Global research shows the entrepreneurial spirit is kicking in earlier than ever before. In short, entrepreneurs are getting younger. There is a wave of young business owners sweeping the world starting up their businesses across all industries and they are doing this basically because they can.
Technology is making it all possible, but it is changing work trends, as well as attitudes to risk, that are making entrepreneurship more attractive to our youth. They don’t want to secure a long-term, stable job and stay in the same company for 10, 15, 20 years. That’s not their goal. They want freedom – personal and financial – and they crave the opportunity to fashion their own way in the world of work.
It’s no surprise then that when we look beyond the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Jeremy Moons of this world (who, respectively were aged 19 and 24 when they launched Facebook and outdoor clothing brand Icebreaker) and start to dig a little in our own backyard that we find Wairarapa is indeed representative of the growing entrepreneurial swell.
Here we have our very own innovative, energetic and go-getting contingent of young business owners who span the industries – across catering, retail, building and renovations, mechanics, fitness, health and beauty and hairdressing.
Casey Morris, owner of Motorworks Masterton was in her 20s when she launched her business with husband, Alex, three years ago. Olivia Sefton of Hello Romeo bridal shop was 22 when she opened her Martinborough boutique last year. Latasha Boyce of Alluminus Beauty Therapy in Greytown took the plunge seven years ago when she was only 25. Corbin Davidson, 24, has owned and managed the Village Bakery & Cafe in Kuripuni for two years. Featherston’s Caleb Brown started up his floor sanding enterprise when he was 22, that was nine successful years ago. And, husband and wife team Sarah and Jordan Treday of Sacred Art Tattoo and Piercing were both just shy of 30 when they opened their Masterton business early last year.
Then there’s AJ Manley and Matt Henderson of Strength Nation in Greytown, Kuripuni massage and musculoskeletal therapist Katrina Sigvertsen and Masterton barber Jordan McDowall. We talked to these young, local self-starters about their experiences of starting a business, their motivations and whether age was a barrier… or a bonus.
Taking the bull by the horns
Passion was the major driving force behind AJ Manley and Matt Henderson, the dynamic duo who opened Strength Nation (a gym in Greytown), in 2015 – aged 23 and 22. At the time AJ and Matt were working long hours in forestry. They were fitting in fitness training whenever they could. Both were already qualified personal trainers and after training together one night they decided they really wanted to work in the fitness industry and ultimately open their own training facility. AJ says they talked some more and came to the conclusion that there really was no reason why they couldn’t make their dream come true.
Initially it was tough getting to grips with all that goes with running a business, including the long hours. But, they say, it was helpful having each other. “Both of us sharing a passion for fitness
and having the same vision of running our own gym was a huge advantage,” says AJ. “It meant we could share the workload, bounce ideas off each other and split the risk. It also meant we could stay positive and keep moving forward whenever one of us hit a roadblock.”
Two-and-a-half years on, Strength Nation is in growth mode. A recent expansion into adjoining premises has created more gym floor space allowing for more equipment to meet the demands of their increasing membership.
AJ says being young entrepreneurs was both an advantage and a disadvantage. “On the one hand we didn’t have any business experience to draw on, but on the other it meant we didn’t have much to lose. We could take on a bigger risk, we could work those long hours and we could commit ourselves 100% to making this work.”
Kuripuni-based musculoskeletal therapist, Katrina Sigvertsen, was also propelled by passion – even though it took her a while to discover what her passion was. After trying several jobs including cafe and office work, Katrina decided that her true vocation lay in helping people. She was encouraged by her family and friends to try massage as a profession and started studying full time for a bachelor degree in massage and neuromuscular therapy.
Katrina says she had always played around with massage but when she realised she could turn it into a career she decided to make sure she had the best qualifications for the job. “Many massage therapists hold qualifications from short courses they have completed but I was determined to go for a higher qualification and the more I studied, the more I learned that there was a growing need for massage therapy at this top level.”
Demand for pain relief and expertise in pain science caused Katrina to start her business, ProActive Massage, in her second year of study. Then, aged 24, she worked one day a fortnight for four months moving up to two days a week for a year while completing her degree. “I was still studying full-time but my business was growing organically and I couldn’t ignore it. I gave two full days to my business and the rest to my studies.” Katrina says it was hard work but she knew that after her third year of study she would be able to move straight into her business full-time.
“I also knew that the nature of the massage business is largely self-employed. I guess I was preparing myself for what would come next at the end of my degree. I also knew that I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I wanted to be in control of my work and grow my business my own way, by always putting my clients’ needs first.”
Katrina says her age didn’t even come into it. But in hindsight, she says being young with no dependents and not having any other demands on her time, other than her work and her study, meant she could completely focus.
With three-and-a-half years in business under her belt, Katrina has over 300 clients and a growing reputation as one of Wairarapa’s most qualified therapists. Her aims for the future include nudging her business to the next level through further study into neuro-science, educating people about the pain-relief benefits of musculoskeletal therapy and encouraging those entering the industry to study at degree level.
“I’m currently raising awareness of the medical side of massage. I’m also keen to encourage anyone who is interested in this career to gain the best qualifications they can. I see that there is a real need for this type of care in our community and I’m really happy to already be mentoring one Wairarapa student through her degree.”
A cut above
While a love for his art certainly played its part for young Masterton barber, Jordan McDowall, so too did ambition. When Jordan started his business, Barbershop Jordy, in 2015 – aged only 21, he knew he wanted to be his own boss so he could accelerate his own career, rather than rely on someone else to set the pace for him. “I wanted to earn more money and take my barbering skills to the next level. To do this I had to break away from being employed and take the bold step to set up on my own.”
Jordan says he was definitely entering the unknown. “It was like jumping into a pool with no bottom or trying to see in the dark. I didn’t even know if people were going to support me.” But, for Jordan, it was worth the risk. Like AJ and Matt, being young meant Jordan didn’t have much to lose. “I had no assets but also little debt, so it was easy for me to take on the challenge of finding premises and fitting out a barber shop – which for the first year was in the back of a clothing store.”
Four years on and Jordan, now 25, has his own high street shop. He’s doubled the size of his business and taken on two staff, a head barber and a nearly qualified apprentice. He feels he’s well on the way to reaching his goals. “To be able to employ two staff, pay them well and have enough customers to keep them busy every day is a great achievement for a small town business. I’m proud of the progress so far but I’ll keep moving forward, as one thing I’ve learned is never to take your customers for granted.” Jordan says he loves the feeling of instilling confidence in his customers and making them feel good after a haircut – and this is drive enough for him to keep investing in his business and adding value to the experience.
New Zealand easiest place to do business
According to the World Bank, New Zealand is the No.1 easiest place to do business in the world out of 190 economies. It’s no wonder then that our little country has a higher proportion of small businesses and sole traders than most of the other countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
Doing business here in New Zealand is more simple and straightforward than anywhere else. There is no other country in the world where you can set up, register and start running a company in only one day. Yet, 24 hours is all it takes in New Zealand. This makes it super easy, as well as appealing, for people of all ages to unleash their inner-entrepreneur and ‘give it a go’.
But you don’t set up a business just because filling out the forms is a walk over. There are, of course, many other factors at play. Having a good idea is a given, then you need determination and tenacity, often finance, and importantly the guts to do it.