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Vote now for Idealog's Most Creative People

If there's anything we've learnt during our time at Idealog, it's that no matter what industry you take a look at, we're a pretty creative bunch here in New Zealand. So for our 2017 Innovation issue (on sale in November) and with the help of our friends at Accenture, we've decided to select the top creative minds in the business – but we need your help. We're calling on avid readers with their fingers on the pulse of our business scene to vote for the most creative person(s) in food and beverage, design, manufacturing, architecture, digital and data, gaming, film and TV, music, government and much more. Voting closes 11 October. 

Read our full introduction here.


When it comes to gastronomy, ‘fresh is best’ is a motto any chef worth their while adheres to. So imagine convincing some of the world’s top chefs to use freeze-dried fruit, fruits, herbs and vegetables. Fresh As founder Tommy Roff was up for the challenge and his company now sells over 200 products to some of the world’s best restaurants, hotels, caterers, retail stores and manufacturers like Whittaker’s and Hubbards.

A huge number of startups are looking at disrupting food production, whether through lab-grown meat or creative use of plants. And Sunfed’s Shama Lee is leading the charge in New Zealand, with the Sunfed brand selling out of its meat-free meat products across the country after its launch this year.  

Peter Cullinane’s Lewis Road Creamery started off with a small mission: to create a better butter. He’s gradually moved down the dairy aisle and with savvy marketing (including a range of brilliant co-branding initiatives), a focus on its social media community and a consistent roll-out of interesting, high-quality products, he has shown the power of a premium brand.

MasterChef winners rarely stick around for long. But Nadia Lim has endured and, with My Food Bag, helped establish the meal kit market in New Zealand along with Cecilia Robinson and Theresa Gattung. It is now diversifying its range with basic kits and weightloss kits and, in recognition of her influence, she’s not only an author of cook books, she’s now the face of a lifestyle media empire through Nadia magazine.

Otis and Sarah Frizzell were in pretty early on the food truck trend with the ever-popular Lucky Taco, but they’ve taken it one creative step further than most. Their artistic skills are obvious in its range of Mexican products in supermarkets, and they’ve also joined forces with juice barons Marc Ellis and Stefan Lepionka for a very clever meal kit business called Lucky Street, which provides punters with the ingredients to cook local takeaway meals at home.

Peter Yealands is one of the most innovative – and humble – men in the food and beverage sector. Whether it’s committing to plastic bottles to reduce carbon emissions, employing KuneKune pigs as lawnmowers or using vine prunappings to help power the winery, he has long been ahead of his time when it came to embracing sustainable practices, he’s never taken no for an answer and he’s done it all his (much better) way.

Speaking of wine, Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron from Invivo have used the power of influencer marketing to get their high-quality wares into the world. Whether Graham Norton, Paul Henry or US ‘glambassador’ Nigel Barker, attention is currency and its clever marketing stunts are giving it plenty.

“Bees are natural designers. Honey is their art”. So says the Lumojo website. The premium honey brand created by Liz Urquhart was a marriage of two things, a love of honey and beautiful handmade ceramics and, with a brand based around the honeycomb and a focus on gifting, she’s differentiated the product in a cluttered market.

Meat and three veges may remain a staple of the New Zealand diet, but there are many looking to change that and open our eyes to new experiences. Peter Randrup and Rebecca De Prospo, the founders of Anteater, are selling premium edible insects, like lemongrass ants.

Live Longer’s Christopher Wilson is also on a mission to sell the benefits of insects as a better and more environmentally friendly source of protein than meat. The ick factor makes it a tough sell, but from high-protein cricket flour to its award-winning cricket-based protein bars, he’s up for the challenge and is using his experience in advertising to help promote it.

Starting off with very successful, ethically sourced desserts Nice Blocks(the world’s first fair trade ice block) and Nice Cream, the innovative pairing of Tommy Holden and James Crow launched Little Island Creamery with an aim to put coconut milk products alongside the premium dairy brands in supermarket chillers. And, with some quality products, beautiful branding and clever PR, word is spreading and tills are ringing.

Garage Project's Jos Ruffell, Peter Gillespie and Ian Gillespie show that while there’s plenty of creativity in the craft beer scene these days, these guys are a cut above. Whether it’s the experimental brews (Ant beer! Heavy metal!) the bespoke illustrations for each variety, the appealing cellar door or the interesting collaborations, they’re pushing the limits of beer and branding. As its website says: “Whether we’re brewing 50 litres or 2000, we’re still here to take some risks, to have a bit of fun and to try something new.”

