I love MCing awards functions. Everyone is so positive, upbeat and successful, and it makes for a great energy to be around. I am especially in awe of successful businesspeople, so when I was asked to MC the inaugural Fly Buys Mumtrepreneur Awards for mothers who were not only raising families, but starting up their own businesses as well, I couldn’t say ‘yes’ quickly enough. Even if it did mean catching a very early flight to Wellington.
I love working for people I believe in and who have faith in me. The idea of creating something tangible out of my imagination is beyond my capabilities. So I find entrepreneurs absolutely inspirational. To take an idea and turn it into a product, that customers are willing to pay money for and then create from that a profitable company that employs people and pays taxes and helps keep the country running seems almost magical.
I’ve spoken to enough businesspeople to have learnt that their success is no fairy tale. It’s the result of long, arduous days, weeks, years even – and multiple sacrifices.
One of New Zealand’s most successful exporters told me once he put his children in boarding school so he and his wife could travel across the US, while trying to get their product into the lucrative American market. His wife was in tears most nights staying in the soul-less motel rooms their budget dictated and, although the kids tried to be stoic, he knew that they missed their parents and home. It was only for a year, and ultimately, the venture was successful beyond their wildest dreams, but as he says, there is always a price to pay.
The mums I spoke to at the Mumtrepreneur Awards in Wellington all had a similar story to tell of being torn between their work and their family.
All have loving and supportive husbands or partners who believed in what their women were doing and that makes a huge difference.
When the women are away trying to get their products into overseas markets, they handle the competing responsibilities of business and family in different ways.
Diane, whose company Brolly Sheets makes waterproof bedding, said her husband tells her when there’s a crisis at home because she wants to know. Sue from Rose & Thorne lingerie has a pact with her husband that he keeps quiet about any crises at home while she’s travelling because there is nothing she can do about it when she’s a 26-hour plane ride away.
Fly Buys thought when they set up the awards there might be 50 or 60 entries. There were more than 250, which just shows how many creative and extraordinary women there are.
When I had my daughter Kate 25 years ago, I imagined that I would write the great NZ novel during my maternity leave. How else would I fill in the day while my baby was sleeping? Ha! If I managed to get out of my dressing gown by night-time, I considered the day a success. The only things I wrote were endless lists to remind my sleep-deprived brain of the chores I had to do that day.
Yet here were these extraordinary women, juggling husbands, children and successful businesses, and loving every minute of it. From 250 entries, there were 16 finalists, five category winners and one overall winner, Bridgit Hawkins, a mum who has a successful company helping dairy farmers treat their effluent in an environmentally friendly way. It was an afternoon of shared experiences and it was a privilege to be in the company of these remarkable women.
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