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Two of New Zealand’s most inspiring entrepreneurs share their tips and tricks

Sophie Waldron
25 Jul 2019

Two of New Zealand’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, Sam Johnson and Latesha Randall, share their entrepreneurial journey and the tips and tricks they learnt along the way.

Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson became a household name in New Zealand when he started what has become New Zealand’s largest volunteer movement - the internationally acclaimed, Student Volunteer Army.

A social entrepreneur, Sam’s relentless energy to mobilise people around ideas has a magic ability in building movements that matter! Sam’s recent venture was developed to connect generations and end social isolation in New Zealand - joining forces with MyCare in 2017, reforming the home care sector through an AirBnB model of community support.

What is the very first step you take when you come up with a business idea?

Make sure you have a critical friend and give them permission to give you feedback. I'm a critical friend to a few large and small businesses, and I'm lucky to have critical friends of my own who share their perspective and experiences. Whether you're doing a new business, starting a new job or just being reflective about your next step, critical friends are people different from you who give you feedback and can help shape your direction.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Most of my inspiration sparks from my curiosity. I like learning from other people. Some of the most influential and inspirational moments in my life happened when least expected and resulted from being curious and asking questions.

What is one of the biggest set-backs you faced during start-up, and how did you push past this?

Earlier this year I had a gardening accident while using a hedge trimmer. It smacked me in the face causing a concussion. In the months before, we had gone from having 1 part time staff member to 7 over six month's; the accident couldn't have happened at a worse time. The moral of the story is not to go gardening but in reality it's been one of the toughest things to overcome and which I'm still working through. Head injuries challenge your personality, beliefs and abilities. It's an experience that is making me much more empathetic towards people who live with everyday challenges and taught me how important it is to systemise and automate as much of your business as you can, while you can!

What is your top tip for first-time entrepreneurs?

Find people who know about business to give you honest, critical feedback. You need a decent accountant, lawyer, therapist and professional coach.

If you could go back to the start of your entrepreneurial journey, what would be the one piece of advice you would give yourself?
  • Kill average ideas and focus on the one that might actually work
  • Strive to hire the best people globally to help achieve the goals
  • If you don't know the answers, ask for help

Latesha Randall

Tesh Randall (or Mrs Coconut as she's known in Raglan) is an enthusiastic entrepreneur - starting out in her home kitchen in 2014, the award-winning Raglan Coconut Yoghurt now supplies over 600 stores around New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Pacific Islands.

Latesha has an incredible story and comes from a background of varied career experiences, include working in event management, insurance, accounting, radio, digital, and start-ups. Before starting Raglan Coconut Yoghurt, Tesh ran a digital agency working with ethical & sustainably-focused brands.

What was the very first step you took when you came up with the idea for Raglan Coconut Yoghurt?

I actually didn't plan to start this business, I was just making coconut yoghurt at home to help my partner Seb who has dairy allergies. We wanted to eat a dairy-free diet but didn't want to give up yoghurt as we both love it, so I played around in the kitchen until I'd come up with a yummy alternative option. I offered a couple of extra jars to the Raglan locals to buy when I'd made a big batch one day and there was huge demand, and it just grew organically from there with more and more people asking for it.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I love knowing that we're making a difference. We make a great product, take care of our staff, and are actively looking after the environment. We are a Living Wage employer, we make everything ourselves here in Raglan instead of contract manufacturing so we really understand the product and how to make the best possible coconut yoghurt, and we put a lot of effort into giving back and being a conscious company. We have just become carboNZero certified, we are part of the Climate Leaders Coalition, we package in glass jars instead of plastic since they can be infinitely recycled, we sponsor beach-clean ups around the country (our goal is 1 Million Pieces of plastic collected!), plant trees, and donate yoghurt to charities and good causes every week.

What is one of the biggest set-backs you had, and how did you push past this?

We've had everything from entire pallets of yoghurt being destroyed in a delivery truck accident, to over-fermenting batches and needing to give them to local pigs as we couldn't sell them, to needing a new location urgently to build our own factory and having three different potential locations fall through for various reasons outside our control before we found the right one. One thing you learn fast with running a business is that something is always going wrong! You have to become a good problem solver and keep your perspective. Staying calm helps a lot too.

What is your top tip for first-time entrepreneurs?

Don’t wait til you know it all, just get started and grow along with the business! You learn everything you need to know along the way if you have the right attitude and a desire for personal growth. I like to think of running as a business as the ultimate personal development tool - you very quickly learn what your strengths and weaknesses are.

If you could go back to the start of your entrepreneurial journey, what would be the one piece of advice you would give yourself?

Be clearer from the start with the defining roles and responsibilities needed within the company. That makes it easier to attract the right people for the right jobs. We had a very organic, flexible approach, which sometimes meant having people cover tasks they weren't ideally suited to. If I did it all over again I'd be more intentional around our hiring.

If you would like more information on Sam Johnson or Latesha Randall, please get in touch with the Celebrity Speakers team on 09 373 4177 or [email protected]
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