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The Caffeine Queen

An energetic buzz brews behind a Christchurch coffee icon – and its co-owner shares her gift of motivation to the world.

Sacha Coburn is the Chief Operations Officer for Coffee Culture and who also delivers entertaining leadership talks through The Company You Keep.

Now 46, she overcame aggressive breast cancer a decade ago, when fate threw her one of the toughest curve balls imaginable.

Sacha retained her spirited smile, flipping tragedy on its head. She’s now embracing the life-changing journey as a gift – one that has fuelled her motivation to help others succeed.

“It didn’t make me want to retreat, it made me want to expand,” she says. “I live out every year deliberately as though it’s my last. I want to keep learning, sharing and contributing.”

So far there have been two highlights of her life, she says. “One is meeting my husband, the founder of Coffee Culture, in ‘99.”

Hailing from Onehunga, Sacha came to Christchurch for her first career as a qualified lawyer – where her daily coffee routine ended in love!

“We all have our own Coffee Culture story,” she laughs. “Tinder dates through to job interviews – it’s the place where people meet up. We’ve even had staff who have had babies, then they’ve grown up and worked for us!”

The business has grown alongside Sacha’s family, teenagers Tiger and Portia and stepson Jordan.

“The second highlight of my life was attending Harvard Business School in Boston.”

She was one of nine Kiwis to receive the 2018 Prime Minister’s Business Scholarship for three-week sessions over three consecutive years, starting last September.

“It was Coffee Culture’s achievement really – we are a real coffee nation. Harvard is such a transformational environment, with business leaders from throughout the world,” says Sacha, who also has a Master’s Degree in Education.

“I feel part of my responsibility is to share that learning and bring those skills back.”

She believes in being open to new experiences that come along. “When we have openness, crazy s**t happens!” she laughs.

It is her funny, inspirational and motivating performance that gives authenticity to the workshops presented a few times a year, in tandem with Chair of The Chiefs Rugby Club Tonia Cawood.

People rarely nod off at the lively leadership events, which uniquely interweave comedy and classic tunes.

Sacha also co-wrote the book Speakership with renowned speaker Matt Church.

She points out that public speaking has been pivotal in society for thousands of years.

Today’s TED talks are just the modern equivalent. However, the talented talker says that her favourite thing is actually just listening.

Back at Coffee Culture, the quest to constantly make things better never stops.

“We’re always thinking what would delight people the most, so it’s attention to detail with every aspect in design trends, food and drinks – and providing wonderful spaces for people to hang out. You can even have a charcoal latte now. We are all so different. It’s that combination of familiarity and freshness.”

A single origin latte with a splash of cold milk is Sacha’s takeaway cup tipple – although now it’s made with oat milk.

After 12 years living in Sumner, Hamilton became home, to help launch the brand up north. Sacha oversees all training and development of the 20 Coffee Culture stores, but plenty of time is still spent in Christchurch.

“As business gets tougher in New Zealand, we’ve been helping our young staff with ownership of their own stores. For me, that’s enormously fulfilling – having an impact on people’s lives.”

Coffee Culture Charitable Foundation, has also built new trading facilities for their coffee suppliers in Papua New Guinea.

“My main focus is ‘how do we grow our people’. We also give additional attention to mental health. It’s understanding who I am, and who they are, so we can enjoy working together in a high-performance environment.

“If I keep doing the work on myself, the opportunities will come for all of us.”


New Zealand’s fastest mum

Helena Dinnissen is testimony that if you’re born to do something, you can get over life’s hurdles, bounce right back – and take off.




A competitive sprinter, the 34-year-old holds the title of New Zealand’s fastest mum, with three children under 10 in tow.

The surprising twist on her inspiring journey is that just over two years ago she was overweight, unfit and struggling with depression. She is now training to represent New Zealand in the Oceania Masters Athletics next month, with four other mum sprinters. Then it’s off to the World Masters Athletics Championships in Toronto next August.

At high school, Middleton Grange, Helena felt like an ugly duckling even though she was an all-rounder academically, also winning a fashion competition. However, her stand-out talent was that she was fast. “But that was the reason others didn’t want to pair up with me at PE. The message I gave myself was that no one would want to be my friend, as nobody likes that kid who beats everyone,” she says.

“I then massively regretted giving up athletics. I couldn’t even watch the Commonwealth Games on TV. There was also a high financial cost of competing, so I didn’t follow through.”

Debilitating depression clouded her twenties, including post-natal depression and bulimia. Bringing up terrified children during the earthquakes also added stress. She underwent three surgeries for endometriosis, and an earlier back injury still requires weekly physiotherapy. She also has mild hip dysplasia to boot.

“But one day I realised that only person who is going to make my life better is me. I decided I needed to get moving again.”




With only 14 weeks to train, she ran the 21km Christchurch Marathon – just after her youngest turned one – having barely run more than 5km in her life. However, the event also included a 100m race, in which Helena competed exceptionally well against much younger women in their 20s. “Strangely enough I find jogging exhausting. Very few people are built to sprint. I was built to sprint and jump – I’m really bouncy.”

Completely hooked, she then enlisted the help of coach Andrew MacLennan of GFS (Get Fast and Strong) who has helped other top athletes with their careers.

After the Oceania Masters, she will compete at the World Masters in the sprints, hurdles and jumps, plus the heptathlon, 200m, 800m, hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and even the javelin, which she is now learning. Beating some national records as well as bringing back gold medals – plural – is Helena’s goal!

Weight training, running and technical training each twice a week, every week, are all important. “There can be an impact of up to five times your body weight as your feet hit the ground.”

Her husband Adrian, Facilities Manager for Life Church and its La Vida Conference & Community Centre, fully encourages her dream. “My half marathon running friend Julianne is also an awesome supportive friend from my church community.”




A light breakfast is always timed an hour or so before training. Then the busy mum downs a protein shake for lunch. “But I make sure I have a massive bowl of greens with dinner. I eat with the family and healthier during the week, and more relaxed in the weekend. I’m a massive foodie, I love cream in my coffee – and I eat cake!” She bakes and decorates exquisite cakes for her children’s birthdays.

Seemingly always on the run on and off the track, Helena’s creativity is yet another strength. Running her own business for over a decade, to enable her to work from home, the busy mum has a business which fundraises for charities by transforming school children’s drawings into necklaces and key chains.

As part of her own fundraising for both events – the world champs cost a hefty $40,000 – she’s working towards sponsorship. Helena’s positivity and inspiration is infectious, and is why she enjoys public speaking, having engaged with an audience of hundreds in the past.“I’m very keen to offer inspiring talks for businesses,” she says.

Helena acknowledges that even with all the highs and lows, it is the overall balance that grounds the bubbly, bouncy athlete in her race to succeed. To support Helena with her fundraising for both Masters events, she can be contacted via Facebook Also track her progress on Instagram, find her jewellery business at, or contact Helena to find out how to make a donation.