Even in the 21st century, some women who fall for farmers have to choose between their careers and their men.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities outside town boundaries and there’s no better illustration of that than the 20 finalists in Rural Women New Zealand’s Enterprising Rural Women Awards.
MAKING IT IN RURAL ENTRANTS
Saskia’s business is based on the remote Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. With little local employment and just 852 people living on the island, Saskia began the business in 2009 making soaps, massage oils, calendula balm and lip balms. She now also makes a range of body lotions, hand cream and face moisturizers, made with essential oils and home grown ingredients such as manuka honey, herbs, flowers, native plants and clay, giving her products the ‘Barrier’ touch. Her market is the gift market and those with sensitive or dry skin and she keeps her prices affordable. Starting the business was a real challenge with no banks on the island, limited water and limited transport to the mainland.
Agri-Lab Co-Products Ltd
Angela’s business is based in Waipukurau, where she has become a successful exporter of animal products, achieving consistent growth even in the face of the world economic downturn. The business specialises in supplying ingredients for the medical, pharmaceutical and dietary supplements markets, including placenta, glands, membranes, tendons, eyes, brains, blood products and glandular. 90% of the products are exported to countries such as Japan, USA, Korea, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and Australia. Angela, who has taken the business from conception through to the internationally recognised company it is today, says her location is a significant competitive advantage in the export and pharmaceutical and biomaterial market, with NZ being a BSE free country, and having good access to freezing works, farms and essential services, as well as easy transport on SH2.
Lee Lamb Publishing
Facebook: On the farm books
Lee’s business is based at Waikaia, Southland, where she is an author and illustrator of children’s picture books about NZ farming practices. She lives with her husband and two young sons on a sheep and beef station and has to date written and illustrated four books in the ‘On the Farm’ series. Keeping the stories true to life, they are educational as well as entertaining for children. She was an entrant in the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards and the Storylines Book Awards.
Christina’s business is based at Tarras in Central Otago. Her passion for merino wool and fashion has grown out of her upbringing on Bendigo Station, where she was influenced by her father’s entrepreneurial spirit and her mother’s love for merino. As a qualified fashion designer, she took over her mother’s business in 2010, after her mother passed away and is focused on completing her mother’s dream and vision of making the small village a ‘must visit’ destination. Christina Perriam manufactures and retails affordable luxury merino wool products that are proudly NZ made, targeting the woman, baby and child market. The designs are aimed at 30-70 year old discerning women and have a classical and elegant element. The emphasis is on sustainability, quality and affordable luxury. The range includes clothing, accessories, sleepwear and home wears. Suprino Bambino is Christina’s new child and baby clothing range, which is making a big splash and increasing sales month on month.
WashBar is based in Whangarei, and specialises in NZ made natural pet care products. Jules targets the equine and canine market, producing animal coat care products. The products evolved from a soap making hobby, when dog lovers approached Jules to make soaps for dogs with skin problems. Allergies in dogs primarily manifest as itchy skin, and Jules’ market research revealed a market opportunity, which led to producing her specialist soaps in commercial volumes. She now focuses on wholesale supplies to pet stores and vets and has continued to expand the range of products. She now has 349 retailers across NZ and is exporting to Australia. From dog soap, Jules has gone on to develop horse soap and natural flea repellent for dogs. She recently developed a range of spritzers for dogs to freshen their coats, producing what she believes to be the first 100% natural, alcohol-free spritzer commercially available.
Bell Cottage Crafts Limited
Jan Shoemark is a glass artist based in Waitoa, Waikato. Her work is all exclusive, and is characterised by her distinctive style of cutting glass, shaping it as desired. She produces a wide range of products from memorial stones to plaques and signs, giftware and artwork. She has won a bronze award at the Auckland Ellerslie flower show and best site at the National Fieldays. Working with rural themes, all the timber and glass she uses is recycled.
LOVE OF THE LAND
The Vege Shed
Heather Wilkins’ fresh produce and gourmet foods business is based on the family farm in Athol in Southland, where a 100 year old disused woolshed was converted first into The Vege Shed, and then selling Athol Valley lamb and venison sourced from the farm. Athol Valley Meat is couriered throughout NZ into restaurants and this year the company was placed fourth in the NZ Beef+Lamb Golden Glammies in the retail sector. The Vege Shed is on SH6 in Athol, an hour south of Queenstown en route for Milford Sound. The vintage shop frontage has been maintained as an authentic 100 year old woolshed. Heather’s aim is to give customers the chance to step back in time and slow down, enjoying genuine Kiwi hospitality, the opportunity to try NZ lamb and venison, local produce, preserves, sauces and gifts.