A true mad peanut scientist, Pic Picot set out to create a better peanut butter and he achieved his goal with a concrete mixer and bench top grinder. Now everyone else wants a piece of it, and he’s now selling $15 million worth of the stuff every year – and with a twinkle in the eye. Extra creativity points for including poetry on the back of the labels and for his driving force: “A terror of being boring”.

As a co-founder of Stolen, Roger Holmes has already tasted success in the sector and he saw another opportunity with the rise of premium popcorn in other markets. With a cute/slightly menacing cartoon bear as a mascot, stylish packaging and a clever marketing strategy, Serious Popcorn looks like it’s on the way to being another one.

Just as the craft beer brewers wanted to improve on the bland offerings of the big brands, so too does Calum Hodson AKA The Curd Nerd. He’s fighting against the regulations, but with his blunt, passionate style and obvious cheese making skills, he’s making progress – and making some interesting creations, chief among them a heavy metal cheese, which saw him experiment to see if musical vibrations affected the taste.

Heilala Vanilla began as an aid project in Tonga after a cyclone is now a premium brand desired by the world’s best chefs and available in some of the world’s best specialty food retailers. With innovative products like vanilla paste, a series of very clever co-branding initiatives with manufacturers and restaurants and a move into other vanilla growing regions like Uganda, co-founder and CEO Jennifer Boggiss has continued the premium brand’s rise.

After buying and then selling cider company Redwood, developing brands like Old Mout and Orchard Thieves during his time, Scottie Chapman is now attempting to create a whole new industry in New Zealand, with the Spring Sheep company seeing a particularly big opportunity in the Asian market.

With the Little Bird Organics range, the Unbakery cafes and a juice range The Squeezery, Megan May is a force of nature – literally – and a major driver of the raw food movement in New Zealand.


Taika Waititi, the trickster god of New Zealand film, has created some of New Zealand’s best-loved movies like Boy, What We Do in The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and the world has noticed, with a big directing gig for the upcoming Marvel behemoth Thor: Ragnarok. The promotional campaigns are always brilliant, and his style – directing, acting, writing, dressing and through social media – is unique.

Augusto’s Michelle Walshe and Leon Kirkbeck own the rugby advertising niche in New Zealand, doing great – and often experimental – work for a huge range of brands both here and internationally, but it’s no one-trick pony. The agency has expanded to New York, created documentaries like Everest Rescue for Discovery network and Richie McCaw’s Chasing Great, kids shows like Kune’s Kitchen and comedies like Rhys Darby’s Tall Poppies. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon.  

From the amazing remake of the Thunderbirds through Pukeko Pictures or the cutting edge work alongside mixed reality company Magic Leap, the film world regularly looks to Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop for creative guidance.

A two time winner of the 48 Hour Film Festival, Gerard Johnstone’s horror comedy flick Housebound dripped with class (and blood) and the remake of Terry Teo for TV was a rollicking good time. And the industry has noticed his talents: he’s recently been working on a DC Comics movie, ‘Justice League Dark’.

Young folk just aren’t watching as much free-to-air TV as they used to, but Ed Kindred is doing his best to change that as head of programming at TVNZ Duke, experimenting with live streaming, double and triple programme slots, screening more live sports (including the Paralympics) and backing shows like Tim Batt’s Banter.

Florian Habicht has been called a “wizard at melding fact with the fantastical,” and his documentaries – the latest being a critically acclaimed look at Spookers – always manage to capture an authentic and endearing slice of humanity – and, mostly, New Zealand humanity.

Wrestler’s Ben Forman and Kat Lintott have pumped out the quality AV productions for a range of brands, created short documentaries for The Spinoff and, increasingly, they’re conducting interesting experiments in – and advocating loudly for – VR, including one called Wake that lets users mimic the dance moves of a goddess in surreal and inspiring environments.

Aliesha Staples also has a tiger by the tail, getting in on the AR/VR bandwagon early and now creating some pioneering experiences with the technology. Staples VR has helped develop a fire-resistant 360-degree camera for a VR experience for New Zealand Fire and Emergency, it filmed New Zealand’s first live stream in 360 VR Video and it’s pushing boundaries in health, letting children experience procedures through VR to prepare them for the real thing. Not only that, her company also operates a successful rental business to give people access to these new technologies.

