As schools return this week, Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is renewing their call for mandatory signage and flashing lights on school buses.
Build around you a network of people whose advice you trust when starting a rural business, says Marie Taylor.
Obtaining that good advice is a key factor in success, she told Rural News.
Taylor runs Plants Hawkes Bay, which sources local seeds and cuttings to regenerate the local native plant species; farmers are high on her customer list. She used to work for the QEII National Trust and was a rural journalist.
“Those roles gave me a good network of people to use as my customer base,” she says.
Initially Taylor started sourcing local natives for a steep east-facing limestone cliff on a lifestyle block at Bayview. Revegetation was about the only option for the site.
“So I started learning about what the local species were and what were the best ones to grow and how to grow them and I built on that.
“I’d been doing that for quite a few years just for us, and then people started asking for plants and I thought it would be a great opportunity to start a business.”
She set up in 2005 on land leased from Landcorp at Ahuriri Station.
Taylor slowly grew the business, learning how to collect the seeds and grow the plants more effectively. Seeds are collected from several farmers who often buy them back.
“So they are planting their own plants back on the farm.
“It is a good way to retain the integrity of the local landscape. Farmers are definitely some of the key customers.”
Her advice to others wanting to start their own rural businesses is to build a network of trusted advisors. She has a great accountant, banker and lawyer.
“Lots of key people help me make strategic decisions about the business; that is important. If you haven’t got those skills yourself it is good to go to the best people and get advice.”
She also took advantage of the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise regional business partners programme.
“It was really helpful and almost free. Also I joined a business group — bouncing ideas and getting advice and thinking about things in a different way. I found those two things invaluable.”
Taylor also went through the Kellogg course at Lincoln in 2000. “That gave me the confidence to start a business.”
She employs three full-time equivalents – five people on her books – which works well for her and for them.
“I used to think people should work 40 hours a week, but I definitely don’t think that now. You have to fit in and work with people and make it easy for them.”
Entering the awards was challenging. A video was required and she wanted to do something different. She took photos of key people she worked with and asked them to hold up a sign telling what they did. She used those shots with a voice-over.
“It talked about all the people who support us; that was good fun to do.
“You also had to put together a lot of financial material and forecasts and write responses to quite detailed questions about marketing and promotion. A five minute speech was required on the night. Entering was a bit of a stretch.
“It is nice to concentrate on your business and get a picture of it… work out what is important to you and what isn’t. I enjoyed that – it is very useful.”
She entered also in 2015 and won the same ‘Love of the Land’ award both times before taking the supreme award this time. Then Rural Women president Wendy McGowan encouraged her to enter again when her accounts looked better.
“I was only breaking even at that time. Things have increased rapidly since then.”
One factor in that is that “farmers are more aware they have to do more remediation to their landscapes”.