Diversity is the key to Diana Baird’s business Fairview, based in the Kawhatau Valley in the Rangitikei, where she and her husband run a sheep and beef farm, orchard, farm forestry and cereal cropping operation. Summer fruit production includes traditional style peacharines, plums and quinces, (there is no other commercial fruit production for 100km). They also have a Drysdale sheep stud and promote and market specialist carpet wool. The farm has two-tier forestry, with trees and grazing beneath, as well as multi-species forestry and amenity tree planting. They have a walking route for private tours (Kawhatau Valley Walks), run on-farm research (current interests include bumble bees, Ume, succession and aquaculture), and are involved in Massey University case studies and tutoring. They have previously been successful in the NZ Balance Farm Environment Horizons Awards.
Heidi and her husband purchased a small blueberry orchard just outside Whakatane in 2002, knowing nothing of horticulture or blueberries, having previously been Taranaki livestock farmers. It was a steep learning curve to develop a business from ‘honesty box’ roadside sales to the business that now supplies a range of blueberry products direct to the public, as well as internationally and domestically. Each year new specialty blueberry lines are introduced, and now include james, relishes, juices, chocolate, soap, tea and blueberry honey. Increasing to three growing properties, the retail business is now open for six months a year. 30 percent of the harvest is exported, 30 percent is sold on the domestic NZ market, and 40 percent is sold at the shop.
Treeline Native Nursery
Diane Coleman’s business is based 20km north of Rotorua in the small community of Kaharoa. Treeline Native Nursery grows and supplies native trees, shrubs and grasses for revegetation and ornamental purposes. Established in 1996, in its first 12 years of operation production grew from 10,000 trees to 300,000 trees produced and sold. An essential part of the nursery production is seed collection, and eco-sourcing seed has become a major factor in customer requirements. Diane travels through BoP and Waikato, contacting farmers for this task. The nursery’s location at 419m above sea level ensures plants are hardy and relatively pest free. An interesting development over the last three years has been joining a bio-dynamic group and exploring planting by the moon, using an old Allied Farmers Co-op lunar calendar, which has streamlined the company’s propagation with surprisingly good results. Plants are supplied in bulk to councils, farmers, landscapers, developers and the home gardener.
Stephanie Lynch’s business is based in Horsham Downs, near Hamilton. The business involves every aspect of honey production, from caring for bees in 150 beehives, harvesting, packaging and direct selling at farmers markets, as well as through retail shops and the company website. The bees have access to a wide range of flowering plants, and honeys from different areas are not blended with each other, meaning customers can choose a honey based on the location shown on the jar, such as Horsham Downs, Marokopa, Four Brothers Reserve and Hakarimata, with each having its own special characteristics. The company also produces bee pollen.
HELP I NEED SOMEBODY
Lesley’s business is an online customer-driven Kiwiana gift store which has evolved since 2000 when she began supplying Kiwi goods to overseas customers on eBay. Shopenzed.com is now one of the largest online retailers of New Zealand-inspired gifts and collectables. The business caters for tens of thousands of customers worldwide, carrying over 3000 items, with more being added every week. All purchases carry a 365 day money back guarantee. The customers are often ex-pat Kiwis, or people who want to travel of live in New Zealand or who have holidayed here. 90 percent of orders are shipped overseas, with Australia a growing market. Products include sheepskin boots, slippers, possum merino knitwear, NZ jewellery, rugby gear, souvenirs, books, cosmetics, food and more. Customer service is key to the business’ success, with ‘mad dashes’ to the nearest courier depot (a 50km round trip) to deliver a last minute order the norm. Free gift wrapping in exquisite wrapping paper adds that special touch.
Herd About Hair & Beauty
Lynne Johnston’s hair and beauty salon business is based at Riversdale in Southland. It began in 2008 when she realised the need to diversify the family’s reliance on dairy share milking income after the downturn. She first re-opened a hair salon in Riversdale that had ceased trading a year and a half earlier, growing the business to employ staff to work alongside her. In response to the success of the hair salon she rented a second shop next door and employed a beauty therapist, offering a range of beauty treatments in addition to hair dressing. Both the hair and beauty salons are now open six days a week. In the meantime, Lynne has grown her own family, with a fourth child born in February 2011. She is also still involved on the farm, rearing calves through the spring. The success of Herd About Hair is based on offering rural people everything a city salon could offer, with exceptional service, with the mission statement ‘a little bit of luxury close to home’.