A man of many talents, Bailey Mackey started off as a radio DJ and sports reporter, before deciding to go behind the scenes and create shows. He has a strong focus on Maori content programming for broad audiences and he’s good at it, with his company Pango Productions making shows like Marae, the semi topical, fully satirical Brown Eye with Taika Waititi and the high profile reality show The GC. The cooking series The Game Chef has been sold to the National Geographic channel and Sidewalk Karaoke, which takes singing to the streets and was Maori Television’s number one show of 2016, is set to be rolled out across up to 30 different markets. Not only that, he’s also started a tech company called Kaha aimed at the film sector.

New Zealand’s version of Louis Theroux, David Farrier always found a way to bring the quirk as a reporter on mainstream TV and his documentary Tickled was a major (and surprise) hit, largely because he became such an important and unexpected part of the story. He’s a creative writer, an engaging actor and a curious man – in all senses of the word.  

Robyn Scott-Vincent is responsible for one of the best, least-watched shows on TV, Attitude, which screens on Sunday morning and tells amazing stories about people with physical and mental disabilities. Now her team are going global through social media and online video.  

One of the funniest humans around, Rose Matafeo is the typically self-deprecating winner of the Billy T comedy award. She was always brilliant on 7 Days, nailed it with her show Funny Girls, regularly puts out a hilarious podcast and is now making her mark in the UK’s TV and stand-up scene.

The universally loved Jon Bridges has been part of the local TV furniture for years, first in front of the camera, and now more often behind it making great shows. He played an important role developing New Zealand’s comedy scene, he’s a big part of the 7 Days juggernaut, one of the main forces behind The Project, and a prodigious and very entertaining author, blogger and columnist.

At a time when everyone was saying that free to air TV was doomed, Julia Baylis launched a new free-to-air channel Choice TV, which Blue Ant Media later bought a majority stake in. It changed the model, creating themed nights on content, and five years later, the channel is still going strong (with the addition of a new home and garden channel called HGTV).

From directing skits on Jono and Ben at 10, to pranking All Blacks, and making ads, Helena Brooks is a master of creating comedy and, increasingly, with work on shows like Westside, 800 Words and The Brokenwood Mysteries.

Assembly has become one of the world’s best animation and production houses, and Damon Duncan, Jonny Kofoed, Matt Trott and Rhys Dippie were the ones that started it. Defining their work as a combination of art and science, their skills extend from beautiful animation work, amazing visual effects and stunning digital experiences (like a series of games to promote the film Kubo and the Two Strings).

The founder of the 48 Hour film festival and an accomplished director in his own right, Ant Timpson’s love of film and creative effort to create a nationwide competition has been the catalyst for so many successes.

Joel Kefali started making music videos for his mates. Now he makes them for the likes of Lorde and Katy Perry. 

As new storytelling platforms emerge, brilliant new storytellers are finding ways to use them and Tom Sainsbury is harnessing the power of social media and particularly Snapchat, with his recent impersonations of politicians throughout the election period a gift from the satirical gods.

Amie Mills, an expert in the field of transmedia storytelling and digital creative director at TVNZ, has helped orchestrate large scale multi-faceted campaigns and show promotions, and was instrumental in its recent web series competition, New Blood, which aimed to “create content that is different, provocative and champions diversity – through a range of voices, ethnicities, genders, sexuality, beliefs.”


Giapo Grazioli, the Willy Wonka of desserts, is a dairy divinity and has a passion for furthering his craft and pushing boundaries of ice cream. Its new Gore St shop has allowed the creative operations to expand over three levels and he also has his eyes fixed firmly on the future of technology, using 3D printing to make elaborate chocolate and looking to do what no ice cream maker has done before by using holograms, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence in the kitchen.

Rochelle Harrison and Gabe Davidson, founders of the Wellington Chocolate Factory, have found a winning formula using old artisan methods but adding in some creative Kiwi flavour (like the Anzac bar, the craft beer bar with hops on top or the peanut butter bar in collaboration with Fix and Fogg). And the innovative ‘bean to bar’ cafe concept, the first of its kind in New Zealand, has become a Wellington tourist hotspot.

Deanna Yang has experienced first hand the power of creativity to get out of a bind, using crowdfunding to save her cookie business Moustache after her rent skyrocketed. The cookie bus she developed – and took around the country – has been received extremely well. As she says: “Money is for making things happen.” And there’s always plenty happening when Yang’s around.

