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The Influencers: Marian Johnson


At Ministry of Awesome, we are completely focused on growing NZ’s future high-value companies. One of the most exciting projects we are working on right now is how we can encourage more women founders into the start-up pipeline.

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

 

Not only do we want to encourage diversity in our start-up ecosystem we also know that the women of Aotearoa are one of our special Kiwi superpowers. According to the Index of Women Entrepreneurs, NZ ranks as the second most female- entrepreneur-friendly country in the world just after the US.

At Te Ōhaka, our start-up incubator reflects this trend with 13 female founders out of 23 start-ups. Elsewhere in the world, according to Silicon Valley Bank, only one out of four start-ups even have women on their founding team.

Diversity brings stronger innovative capability, builds healthier cultures, and broadens impact. But female founders significantly outperform their male counterparts. According to Boston Consulting Group, for every $1 of funding, female founded start-ups generated an additional 78 cents versus the 31 cents of their male start-up founders.

Furthermore, 2020 was the year of female unicorns (billion dollar start-ups) achieving a new record of 21 female founded start-ups compared to only four in 2013. At Ministry of Awesome, we are seeing increasing numbers of female founders with side hustles and bold ambition to take on the world.

This is an excellent sign for the future of Aotearoa.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

We have around 530,000 small businesses in New Zealand.

This represents 97 percent of all commercial ventures, 28 percent of employment, and 25 percent of GDP – proving that the Kiwi entrepreneurial mindset is alive and well.

Why then do we have so few start-up versus small business founders?

What’s the difference between a small business and a start-up?

Start-ups are only temporarily small and usually based around innovation with global scale.

The intention from the beginning is to ‘Go Big’. But, while there are 530,000 Kiwi small businesses, there are only around 500 high growth start-ups.

Why? Is it more challenging to grow a start-up than a small business?

Not necessarily. Plenty of small business owners work 14-hour days, carry immense amounts of stress, and are equally ambitious.

I believe, for the most part, the reason we have so few start-up versus small business founders is in the vision.

This is not a criticism, but, in the long term, high growth start-ups will create our future economy and drive national job growth.

In the US, almost every new job created since 1977 was created by a start-up. Now, more than ever, New Zealand needs more start-up founders to alleviate our reliance on primary industry exports and invent our future world-leading industries.

So, if you’re already in the entrepreneurial trenches, begin your 2022 strategy planning session in thinking what value your business might offer the world.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

I’m sure all of you – alongside every other person in New Zealand (and the world!) – are looking forward to a long-deserved break from the turmoil of what has been a very difficult year.

There’s no guarantee that 2021 will be easier, but the best prescription will be recovery and rest with whānau and friends.

We work with the high growth entrepreneurs at our startup hub in the centre of the city, Te Ōhaka, where 20 or so high-growth startups are building ambitious and innovative dreams.

This means is we are surrounded by optimists. And – even in this hellish of all years – it has been incredible to see how these founders have dealt with the lemons that just kept coming.

To be an entrepreneur is to be a world-class optimist. But – to be a startup founder is to be a next level optimist.

A startup founder believes that, not only have they got an idea, their idea is so good the whole world will want it.

There’s huge risk in being a startup founder and being vulnerable to the inevitable and daily twists and turns of growing a business, never mind in a global pandemic.

We are so proud of the startup founders we’ve backed this year at Te Ōhaka alongside ChristchurchNZ, Ara, Wynn Williams, and EY. All 20 startup founders here have not only successfully picked their way through the minefield of 2020, they’ve knocked the year out of the park.

Meri Kirihimete all you dreamers and stargazers of Christchurch!


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

For the last few weeks, the Ministry of Awesome team has been working hard alongside New World to launch this year’s FoodStarter competition.

We’re so excited about getting this underway because it is the ultimate opportunity for Kiwi food and beverage entrepreneurs to launch right into national success. And – if ever there was a year to give our locals a boost – 2020 is that year!

The competition is a search for New Zealand’s food and beverage product superstars.

There are two categories; existing New World small suppliers and brand new startups who have never had their product on New World’s shelves.