Occsafe Services Ltd
Jill’s business is based near Picton, and involves workplace health and safety services, training and education. She has put her background as a registered nurse to good use, and takes her occupational health services to the client base which has grown to almost 60 regular clients. These include factories, vineyards, aquaculture, wood mills, engineering, construction sites and aviation. She works with clients to help them build and maintain a healthy and safe work environment, to achieve legislative compliance, reduce employee down time, and cost effectiveness. Services include health monitoring, such as workplace hearing tests, lung function tests, blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and vision screening; pre-employment work fitness assessments; workplace drug and alcohol testing, rehabilitation programmes; ergonomic workstation office assessments; noise and hygiene surveys and pre-audits for ACC audits.
Oasis Beauty NZ Ltd
Stephanie’s business is based at Oxford in Canterbury, where over the last 14 years she has developed a range of products for sensitive skin and sun protection. Beginning by making products in her own kitchen, they are now manufactured in a factory in Christchurch. This financial year the business has grown by almost 60 percent, and employs four women from the rural community who help look after the office and customer orders. Stephanie’s story shows how one enterprising rural woman with very few resources can build a successful business in a very competitive market and provide long term rewarding jobs for other rural women in the community.
Bluespur Butchery and Deli
Jan’s business is based at Lawrence in Otago. When the deli opened in 2009 it was a ‘dream come true’ for Jan, who’s been in the butchery trade since she left school. Jan sells meat to the public, but the main focus is on processing meat for farmers and hungers. Lambs, pigs and venison are butchered and made into sausages, saveloys, burgers etc. A popular service is gourmet lamb, where Jan creates barbequed cuts, marinated kebabs, mint glased lamb cutlets and ‘legendary’ burgers.
STAY, PLAY, RURAL
Deborah runs her business from Baylys Beach, Northland where she takes people on tours of the night sky with NZ’s largest hands-on telescope open nightly to the public. With a passion for astronomy, Deborah arrived in NZ in 2005 with a plan of offering astronomy facilities for tourists and astronomers. Acquiring her first second-hand giant telescope and dome, she set up on her front lawn, and has since acquired five more telescopes and caters for groups of up to 40. The Skydome Observatory was fully operational by early 2006. The telescope to guest ratio is kept at no higher than 1 to 4, so visitors observe at leisure. Added to this Deborah tells stories and adds fun facts, myths and legends to the experience.
Linda runs boutique accommodation company Tairoa Lodge, which includes a Victorian villa built in 1875 in Hawera, Taranaki. She and husband Steve bought the old homestead on four acres in 2000, which has Historic Places Trust rating, but was in need of renovation. Over four years they worked on the property creating three luxury guest rooms, each with private ensuite, and decorated with a mix of antiques and country-style furniture. In 2003 they relocated Tairoa Cottage to the grounds to offer self-contained accommodation for guests, and in 2007 purchased an adjacent property, The Gatehouse, to cater for the corporate market. To compliment the business the couple added a secluded retreat, Kingfisher Cottage, in a rural farm setting, to their portfolio. Finally they purchased Tairoa Church Hall, previously the Gospel Church, with stained glass and matai floors, which is used as an exclusive venue for private functions. Tairoa Lodge has Qualmark accreditation 4star plus, and Linda’s mission is to provide exceptional customer service. The business has seen robust growth though Linda says it has been ‘hard won’ and they have had to respond to shifts in the market by offering different accommodation options. The catering and functions business has grown strongly, based on its reputation and a very strong client focus.
Tina’s business, Pure Cruise, operates with a vision to be the foremost sailing product in the central North Island. It offers a superior sailing experience on Lake Rotoiti, with high end sailing charters on board the 53 foot catamaran Tiua (run with the wind) to travellers, corporate and other groups.
Kylie’s business, Rangitikei Farmstay, offers accommodation for up to 19 guests and a range of activities on and off the 1560 acre sheep and beef farm at Pukawa, Lake Taupo. Kylie and her husband Andrew moved on to the farm in 2005, surrounded by beautiful landscape and scattered, largely unused buildings filled with ‘treasures’ – saws, stencils, pack saddles, and a push mower to name a few, used by the Stewart family on the farm for the past three generations. The couple began renovating the old buildings and first opened up a bunkhouse and farm museum. They have since converted three other buildings and have developed their farmstay and catering business with farm tours, shearing and mustering demonstrations, horse riding, farm walks, clay bird shooting and hole in one golf. They now have school groups, birthday parties, and overseas guests. Continuing to develop, the couple are presently building a lake to begin water activities on the property.
The winners will be announced at Rural Women’s national conference in Christchurch on May 23rd.