With his old red cap, glasses and tea towel over the t-shirt, Al Brown is a classic, casual Kiwi bloke and his hospitality concepts like The Depot and Best Ugly Bagels seem to capture the combination of humility and quality that seems to define many aspects of New Zealand. Whether it’s wine served in tumblers, popular new books, or business ventures like a fish delivery subscription service, a range of high quality slider buns, oils and pre-prepared meat products, he never seems to stop experimenting.

Occupying a small butcher's shop in the depths of Auckland Suburbia, Kim Evans started small, opening Little & Friday once a week on, hence the name, Fridays after a week spent making some of the best baked goods in all the land. But it’s not so little now, with four stores across Auckland open all week and two successful books published.

As the founder of Burger Burger and Fish Fish, Mimi Gilmour has redefined casual, quality eating and embraced technology, whether it’s an app to smooth wait times, crowdsourcing new burger ideas or mastering social media marketing.  

You might think there was nothing left to achieve when it comes to fried chicken. But Morgan McGlone, the founder of Belle’s Hot Chicken, which is now in 8 locations in Australia, has created the ultimate Southern Food experience, refining the classics, embracing natural wines and, now, consulting to an array of restaurants hoping to get a dollop of his special sauce.

Through the power of pop-ups and years spent working in some of the world’s best restaurants, Monique Fiso is putting modern Maori dishes on New Zealanders’ plates and trying to create food that reflects the environment, history, and culture of Aotearoa. As food legend Lauraine Jacobs says: “This chef is forging a path and showing the food community just how good our New Zealand-grown ingredients can be.”

Tech entrepreneur David Sutherland quit his job in IT and invested his millions into kickstarting his creative dream, Woah Studios. Part art project, part world class playground, part film studio/theatre and part restaurant run by executive chef Ben Bayly, the studios are an ambitiously multifunctional entertainment project that opened earlier this year and have been a great addition to Auckland’s hospitality scene.


Michael Parakowhai’s latest work, The Lighthouse, was, like many of his previous works, polarising, but he has consistently stood apart from his peers, always tested the limits and provoked reactions, as the best artists do.

Ex-New Zealand Herald photographer Richard Robinson has been a regular winner of the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year award. And now he’s adapted his craft to the underwater realm and is experimenting with VR.

Josh Lancaster spent many years in the world of advertising and established himself as one of the country’s best creatives and art directors. But he always kept the paint pots open and he decided to become a fulltime artist last year. His “bold lines and saturated colours make for distinctive, original artworks” that are reminiscent of Rita Angus and his unique take on local landmarks and ability to recreate scenes that conjure special memories have led to many plaudits.

Andrew J Steel’s quirky illustrations can be seen in offices, on walls, on doors, on cars, on bodies, on airplane windows and many other places. He’s prolific and brilliant and, whether it’s to create magic for big brands like Air New Zealand, or for shops like I Love Ugly, he’s in hot demand (look out for the upcoming body paint exhibition Land & Body).

Hayley King’s bright, beautiful and bird-heavy stencil art aesthetic has seen her work feature everywhere from modems to kitchen splashbacks to walls in India to Forest & Bird’s new skincare range.

Now based in Melbourne, Kelly Thompson has made a name for herself with an illustrative style that has a captivating, feminine and delicate feel. And her own experience in the commercial world has led to the establishment of Makers MGMT, a creative consultancy and illustration agency that aims to sprinkle some magic dust on brands.

Kim Paton was the brains behind the art project that was the Free Store, which collected leftover food to pass on to those in need and now operates as a fulltime social enterprise in Wellington. And she is now bringing her artistic, creative eye to Objectspace, New Zealand’s premier (and recently redeveloped) space for architecture and design exhibitions.

Mark Gee, a visual effects supervisor at Weta Digital, knows a good image when he sees one. But he has also come to be seen as something of an astrophotographic and timelapse virtuoso, honing his artform through trial and error and capturing a whole host of amazing scenes, like the moonrise over Mt Victoria. He’s also captured a heap of awards, including Astronomy photographer of the Year.

Gina Kiel’s bright, bold and beautiful abstract illustrative art has struck a chord, with her work featuring on everything from the new Mac’s Sweet Disposition beer to the garage doors of trendy production houses to a Fat Freddy’s Drop album cover to a bespoke Audi.

Melding art and projection, the southern pair of Vaughan Brookfield and Tom Lynch take creativity into the wild and see what different images look like when projected onto natural objects like icebergs, cliffs and waterfalls. It’s certainly not easy. But the results are mesmerising.

