Strong contenders for awards
Thursday, 26 April 2012
By Rebecca Glover
Rural women are again showing they have more than straw between the ears!
This year more than 16 innovative businesses are in the line up for the fourth Enterprising Rural Women Awards.
North and South Island and Online Business category finalists will also compete for the title of Supreme Winner, with award announcements being made on opening night at the RWNZ May national conference in Hawera.
RWNZ national president, Liz Evans says she’s encouraged to see the diversity of businesses being run by women in rural areas.
“Celebrating their success and raising awareness of women’s entrepreneurship is an important way we can help grow dynamic communities,” she says.
Entries in this year’s Telecom North Island category include an alpaca farmer, a bra designer and manufacturer, an importer/retailer, an export-focused food and beverage consultant, a writer, soil specialist and an educator on biological farming.
The new Online Business Award category, sponsored by Fly Buys, highlights the opportunities the internet offers rural businesses in an ever-changing market.
Entrants in this category include an online store focused on motherhood resources and products, a writer and author, a natural skincare manufacturer and a dog equipment company.
The South Island category, sponsored by Access Homehealth Ltd, attracted the most entries this year.
They range from an eco-based tourist park to a designer clothing manufacturer and retailer, a tourism publisher, a livestock brokering software and support company, travel broker and a beauty and day spa.
Rural Living spoke to two entrants from nearby Waikato.
FRANCES MCINNES – BREASTMATES
| Frances McInnes - Breastmates |
FlyBuys Online Business Award category
Motherhood isn’t what it used to be as a scroll through the Breastmates website reveals.
Back in the day, pregnancy was coyly concealed beneath voluminous smocks – “now it’s all flaunt your bump, and be proud of your body,” says Frances McInnes, initiator of Breastmates, an online business supplying women with all manner of requirements for pregnancy and beyond.
Frances is also a finalist in the FlyBuys Online Business Award category of the 2012 RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Awards.
She says mums visiting her site can choose from a range of fashionable, even sexy, clothing and lingerie, as well as practical items required for baby.
A Cambridge mother of two young boys, poor retail service encountered as a new mother inspired Frances to start her business. She thought, “I can do better than that,” and the result is www.breastmates.co.nz
Launched in 2004 with just a handful of products, Breastmates has grown to include a multitude of items covering the needs of nursing mothers. As an online only business, it appeals to a generation accustomed to shopping on the net.
“Shopping on line is so much easier for mothers than going down town, especially with toddlers in tow,” Frances says.
“They can order their requirements any time and the parcel will be delivered.”
More than just an online shop, Breastmates provides support for mothers – both moral and physical.
Discussion forums are a vital aspect of the website where mothers can seek advice from experts, and discuss problems with their peers, without needing to be customers.
Naturally, the debate over breast or bottle has been a hot topic in the Breastmates forum. Frances recognises the guilt trip many mothers face from critics, whatever their choice.
“My business has evolved to support all mothers entering motherhood, regardless of how they feed their baby,” she says.
“Being able to share problems with other mums and find out how they’ve coped helps keep things in perspective.”
SUE EDMONDS – FARMING WRITER
| Sue Edmonds |
RWNZ Telecom North Island category
Sue Edmonds is well known to rural press readers for her articles on the many and varied aspects of farming. In particular, her reports from farming expos and field days have helped demystify and disseminate technical information to a wider public.
Sue calls herself a farming writer rather than a journalist. Her lucid and accessible writing style is enjoyed by a wide audience.
“Farmers want to know what it’s all about. I tell stories – I don’t just collect quotes,” she says.
From a long association with Federated Farmers, Sue has become a well respected presence at their executive meetings.
“They allow me to share my views and argue for changes,” a role she is well fitted for after many years in various roles in the capital’s political hothouse.
Sue aims to help improve the performance of both farmers and councils by enhancing their mutual understanding, or as she puts it, “so that they stop talking past each others’ ears.”
She has decades of involvement with environmental causes and has worked successfully alongside the Waikato Regional Council.
Sue’s input into her small Waikato community of Eureka has resulted in numerous improvements which have been appreciated by locals.
Born in England during the Second World War, Sue’s only early association with farming was crawling through the fence into neighbouring fields – much to her mother’s consternation – but she always had an affinity for animals.
Now, her one-hectare lifestyle block is stocked with cows, goats and donkeys. Sue’s farming efforts have at times created much amusement for neighbouring dairy farmers, but she has earned their respect by being determined to do things properly.
Today, her columns chronicling her lifestyle block adventures have an enthusiastic following.
Allegedly in semi-retirement, Sue remains in hot demand for her writing and attendance at farming events, so is unlikely to be relinquished either by her local community or the farming fraternity any time soon.
But she doesn’t mind. “I meet so many people,” she says. “and I’m learning all the time.”