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Great turn out at inaugural Rotorua Innovation Festival

MEDIA RELEASE: Great turn out at inaugural Rotorua Innovation Festival

For immediate release: 9th August 2019

Hundreds of business owners and non-profits benefitted from attending the inaugural Rotorua Innovation Festival this week with a range of speakers providing inspiration and knowledge to help them succeed.

Darren McGarvie, co-founder of Firestation Business Growth Centre created the festival as he strongly believes innovation is the driving force behind successful organisations.

"Innovation is fundamentally critical for any enterprise, whether that be a for-profit, charity or social enterprise. In a business sense it can help ensure that you maintain your competitive edge in a fast-moving landscape.”

“Societally, it means we aren’t satisfied with the status quo of our communities and through the application of creativity, we can make substantial, positive and sustainable change improving wellbeing for all.”

Attendees of the opening ceremony were awed by opening keynote Annah Stretton. While she is more well known for her fashion label, her focus now is on her social endeavours.

Stretton spoke about how her success can be attributed to being adaptive and innovative as well as embracing challenge and disruption. Now she is applying that approach to her social enterprises.

Her message was that “New Zealand needs businesses with a strong social conscience” and that the business community “is well placed to tackle some of our bigger social challenges.”

It is this belief that has led to the creation of RAW (Reclaim Another Woman), a programme to help women break the cycle and move from a life of crime to one of passion and purpose. Stretton said speaking about RAW's innovative model was a wonderful fit for the festival.

The RAW programme is a full wrap around solution to stop recidivist female offenders by offering intensive support in education, employment, living, and life skills. And so far, the results have been impressive.

The evening network event of the festival celebrated ten years of networking events from business group Rotorua X. Keynote speaker was Mark Lucas, CEO and co-founder of Cannasouth, a medicinal cannabis research company.

Lucas impressed the audience with his journey, not only of forging a path in an unknown field but how he shared the business skills he had learnt along the way. He said he is excited about the opportunities that medicinal cannabis offers.

“There's a lot of excitement about this industry as you know. But it will take time. This is a marathon not a sprint. Actually, what we say is we're sprinting a marathon, which is interesting.”

“Estimates on the market for CBD have that alone at 22 billion dollars by 2022. We're talking about a big space that's rapidly evolving. There’s also going to be massive amount of competition. I knew we needed to operate at scale and are going to have to use innovation.”

To get that scale Cannasouth recently listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. They are the first medicinal cannabis company to list, although Lucas thinks more will follow.

“It's quite exciting but also daunting when you go through an IPO process and you raise funds from the public. The public are your investors I think we have something like 1500 investors on board now. A big responsibility comes with that.”

“I’m excited that there are a lot of opportunities to improve the economic situations for a lot of different parts of the country [with medicinal cannabis]. And it's from basic horticulture right through to advanced science and technology software development.”

“And it’s quite exciting for patients … there's a lot of anecdotal data in the United States where a lot of these products have been available for many years of countless patients reporting relief from a wide range of conditions.”

The festival closed with Tiny Deane from Visions of a Helping Hand sharing how he is tackling the homeless issue in Rotorua and Taupo.

Dean is recognised as a champion and solution provider in this space and moved many of the audience to tears with his journey.

He saw a need, a way he could help and just got to it. At the heart of what he and his Trust’s team does is treat people with respect.

“Everyone should have a roof over their head and have a safe place to sleep.”

In the last twelve months his Trust has housed and fed 1,000 people.

When asked what he needs going forward he simply asked that people acknowledge the homeless on the street.

“When you see a homeless person on the street, you don’t need to give them money or give them food. Just acknowledge them, look at them and give them a smile.”

Nat Keddie travelled from Taupo to attend the sessions delivered by Firestation to help launch, grow and scale business and social enterprises.

“It was incredible. Jam packed with relevant, useful information on business and social enterprise, delivered by excellent speakers.”


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