Combining illustration, animation and intelligence to tell stories for The Wireless, Toby Morris brings a social conscience to his work and brings attention to serious issues in a modern, innovative and captivating way. His band posters are brilliant and he has also put his design and illustration skills to use for brands like Allbirds.

Multi-disciplinary artist and photographer Garth Badger shoots everything from sports to commercials, but it’s his concept photography that is turning heads for its beauty, uniqueness and, often, sense of humour.

For over 30 years, John Reynolds has been bringing wit and whimsy to the often serious art world, working across a range of different mediums from traffic signs to magazine mastheads. He’s a creative factotum who is always experimenting and, as a result, remains culturally relevant.

‘No formal training, just smushing the clay together’. That’s how Felicity Donaldson describes her ceramic work for Wundaire. But she’s obviously a natural, because a range of collaborations with the likes of Kowtow, Fisher & Paykel, Meadowlark and others has seen the brand’s star rising.



Lorde has always marched to the beat of her own drum, whether it’s releasing her first EP relatively secretly and letting the mystery build, her unique dancing or her Instagram account dedicated to reviewing onion rings. She’s principled, talented beyond her years and hugely influential.

Sam Gribben, the former CEO of DJ software Serato, combines music and machines to great effect. His software company Melodics is a brilliant way for people to learn instruments with songs they actually want to hear and has tapped into the demand for pad drumming. And, with new investment, the part-game, part music making software is going further, teaching new instruments and getting into the booming electronic drum kit game.    

She’s one of the funniest musicians in the country, and one of our best pop songwriters, but Anika Moa saw an opportunity to reach a new audience: kids. So she embraced the children’s space, reduced the swearing and has captivated kids all around the country with her hilarious songs and engaging stage presence. She’s also ventured into other media, conducting a series of enlightening interviews for New Zealand Herald and getting her own talk show on Maori TV.

Radio legend Grant Hislop has created 27 radio stations in his time, including The Rock and KiwiFM, and his latest venture, Vinyl Destination, is a hybrid record store, radio station and coffee dispensary in Tauranga. There’s no set genre or era, just a focus on good music and creating a closer connection to the region it operates in than the mainstream channels.

Parris Goebel has made a name for herself as a backing dancer and choreographer for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. But she’s moving away from working with the big names and developing her own creative projects, from a 15 stop global tour to her own EP to the potential co-director role for an upcoming dance film.

It might not seem obvious that a group of Waiheke Islanders between the ages of 72-97 being taught hip hop dance moves would become a global musical phenomenon. But Billie Jordan saw the potential and invested a whole heap of her time and effort into creating Hip Hop-eration. And it’s such a good yarn the rights to her life story have been bought by a Hollywood studio.

Combining kapa haka, modern music, witty repartee and a fair amount of body oil, J-Geeks, the dance/comedy group best known for performing in the New Zealand’s Got Talent final a few years back, fills a niche that very few other groups do and have somehow combined ancient cultural arts with sexy modern moves. They’ve got a huge following on social media, they’re regularly creating entertaining clips and always looking to keep the show – and the costumes – fresh.

With a similar idea, but an entirely different different execution, musician and anthropoogist Rob Thorne and electronic music producer Olly Peryman (better known as FIS) are helping to raise awareness of traditional Māori instruments like the pūtātara (a trumpet made from a conch shell) and the pūkāea (a large wooden wind instrument). And the results are hauntingly beautiful, and in keeping with Thornes’s role as a sound healer, almost therapeutic.

Nigel Stanford examines the intersection between music and science. And in his latest experiment, Automatica, he spent a month in his garage teaching robotic arms to play musical instruments (before they eventually rebel and destroy everything). His earlier track, Cymatics also went viral and perfectly exemplified his mad musical scientist streak.

As Starling magazine says, Jess Hansell has “got a creative repertoire as long as your arm”. Rapping under the name Coco Solid, she is a woman of many talents and also writes poetry, draws comics, creates animations likeAroha Bridge and is part of Taika Waititi’s screenwriting crew, Piki Films.


At 23, the Greens’ Chloe Swarbrick is the youngest MP in 42 years and came in a surprise third in the Auckland mayoral election in 2016. She’s wise beyond her years, is assured and warm when speaking about her bold ideas for the future in the media and she makes very good use of modern (and cheap) social media tools.

