform.

It’s common knowledge startups go through their ups and downs! To date what’s been the biggest learning curve?

“Never stop validating, never stop testing and allow your business development the freedom and flexibility to be user lead.” 

Always test your assumptions and be persistent in your validation. Don’t rush the business model. Although it took us 2 years of pre-launch work while we bootstrapped, if we had taken early investment and chased the original business, the online education agency, we would have failed. Never stop validating, never stop testing and allow your business development the freedom and flexibility to be user lead. If you build something truly useful and unique to your users, the rest will sort itself out.

We’re stoked to have you part of Collison Labs, what do you hope to get out of the programme?

I think one of the most exciting things about Collision Labs is being in the space around businesses on the same journey and sharing learnings and leaning on each other. The journey is really a roller coaster ride, it’s mentally and physically exhausting and it’s hard for non-startup folk to get that. Sharing the journey and supporting each other is massively beneficial, especially in the stage that the Collision Labs businesses are in.

Anything you’d like to add?

I think StudySpy is really a testament to the bootstrapping model. I was so against bootstrapping and was eager to bring on investment after validation and accelerate the business. Had we done that, we would not be where we are today, the money would have burned out because we had the wrong solution to the problem. Bootstrapping (sometimes frustratingly) forces you to slow down, validate, test and truly understand your core value proposition. With such limited resources, you have no choice but to understand what a raw MVP looks like and drive towards it. 

Bootstrapping offers your team the ability to be sustainable and the rest is about perseverance.

 

 

 

 

Founders Journal, Katy — Town Square.

We caught up with Katy earlier this year to talk about all things Town Square, her founders' path, and what exactly a founder does on their ‘downtime. ’

A day in the life of Town Square co-founder Katy Wilson could involve everything from sales meetings or writing a blog post, through to all things contract and tax related.

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“I guess there isn’t really an average day — a lot of the time I’m on my computer but sometimes I’ll go out and meet with venue owners and event organisers, and I try to go to startup events around town to stay in touch with what’s happening. Some conversations I’ve had at those events have triggered lightbulb moments!”.

The Elevator Pitch, a quick overview of Town Square.

Katy describes Town Square as “an innovative events discovery platform, which makes it easy for anyone to find great events happening near them.” Katy and her co-founder kicked off the business in January 2017, with a launch of their first version in April. Before long Town Square had expanded into both Auckland and Christchurch, with Hamilton and Tauranga added in April 2018. “We’re also developing the event organiser side of the business, so that people can easily see which events an organiser is hosting in the future, get reviews, and follow organisers they really like to hear about new events coming up”.

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How did you get started with Town Square? Why did you decide to launch this business?

Mohit (my co-founder) and I met while studying in a programme that took us to 3 different countries. Because we didn’t have time to get to know a place well, we wanted an easy way to find out what was going on, but couldn’t find anything to suit our needs. We initially started to provide an easy way to find out what’s happening in a city and to showcase the great events that many people do not hear about. After moving back to Wellington, I also wanted to go out to new places but struggled to find one platform with a good mix of fun events. Often I would only hear about a great event after it had already happened. Talking to smaller organisations we also realised that a lot of them don’t have a way to get their event out to the public, as they often have little or no marketing budget.

We’re stoked to have you as part of the Collider Collision Labs cohort, what are you hoping to get out of the programme?

“I’m really enjoying working out of BizDojo, the people are very friendly and I’ve already had some really helpful conversations. I’m looking forward to getting to know the other startup teams in Collision Labs better as well. I enjoy spending time with other founders and helping each other out, often startups face similar challenges so it’s nice to just be able to chat to people who are in a similar situation.”
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To date what has been your biggest learning curve, and what would your advice be to other founders based off this?

During the first few months after launch it was important to realise that building up a user base takes time, and that you need to be very consistent to be able to grow a user base while maintaining engagement levels. We had to accept that at the start testing the product and making it good is more important than trying to get the maximum numbers of users right away. Now we’re in more of a scale-up phase, so it’s more about getting our product out there and growing it, which is a bit of a mindset change. Founders need to be aware of what stage they’re in — you can always spend more time trying to improve the product, but consistently testing to see if it’s good enough will let you know when it’s time to switch your focus to growth.

