Women entrepreneurs


8th March, 2022

Startups: Women entrepreneurs at forefront of innovation

Ahead of the curve as usual, the Kiwi startup space is brimming with women business founders and entrepreneurs. Here’s an overview of a few of the key players on the field.

The global pandemic saw many people decide to change their work lives and finally chase an entrepreneurial dream.

But many women in Aotearoa have already been kicking goals in the startup space for years and showing just how much of an impact ladies can have as leaders in this arena.

Marian Johnson from the Ministry of Awesome, an organisation providing startups with incubation mentorship and access to investor networks, professional services, and the like, works with female founders every day.

She notes that when it comes to women leading startups, in New Zealand, “we are currently at 21.6 percent, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE’s) most recent stats”.

“This is only 1.6 percent better than the global average of 20 percent,” said Johnson.

But New Zealand is a nation that is small but mighty, with many fantastic examples of female entrepreneurs and leaders to look towards.

“In terms of founders, our women are confident and have excellent innovation role models from our history, such as suffragist Kate Sheppard, and from our present, Prime Ministers Helen Clark and now Jacinda Ardern,” she said.

The current PM has had a considerable impact on how motherhood is seen in a woman’s career trajectory, too, Johnson believes.

“Instead of being our weakness (lost earnings, impacts on our hireability and professional reputations), motherhood is now simply there for others to accept and accommodate — or move on!”

If you’re interested in launching your own venture in 2022, you might like to look to some female NZ entrepreneurs for inspiration and motivation.

6 women entrepreneurs you should know about

Brianne West

Brianne West is the founder of Ethique, a sustainable beauty brand sold in more than 20 countries and over 4,000 stores.

Ethique was the first zero-waste beauty brand globally and features a range of solid products that, unlike most other beauty items, don’t contain a lot of water, nor have the need to use plastic containers.

Ethique is a brand that reduces the use of both water and plastic waste and helps consumers to be more environmentally proactive.

So far, the company has stopped at least 11 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of and is on track to prevent 500 million kilograms of carbon emissions from being emitted by 2030.

Ethique also donates 20 percent of profits to charity each year.

West was named by Foreign Policy magazine as a ‘Top 100 Global Thinker’ in 2016 and 2019 NZ EY Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

In 2020, she was awarded the honour of One Young World’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

Alliv Samson

Tech entrepreneur Alliv Samson is one of the founders behind the Kami app, a digital classroom tool that helps create flexible and collaborative learning environments.

Used by more than 30 million students and educators, Kami reduces the need for people to be weighed down by paper documentation when trying to learn or teach.

The Kami community has grown to include over five million users, so it’s little wonder that Samson is a previous Women of Influence finalist chosen in the business and enterprise section in 2019.

Plus, she was a New Zealander of the Year recipient in 2019 and a Young New Zealander of the Year semi-finalist in that same period.

She has also been recognised in various other award programs over the years for her achievements in business and tech innovation.

Cecilia Robinson

Cecilia Robinson is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded multiple successful startups in New Zealand, including My Food Bag, Au Pair Link, and Tend.

Her latest venture, Tend, for instance, is a digital-based full-service healthcare tool that offers patients complete GP services where they can book appointments, obtain prescriptions, and more through the brand’s app.

Robinson was recognised as NEXT Magazine’s Businesswoman of the Year in 2017, and she received the Woman of Influence Award in the 2017 Supreme Award program.

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Chloe and Florence Van Dyke

Sisters Chloe and Florence have been helping customers get healthy and quench their thirst for close to nine years.

The duo operates their sustainable juices, smoothies, and tonics brand, Chia Sisters, in a solar-powered former brewery.

Today, the Van Dyke duo employ eight people, which helps them get their drinks and other goods to 600 supermarkets and cafes around the nation and further afield in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.

All up, the brand boasts over 20 different products to date.

Chia Sisters has won numerous awards, including in the Health Category at the New Zealand Food Awards in 2014 and as a category winner in the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards in 2019.

Carmen Vicelich

Carmen is the founder and CEO of two popular businesses based in New Zealand.

She operates tech solution Valocity Global, a cloud-based platform that streamlines mortgage lending and valuation processes, helpfully connecting the mortgage lending ecosystem at different points.

The concept has already powered over $1 trillion in lending decisions worldwide.

Vicelich also founded Data Insight. This company provides users with data visualisation and strategy and advanced analytics services to help businesses better utilise information.

Over the years, Vicelich has been chosen as a finalist in the New Zealand Women of Influence awards (2016 and 2019) and a winner of Auckland University Business School’s Entrepreneur Challenge award in 2015.

Claudia Smith

Claudia Smith, the co-founder of APLYiD, joined Russell Smith to create their tech firm in 2018.

The company is the market leader in digital onboarding solutions in Australia and the UK and provides customers with confidence that the ID platform they’re on is as secure as possible.

Those using APLYiD enjoy a software-as-a-solution tool that features advanced biometric ID verification technology and integrates easily into firms’ existing ecosystems, such as programs like Salesforce.

The company received a nomination for Westpac Best Emergency Business in 2020.

It operates in three regions to-date (New Zealand, Australia, and the UK) and has a growing team, too, with over 20 members now on staff.

Why not join them?

If you want to follow in the footsteps of the above leading female entrepreneurs, bite the bullet and start taking steps forward towards your goals today.

Ministry of Awesome’s Marian Johnson has some tips to consider.

“Get plugged into your local startup scene,” she said. “Plus, get your lean canvas together so you can operate effectively on a budget.”

The most important thing, though, is just to get started as soon as possible.

Before you know it, you may be among the ranks of the trailblazers listed above.

Applications to join the Ministry of Awesome’s new accelerator program for women-led startups are open until early April via the Electrify Accelerator website, so get in quick.