Wellington is arguably New Zealand’s most creative city and Justin Lester seems to be the perfect mayor, embracing bold new ideas like electric car sharing, backing the arts (he gave up his mayoral car budget and announced an additional $500,000 funding this year in an effort to maintain Wellington’s position as the cultural capital). More than any other mayor, he seems to have a focus on progressive, sustainable ideas to solve problems and he also backs the economic value of creativity, something Wellington is still profiting from.

A strong voice in real life and on social media for more human-centred urban design and development, more affordable, well-designed housing and more public spaces that think about people rather than cars, Ludo Campbell-Reid is playing an important role in ensuring Auckland residents get a better city.

Scientist, writer, social enterprise starter and social media scrapper, Jess Berentson Shaw’s work aims to make often complex subjects more accessible, often opening people up to the concepts of intergenerational unfairness and what life is really like for those in poverty (through a pick a path game/empathy comparing two families, not just relying on evidence).

A true over-achiever, Max Harris has dedicated his time to what seems like, in this day and age, an impossible challenge: to bring values – and even love – back to politics. His acclaimed book, The New Zealand Project, examined everything from economics, foreign policy, education, the criminal justice system, the future of work, housing and gender issues in an effort to make the country better. And the young go-getter became something of a media darling as a result

Una Jagose has taken a new broom to the role of Solicitor General, bringing a desire for diversity of staff, but also diversity of thinking. While precedent and law are obviously crucial in a role like this, so is the human factor. So the influential but accessible leader is doing her best to get lawyers to start asking broader questions and understand the wider context of their work.

The public sector moves very slowly, but Ministry for the Environment’s Vicky Robertson is challenging the status quo and looking to implement some cutting edge private sector thinking to shake things up in her department. She's trying to pioneer a refreshing and creative new way, whether through reverse mentor schemes, mental health meetings or new scholarships that will allow people to explore ideas overseas that could be rolled out here.

No-one knows what the future of transport will look like exactly, but Martin McMullan, the innovation lead at NZTA, is keeping his eye on what’s happening and his views are informing a move to mobility as a service, which aims to offer a range of different transport options – from rental bikes to buses to autonomous cars on new roads – at different prices.

Trying to get the youth interested in the democratic process is always a tough task, but Laura O’Connell Rapira is trying to do it in new, creative ways. As the director of campaigns at ActionStation she's helped build a community of over 140,000 members to participate in campaigns designed to drive a fairer, more just and sustainable Aotearoa New Zealand and as co-founder of RockEnrol, she harnessed the appeal of local musicians (to attend the free gigs people had to be registered to vote, which they could do there). And her work has helped to engage thousands of young people.

Youth-led, climate change and transport focused lobby organisation Generation Zero has been one of New Zealand's most influential political agitators of the decade and Leroy Beckett has been at the forefront of it, fighting hard to get the unitary plan through, fighting hard for better transport solutions and more affordable housing, and using digital tools effectively to galvanise support.

As DOC’s threatened species ambassador, Nicola Toki’s engaging storytelling across all mediums has highlighted the plight of some native animals that desperately need our help – as well as the unexpected joys of other lesser known New Zealand critters.

New Zealand’s rockstar economist, Shamubeel Equab’s smarts, humour and charisma have made him a go-to commentator for a range of issues, particularly housing and the plight of regional economies. His video work with The Spinoff and Kiwibank, where he explained often complicated principles in an entertaining, accessible fashion, was a high point.

Trying to get the disparate fiefdoms of government to work together is a difficult challenge, but Maria Robertson, from the Department of Internal Affairs, has tried to look at things through the customer’s lens and make our interactions with government easier. And the first example of that is StartSmart, which offers one place to go for step-by-step information for those about to have a baby.

Tamati Coffey unexpectedly beat Te Ururoa Flavell in Waiariki. And a strong video campaign on social media that made use of his skills as a TV presenter, plenty of charisma and a whole heap of doorknocking helped him do it. As he said about his new job: “My dad has always told me you should speak from the heart and you will never be wrong. I will speak from my heart.” Spoken like a true creative.


Everything Jeremy Wells touches turns to laughs. His brilliant satire of Mike Hosking, his rapport with Matt Heath on the Hauraki Breakfast, the puerile but occasionally pants-wetting Alternative Commentary Collective and, increasingly, their very funny online videos/pisstake podcasts show the man with the country’s best deadpan has become a multi-media phenomenon.

The Spinoff founder Duncan Greive has built his digital brand from the ground up. What started as a tiny operation with two people to promote Lightbox, has, in a short few years, grown into a respectable, innovative and extremely popular multi-media organisation drawing hundreds of thousands of readers and some top-notch writers.