I have seen TOWN Square is not your first experience launching a business as a founder, can you tell me a little about your other venture Iruya? Why you started it, what have you learnt from it that you are pulling across into Town Square?

I started the social enterprise Iruya while studying. I am very interested in social enterprise, and wanted to create a way for people to shop sustainably. I started off by working with producers in hard-to-access places in South America as I’d previously lived in Peru and knew about the beautiful products that are made there. For Iruya, my connections to Peruvians were very important, as they helped me build relationships with the suppliers there and continue those relationships while I was back in NZ. The same has been very important for Town Square, building and maintaining relationships with event organisers has helped me to understand their perspective and really build something that works for them. The feedback and buy-in we’ve gotten from early adopters has been invaluable, and maintaining those relationships has become a key part of what I do.

There is a lot happening in the small business and startup scene in New Zealand at the moment; what trends or other businesses are intriguing you and why?

 

I’m particularly interested in the social enterprise trend. I was lucky enough to go to the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch in September last year, and hear from many different companies in NZ doing great things.

“On the world scale social enterprise seems to be more advanced, and many social enterprises are very successful multi-million dollar companies. I’m excited to see that trend continue in NZ, to see what social and environmental impact the startups coming up now can create.”

One example is Conscious Consumers, a social enterprise combining technology and data with a social purpose, which I think is a really innovative way to scale business and purpose.

What do you think the business community and those that support them could do better to help founders like you thrive?

feel like I’ve gotten huge amounts of support since moving back to Wellington a year ago, which is also one of the reasons that I wanted to start a company in NZ. People have been very happy to take time out of their day for a coffee chat, to share some advice or to put me in touch with someone who could help.

One thing that really helps support startups is when people in established companies are willing to give them a go. When companies are open to working with startups and trying something new it enables startups to get a foot up and really build something valuable. The company will get the benefit of an innovative new product, as well as contributing to the wider ecosystem.

For people who might not be in a position to make those decisions, making time to meet founders and help them out a bit can have a big impact. Acting as a mentor or giving someone an introduction to a potential customer could be the lucky break the founder needs to grow their company.

 

 

Meet Mark Antony, Collider Creative series sponsored artist in residence.

We are so stoked to introduce you to Mark Antony — our very first sponsored artist in residence. We are always looking for ways to support creative endeavours so when we were connected with Mark by the Urban Dream Brokerage saying yes for us was a no-brainer. When we found out he would be unearthing the history of the iconic Market Lane building (a.k.a BizDojo’s newest site) we couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling. We will watch eagerly throughout Mark’s residency to see what evolves and look forward to sharing his work with you throughout the journey.

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About Mark Antony

Mark specializes in digital animation and model building. He has lived in Wellington for the last 17 years and recently completed his MFA at Massey University! His work centers around the ‘personal’ in public spaces and social realms. Mark will be using Market Lane as a site to develop a project he’s calling ‘The Lost Futures Exchange’, this is an evolution of an idea he explored in his masters’ study at Massey University. 

‘The Lost Futures Exchange’ project. 

 
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“The Lost Futures Exchange is a project I am starting in 2018 to gather stories, dreams and remembrances of place in the central area of Wellington. This is an evolution of the Ghosting About project I did for my masters study. I will collect and interpret and possibly interrupt the memories of the public who are engaging with my project set in an old shop space somewhere around the Cuba/Te Aro quarter in Wellington. Some ideas of what I can make from the stories are featured below.”

Over the course of nine weeks Mark aims to collect and interpret and possibly interrupt the memories of people who have or had a connection with the Market Lane site now and in the past and would like to collect these stories in written, drawn and audio/video recorded forms. These records will culminate in a multi-media model of stories, dreams, and animation. The final piece will be presented onsite at BizDojo Market Lane and online.

Mark will be onsite every Thursday afternoon from 1:00 pm — 5:00 pm working on the piece. He encourages the wider community to get involved with this exciting project, so if you have any information or memories about the Market Lane building please get in touch with Dan (dan@bizdojo.com) and he’ll put you in touch with Mark.