There’s also a supersized prize package that includes the priceless opportunity for the winners to range their products in all New Worlds throughout New Zealand, get incredible business support, product development, and a whole new brand look.

Supporting the scale up to a national competition, Foodstarter 2021 is welcoming two new partners, Foodstuffs North Island and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED).

These newbies add their weight to founders Foodstuffs South Island and Ministry of Awesome, and existing partners Food Innovation Network, economic development agency ChristchurchNZ and brand design agency Strategy Creative.

Last year’s Foodstarter winner Ananda Simply Wholefoods are about to feel the full effect of winning the competition with their Italian Style Vegan Sausage debuting on all New World South Island shelves just in time for BBQ season.

Love your locals all the way team New Zealand and spread the FoodStarter word to anyone you think could benefit.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

For the last few days, I have been helping eight finalists of the HealthTech Supernode Challenge prepare their five-minute presentations for the upcoming final Demo Night where they will compete for $340,000 of in-kind and cash prizes.

It’s been pretty interesting work hearing about the healthtech innovations of our future and meeting the researchers, students, and startup founders who are responsible for them.

From virtual reality that could repair brain damage, to artificial intelligence that detects disease, 22 of the country’s most innovative and life changing healthcare innovations were whittled down to this final eight.

The whole point of the challenge is to accelerate the future of healthcare and cement Ōtautahi Christchurch as a hotbed of healthtech innovation in New Zealand.

Sponsored by ChristchurchNZ, KiwiNet, and Ryman Healthcare, the challenge aimed to identify commercially viable solutions that address real healthcare problems.

Why does Canterbury care about becoming a hotbed of health tech innovation?

At present, New Zealand’s current healthtech companies represent $1.9 billion revenue and the average wage – at $85,000 annually, is 40 percent higher than the average across other sectors.

We have proven capability in Christchurch to innovate in this sector and proudly headquarter healthtech powerhouses such as Aranz, Orion, and Taska Prosthetics to name a few.

Congratulations to the winners of the HealthTech Supernode Challenge. Their innovations could spawn the Cantabrian healthtech powerhouses of the future.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

With continuing concern around the impact of Covid-19 on the job market, there is no time like the present to consider entrepreneurship as the way forward.

This doesn’t just apply to people already active in the work force. Graduating students are also entering the hardest job market since the GFC.

Entrepreneurship will be a critical driver of our economic recovery. We will rely on new start-ups to innovate new ways of meeting our country’s needs, supporting our own populations, and providing new jobs.

As Cantabrians, we are extraordinarily lucky to have what is fast becoming a dynamic community of entrepreneurs, innovators, and start-ups.

If you are new to entrepreneurship, there are excellent online resources on the Ministry of Awesome website at ministryofawesome.com and at teohaka.co.nz.

There are also a number of monthly meetups worth getting along to including Canterbury Angels’ Pitch & Pizza events (canterburyangels.co.nz); Ministry of Awesome’s well known start-up meetup, Coffee & Jam (live in October on the Ara campus); and Start-up Breakfast Club powered by the team at MYOB.

All of these events are free and just require a simple online booking. All Ministry of Awesome events are livestreamed on Facebook as well so get on to our channel and learn.

Christchurch has the red carpet rolled out for high growth entrepreneurs and innovators and there’s no better time than now to go chase that dream.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

In case readers aren’t aware, Ministry of Awesome enables and supports high growth entrepreneurship and innovation in Christchurch and, increasingly, across New Zealand.

Why is this important? Because our city, our country and the world are undergoing a massive period of transition, stemming from the rapid uptake of technology, globalisation and the urgent requirement to live, work and produce sustainably.

With this rapid change comes incredible opportunity to disrupt and innovate. Enter the startup.

The biggest challenge Ministry of Awesome and other startup hubs in New Zealand have had is accessing a talent pipeline of potential startup founders. COVID has changed that with a national talent pipeline of more than 260,000 capable Kiwis suddenly unemployed, grounded from OEs, and newly returned.

Imagine if each of them became founders of high growth startups with global ambition? Our startup and innovation ecosystem would explode and future New Zealand would be assured of its world-first innovations and high value jobs.