Changing a state-owned broadcaster deeply embedded into decades-old grooves is difficult. But under Paul Thompson’s watch, RNZ has launched new platforms such as The Wireless, John Campbell and others have started broadcasting through multiple channels, the redeveloped RNZ website has become one of the most respected sources of news in the country, and multimedia experiments like the 9th Floor podcast or live streaming of the Silver Scrolls are increasingly common.

Script-writer, documentary maker, producer, art lecturer, digital innovator, Lisa Taouma has dedicated her life to telling the stories of the Pacific. As producer of pioneering Pacific Island youth show Fresh, and the creator of, a hub for Pacific moving image content online that is funded by NZ on Air, she’s an important link in the chain of New Zealand’s Pacific identity.  

Jeremy Hansen has been steering the ship over at Bauer for several years now, first at the award-winning Home magazine, and now for the trendy pages of Paperboy.

Bauer has also been lucky enough to be graced with the creative talents of Shelley Ferguson. She’s a host of Three’s hit show The Block as well as Slice of Paradise and she somehow also finds the time to edit Nadia, Taste and Your Home and Garden.

Kowhai Media’s James Frankham has turned New Zealand Geographic into a multi-media, multi-award-winning beast that has adapted brilliantly to the challenges in the media industry. Its photographic expertise now sees it experimenting heavily with VR, showing that a magazine is much more than print these days.

Geoff Blackwell has been publishing big, beautiful books for years. And, in a time of digital everything, it continues to pump out the gems. From its range of popular national cookbooks, to the hugely popular MILK series (which led to a high-end photo book business), its books are founded on subjects that matter and aim make a difference to the world.


A largely self-taught typographic wunderkind, Kris Sowersby has gained an international reputation through top notch execution and continuing imagination, with many of his fonts –like his first one, Feijoa – referencing New Zealand in some creative way.

Any mention of the cloud these days tends to lead to thoughts of software and server farms. But young Kiwi designer Richard Clarkson has taken a more literal approach and his range of technology-infused, meteorological-themed lights is gaining plenty of global attention.

As Zoe Ikin’s bio says, she designs things at Alt Group (one of the world’s best design firms), edits stuff at Studio magazine and makes stuff with her partner Sam Trustrum. A lover of craft, a creator of jewellery and a student of typographic details, she’s put her skills to use across a number of mediums.

Matt Bogust, the man behind Think packaging, is New Zealand’s premier ‘cardboard engineer’, devising a range of brilliant packaging ideas, and even creating his own stylish yet affordable range of pet caskets.

A well established creative force renowned for stunning lighting, David Trubridge has brought a distinctive sense of New Zealandness into his work – and sent New Zealand design all around the world.

Homestyle designer and stylist Juliette Wanty is producing super slick editorial layouts, gaining a reputation for her direction of stylish studio shoots and, like the best magazine designers, showing a great balance of creativity and discipline.

Kris Hermanson, creative director, and Marcus Brown, design director, at the multi-award winning, multi-hemispherical creative digital agency Resn have been, as their ridiculously good website says, “infecting minds with gooey interactive experiences and digital stories” since ages ago. And they keep delivering the e-goods for a huge array of global brands like Burger King, Adidas, HP and MailChimp.

As Bec Dowie told Homes to Love recently: “I never set out to be a designer as such. I just loved making beautiful things with my father.” And by blending old techniques like steam bending with new techniques like CNC fabrication, the pair have created a whole host of  beautiful things – and a world-renowned furniture brand, Douglas and Bec.

One of the main brains behind the ‘anonymous luxury’ of Allbirds’ merino shoes and, recently, loungers, Jamie McLellan is a truly multi-disciplinary designer, putting his assured touches on everything from elite Avanti race bikes to high-end furniture to bespoke beer taps.

From the Broods album cover, to beautiful cake mix boxes from The Caker, to helping to build brands like Stolen and Serious Popcorn, to art/fashion magazines as Le Roy Publishing, Kelvin Soh is a multi-award winning designer, brand strategist and creative who has stamped his mark on New Zealand – and New Zealand business.

Imogen Tunnicliffe and David Moreland, the heads of design at Citta, are an influential pair, with their design decisions regularly rippling through their category and helping to turn a company that started off as an importer into a major force in the export of New Zealand-designed textiles, homewares and furniture.

