An awesome enterprise: Q&A with the Ministry of Awesome’s Chief Awesome Officer Marian Johnson
A social enterprise established in the dark days post-quake to encourage positivity, collaboration, activation and support for a city that was struggling to survive, the Ministry of Awesome is a creative crew making some pretty cool moves.
We talk to the organisation’s Chief Awesome Officer, Marian Johnson about the awesome work of this clever collaboration.
You’ve just celebrated six years in business, what is the organisation’s main role?
Ministry of Awesome is the starting point for entrepreneurs, innovators and startups. We deliver the essential ingredients necessary to ensure a thriving and dynamic entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem.
We offer a Startup Activation Programme for any early stage entrepreneur or startup, which includes capability training, introductions to networks, and 100+ events every year that sustain our city’s influential and supportive innovation community. Last year, we saw more than 1,000 entrepreneurs come through our doors! We also operate AwesomeHQ – an inspiring co-working space at 192 St Asaph Street in the city centre.
How integral is it that we support entrepreneurs and start-ups here in Christchurch?
Entrepreneurs and innovators are key to Christchurch’s successful future as the ‘City of Opportunity’. And, for these change-makers, there is no better place to be than Christchurch whose ambition is to transform into a world leading city in its approach to sustainability, innovation and a collaborative economy.
By delivering the essential ingredients necessary for a flourishing startup and innovation ecosystem, we provide an environment that powers our fellow citizens forward to success. And, by creating this nurturing and dynamic environment, Christchurch will attract regional, national and international talent, all of whom will be part of this great future Christchurch – the City of Opportunity.
How did you first become involved?
I’d heard stories of Ministry of Awesome and had a vague understanding of the positive work it was doing but was light on detail until I was a founding member of Fluent Scientific, a tech startup from the Powerhouse Ventures stable. Ministry of Awesome played a crucial role in our early market validation process by opening up their powerful network, particularly in the area of tertiary education providers.
This early introduction allowed us to run successful pilot programmes that validated our product, customer and market. Without those initial introductions, it would have taken us 12 months or more to open those relationships and get traction. For a startup with a short runway, early and efficient market, customer and product validation are critical.
When the role of Chief Awesome Officer came up, I was already a convert of the organisation and could see the positive impact the organisation was having on the city’s nascent startup scene. I love Christchurch, I love our organisation’s mission, and I couldn’t be more grateful to our community, our supporters, and our trustees for allowing me to lead this mission.
What’s the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?
We are so lucky to see innovation first hand and to meet so many talented individuals every day. If the average citizen of Christchurch could see the innovation and sheer talent in our city, they would be equally inspired and so very excited to live here. We are telling these stories as loudly as we can alongside some incredible organisations like ChristchurchNZ, EPIC, Canterbury Tech, XCHC, The Chamber, Canterbury Angels, ARA, and UC’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.