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Olive and Ash celebrate Northland Inc Innovate Award

November 4, 2019

Olive and Ash – the creators of a 100 per cent plant-based dehydrated mince, called Vince – won Northland Inc’s Innovate Northland prize at the 2019 Westpac Northland Business Excellence Awards, hosted by NorthChamber (Northland Chamber of Commerce).

Businesses throughout the region attended a glittering awards dinner at Forum North, Whangārei, on Friday evening (November 1), with more than 35 unique entries submitted across five business categories and eight ancillary categories.

Olive and Ash, one of five winners of Northland Inc’s business accelerator competition, the Pick: 2019, impressed the panel of Northland judges with their “tasty, easy to ship” product, allied to their clever branding and “proposed packaging look”. Wellkit Foods International Ltd received a Special Commendation in the same category for their exotic dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan ice cream, My Goodness!.

Whangārei-based Olive and Ash is owned by Nigel and Debbie Stowe. “Vince is dehydrated mince – just add water and it is ready to eat in two minutes,” Nigel Stowe explained. “The idea was to make a vegetable mince, hence the name Vince.” The real driving force behind the concept, he added, was “to get people to eat more vegetables and to create a quick healthy meal for the family”.

The judges commented that, “having the product as a quick and easily-prepared meal that is familiar to consumers is a clever strategy that will resonate with a broad range of consumers”. They added: “Reduction of meat consumption is very topical, and the volume will only grow as global warming and land use concerns become more and more mainstream.”

Sarah Petersen, Chair of Northland Inc, said that the awards as a whole highlighted the diversity and range that exemplified Northland’s entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers. “This shows us that Northland is full of great ideas and great people.

“Initiatives such as the Provincial Growth Fund have shown us that as a region we can work together really well – we can come together, we can collaborate, and we can partner to reach a common goal: a thriving Northland.”

Villa Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors – currently based at The Orchard, Northland Inc’s Business and Events Hub – was awarded the NorthTech Best Emerging Business Award.

The business has undergone a rapid rise since its launch in 2017 by director Annè Lensink, and was praised by the panel of judges for demonstrating an “approach of flexibility and quality to their work, supported by sound planning and processes”. The judges were also taken with their enthusiasm and commitment to Northland businesses, and with their ability to “help and inspire their clients to reach their goals”.

Team Villa have flourished at The Orchard to the extent that they now have a staff of five and more than 450 clients on their books.

The vision for Villa is to be an accounting and business service provider that offers true value to its customers by getting to know their business inside out and by working with them to achieve their goals. “I believe that traditional accounting is dead,” said Lensink, who started Villa after spending a decade working for a number of bigger accounting firms.

“My aim is to help our clients achieve three freedoms: financial freedom, time freedom and mind freedom. I see us as more than ‘just’ an accountancy firm – we’re a valued member of your team and your decision-making process. I don’t want us to be the biggest – I want us to be the best.”


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