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Waipa Business Awards winner

Waipa Business Awards winner believes ‘lighting a fire within you’

A former teacher for over 30 years, a volunteer fire fighter for 13 years in the Pirongia Brigade, and the founder of two educational initiatives in the past five years.

Jean McKenzie, the woman who has carved out an unconventional career path, said she is really thrilled to clinch the award – ‘Leader of the Year' at the Waipa Excellence in Business Awards, the premier business event in Waipa that recognizes sustainable growth, development and excellence.

“I consider my path a journey of opening doors and finding something I care about and care deeply,” said McKenzie, when asked why she as a Deputy Principal switched to the business world and launched Impact Tutoring 5 years ago.

The start-up has grown to 14 tutors with three locations, helping hundreds of students in literacy, mathematics, and other subjects. This has included winning in Waipa Business Awards Excellence in New and Emerging Small Business.

While many of us don’t often step out of a comfort zone, McKenzie took a leap of faith in January 2017, launching Mathematics for a Life Trust (MFAL). The nonprofit organization has granted subsidies to 69 students for their Mathematical Tuition fees in Auckland, Waikato, Hamilton, Cambridge, Waipa and Taranaki.

McKenzie sees MFAL as an answer for underprivileged kids in New Zealand using the platform of mathematics tuition as the main vehicle. More importantly, she finds that improved academic performance often leads to increased self-confidence, better family relationships, and in the long term, rich career options for the student.

As this Waikato based charitable trust is well on the way to expand nationwide, it won ‘New and Emerging Excellence in Small Business’ and a second award ‘Sustainability and Contribution to the Community’ at the Waipa Business Awards 2018.

The strides were made not without challenges, especially when you open a new door, said McKenzie. She have met doubters and those unable to share the same vision, but none of these can stop her dedication to making a change happen, starting from the personal and community levels.

“The key is not allowing other people’s perception to define you, that you are a boy or a girl so you can or can’t do something, and believing you should use your skills that you have,” said McKenzie.

When McKenzie put the uniform to become a volunteer firefighter a decade ago, she had the belief that girls can do anything. Today, as an inspiring business leader, she still holds fast to the same belief and tries to empower more women to do the same.

“I want to open doors, connect people, and transform lives. So together we can change the world,” McKenzie added.


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