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New Zealand Is A Nation Of Budding Entrepreneurs

New Zealand Is A Nation Of Budding Entrepreneurs

Wellington, Friday 5 NOVEMBER 2004 This year’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Seeby Woodhouse was pleasantly surprised at the results of research showing that New Zealand is a nation of budding entrepreneurs.

The research into youth attitudes to business and enterprise released by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise this week indicates that 79% of young New Zealanders aged between 15 and 21 years – and 92% of young Maori –have considered owning a business. “My guess would have been around 50%,” says Seeby, Managing Director of Orcon Internet Ltd.

A winner of the National Awards for the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme last week, Pearl Walsh, is one of the 92% of young Maori with entrepreneurial ambitions who is already, at 17 years, involved in starting up and running a business with classmates from Ngata Memorial College in Ruatoria. “You feel more passionate about it,” she says. “You are far more committed and will strive to make sure it is properly run.”

The industries most young New Zealanders favour are fashion, hospitality, music and sport, and the list of most admired local business people is topped by Stephen Tindall, Eric Watson, Dick Hubbard and Mike Pero.

The aspiring entrepreneurs were attracted to what they perceived as the challenge, independence, work/life balance and opportunities to pursue endeavours of personal interest.

They expressed high levels of support for people in business on the basis that they create jobs, impact positively on New Zealand’s reputation overseas, take risks that deserve to be recognised and have positive impacts on consumers.


NZTE commissioned BRC Marketing and Social Research to conduct the survey, which was completed in October and follows research of the general public’s attitudes towards businesses carried out in November 2002 (benchmark research) and June 2003 (first monitor). The results of the Youth Research and General Public Research will assist NZTE to develop, refine and evaluate the Business Enterprise Culture Programme, which is designed to develop a culture and environment supportive of business and entrepreneurial success.

While the results are important for the ongoing refinement of NZTE programmes, they also represent an opportunity to raise awareness of the public and within targeted sectors of the issues NZTE faces in its aim to support business and enterprise growth.

To read both the summary of the research and the full survey, go to:

Case Studies

SEEBY WOODHOUSE Managing Director of Orcon Internet Ltd 28 year old Seeby Woodhouse holds a clutch of awards, including 2004 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, awarded by Ernst & Young.

He left Auckland University in his second year to set up Orcon Internet with initial capital of just $100. “I saw the opportunity and didn’t want to lose it,” he says of his decision to cut his education short. He has never had any problem with finance, and has never had to borrow money, nor had an overdraft. Most of his profits are reinvested in his business.

Seeby feels that New Zealanders have a definite entrepreneurial streak, but that many people who dream of starting their own business often do not do so because of lack of confidence. “Although we have large numbers of business start-ups compared with other countries, the failure rate of those businesses over the first few years is much higher than it should be – and that’s what we should focus on improving,” he says.

Although most of those surveyed said that their parents stimulated an interest in business, Seeby says that this was not the case for him, and that his interest in business was sparked by the hype that occurred before the 1987 share market crash, subsequent reading about business leaders, and Young Enterprise activities at school.

“When I was very young, I was interested in great empires – the Romans, for example - and I saw business leaders as their equivalent in the modern age. I had an interest in what makes business tick.”

Although Seeby is interested in New Zealand business people such as Ron Brierley and Sir Robert Jones and has read their books, his hero is Virgin Airlines’ Sir Richard Branson, because of his firm grasp of important business principles and ability to trust others to do it for him.

The advantage to him of running his own business is the freedom to do what he likes. “I like being independent, to be able to set direction and decide what to do,” he says.

Although the survey shows young New Zealanders to have very positive attitudes towards business people, Seeby believes that New Zealanders generally need to be more supportive. “New Zealanders are very entrepreneurial, but I don’t know if we are accepting of real success,” he says, adding that there can be a perception that success in business is based on just ‘taking other people’s money’. Refuting this point of view, he gives the example of the founder of The Warehouse Stephen Tindall, who in reality has created a massively successful company out of nothing and gives generously to the community, as well as bringing in export dollars from Australia.

(Contact: Seeby Woodhouse 021 366 666)

PEARL WALSH Aspiring businesswoman, 17 year old 7th former Pearl Walsh, is Managing Director of Amorangi Holdings, which produces a stunning range of trophies such as taiaha and kete based on traditional Maori designs. It won the Poutama Trust Award for the most successful Maori company in the National Awards for the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme last week.

Pearl is one of the tens of thousands of young Maori who want to start up and own their own business.

Why? “Because you feel more passionate about it, you will strive to make sure it is properly run and you are far more committed,” she says. And, of course, the theory is to make more money than you would as an employee.

Living on the East Coast of the North Island, in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt regions of New Zealand, Pearl plans to focus on tourism. But, like many of those surveyed, she plans to get a business education first, probably at Victoria University of Wellington.

Like most of those surveyed, Pearl was first influenced in her attitudes to business by her parents and family and then by her school, Ngata Memorial College in Ruatoria, where there is a special Young Enterprise class to which she and her fellow directors pass on all the business knowledge they are currently gaining. A sixth form student is currently in training so that he can become Managing Director of Amorangi Holdings next year.


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