We know that startup life is not for everyone. Many of us Kiwis are entrepreneurs but only a fraction of us are startup founders.

The difference between a small business and a startup is that the latter generally has an innovation at its heart and an ambition for rapid global growth.

While small businesses contribute some 30 percent of New Zealand’s GDP, it is startups that will have a more permanent impact on the future economic landscape of our country.

Yes, COVID has thrown us a lemon but there’s no time like the present to make startup lemonade.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

What a weird month April 2020 was. By the time you read this, we are hopefully emerged from our respective bubbles.

It’s hard to think of any event as universal as this experience and there won’t be a single Kiwi amongst us who hasn’t been affected in one way or another.

Yes – economic predictions are for stormy weather ahead but there are also some incredible opportunities peeking out from behind those clouds.

Firstly, anyone at any organisation that has managed to successfully work through April now knows that remote working is entirely possible and, for many, might even be more desirable.

Think of how that realisation – once the penny has fully dropped – could redefine our workforce, our property market, our reliance on fossil fuel, our energy consumption and more.

Secondly, think of how technology and innovation enabled us.

Telehealth, tracer apps, Zoom, instant messaging, video workouts, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams.

Technology and innovation will also enable our recovery.

Tech is now New Zealand’s second largest export and this is only poised to grow with a renewed appetite for innovation across every sector.

Lastly, think of the impact April’s personal musings will have on our desire to change up our lives.

Many will not return to the status quo either because it no longer exists or because the status quo no longer feels like the right fit.

Whether it’s a career change, pursuing your dream startup, or renouncing rampant consumerism, change can be good for any and all of us.


 

Marian Johnson

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet talented entrepreneurs and helping them succeed. And that’s exactly what the whole team got to do last week at the Pressure Cooker final of FoodStarter 2019 – a national competition looking for the most innovative food and beverage startups in New Zealand.

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

There were five talented startups who made the cut on Wednesday night from a total of 121 entries from all over New Zealand. The judging panel got to taste some seriously delicious vegan Kiwi Dip, the creamiest sheep’s milk yoghurt, flavourful vegan pastrami, dainty pre-biotic pudding, and the most amazing vegan sausage we have ever had the good fortune to experience. And – you guessed it – the winner was Ananda Simply Wholefoods with their spicy vegan sausage that was simply outstanding.

Locally sourced, plant-based, dairy and gluten free was definitely the theme of this year’s competition, nicely summed up by one of the competitors, Paul Seymour, whose presentation began with the statement ‘Veganism is the greatest social revolution in the history of the world!”

Ananda now goes on to win the $75,000 FoodStarter business incubation package whose main prize is the holy grail for most food startups – full distribution of their product across the Foodstuffs South Island retail network, courtesy of New World. They’ll also get a full brand review from Strategy Advertising, everything they need to scale to retail production from FoodSouth, and business mentorship and commercialisation how-to from our team at Ministry of Awesome.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Marian Johnson: The Influencers


If the theme of the last few months has been startup and innovation funding, then the theme of the last few weeks has been Celebration, with a capital “C”.

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

This month the business community is celebrating twice, with two phenomenal black tie events: the Westpac Champion Awards and the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards. Both awards show a nominee list replete with companies using innovation as a clear differentiator in their competitive sector.

At the Westpac Champion Awards, 15 fantastic organisations won for their category with three of those winners clearly targeting a global market with ‘born in Canterbury’ entrepreneurship and innovation.

Supreme Award winners Ethique – a zero waste beauty brand – and Taska Prosthetics – creators of the world’s first waterproof prosthetic hand, are targeting the lucrative US market.

Meanwhile, Medsaland have already had some success there; it has just opened up new markets in the US and the UK. Medsalv, the winner of the Businesses for Good category, has only recently emerged from the UC’s Summer Startup programme with their business that drives environmental sustainability in healthcare through recycling single-use medical equipment.

The second glittery business awards show set in Christchurch this month was the Deloitte Fast 50 awards which showcases the 50 top fastest-growing companies in our region. The award celebration was held at the Isaac Theatre Royal and – once again – the nominees feature recent startups and clearly underline the role that innovation is playing in our changing business landscape.