Digital and data:

Danu Abeysuriya is one of the rare few tech gurus around who can explain big, hairy concepts like computer vision in layman’s terms. He founded his own digital engineering companyRush Digital, at the tender age of 24 and has since worked with the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and Heineken to bring big creative ideas to life through digital technology.

Angie Judge is shaking up an industry that was up until recently using age-old methods to measure data. Her start-up, Dexibit, gathers information on museum visitors to determine the performance of cultural institutions, and is also working on tech that will predict how future exhibitions will fare.  

Mark Sagar’s pioneering facial animation work has seen him collect Oscars for blockbusters like Avatar and King Kong, but his latest venture, Soul Machines, is garnering worldwide attention for its incredibly realistic (and some might say creepy) ‘digital humans’ that put the emotion into AI and are learning to respond to us appropriately.

Sam Ramlu is the brains behind Method and M Theory, an agency that melds together futuristic tech (VR and AR) with storytelling. Her work has seen her invited to the Future of Storytelling conference in New York to showcase one of her recent ventures, the AR experience of James Hurman’s book The Boy and the Lemon.

Charlene Turei, interaction design director at DNA, is all about the details and the data – and how those details and that data matter greatly when it comes to creating the best possible user experience online. She has played a major hand in improving the way organisations – particularly big, cumbersome government departments – can structure things and better interact with their customers.

Forget Tupac’s Coachella hologram, 8i is paving the way for human holograms that look and feel as if they are in the same room. Linc Gasking and Eugene d’Eon are the co-founders behind this next generation of patented 3D technology and, with new technology being rolled out across the major mobile players, their technology could soon be going mainstream.

Lillian Grace wants to turn statistical figures into a language everyone can learn through Figure.NZ. A go-to commentator in the media and a vocal proponent of diversity in the workplace – and in boards – her goal is to transform data into reliable and easy-to-access insights for all, with the power of software. As it says on the website: “Data challenges us to pop up from our individual vantage points and see more clearly what’s around us.” And she wants more New Zealanders to look.

Jessica Manins is helping propel the New Zealand AR and VR industry forward with her tireless work for the burgeoning community. She established the NZ VR/AR Association, is working on a paper with MBIE on the economic benefits of AR and VR and is leading a research project on using VR for relief of pain, anxiety and fear.

A force to be reckoned within New Zealand’s business scene, Rod Drury has grown Xero to become one of New Zealand’s most successful tech exports with a market capitalisation of around $1.5 billion. An early adopter of remote working, a vocal proponent of the benefits of technology to society (and of a CTO for the Government), and a prolific social media user, he thinks differently, goes boldly and surfs regularly. He was also awarded the Academy of Marketing Science Global Marketer of the Year award, following in the footsteps of other small companies like Coca Cola.

Mount Maunganui locals and brothers Peter Howell and Brendan Howell are the founders of a reverse auction app called Dropit, which aims to help solve the problem of fan disengagement at sports games by auctioning off items and dropping the prices during a 60-second countdown. It since scooped a distribution deal in the US, as well as being valued at US$30 million.

The story of Dr Alyona Medelyan and Nathan Holmberg does not fit the usual startup pattern. They’re 30 plus parents with two young kids and a sizeable mortgage who live in New Zealand; they didn’t raise any money and have bootstrapped their way to profitability; and they are engineers selling to an ever-increasing number of large enterprises. Somehow they’ve made it work and Thematic, which uses technology to make sense of customer feedback, is one of only a few startups accepted to prestigious US accelerator Y Combinator.

Dil Khosa, operations manager at Parrot Analytics, which aims to change the way television and entertainment is measured, has a wide variety of skills and that means she’s been involved in pretty much everything across the fast-growing company. A voice for the importance of data, she boldly says: “The sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians.”

Wellington’s Rollo Wenlock found his inspiration in a dirty window. If he could write on that, why not on a video? With experience as a film-maker, motion graphics artist and art director, he harnessed tech to make the video production process smoother and more collaborative. A big believer in the power of brands – or, more accurately, interesting brands – he also walks the talk and creates a range of clever video content to promote Wipster’s wares.

While Dunedin software company Timely is on a tear at the moment, it’s not growth at all costs for Ryan Baker, the founder. His early belief in remote working allowed team members to “stay close to the important things in their lives” and embracing “bringing your whole self to work” has been a boon for morale.


Sharesies, an online platform democratising investment, was founded by a team of 7 starting off with the typical start-up story of wanting to solve a founders problem. Sonya Williams was keen to invest in small chunks but had no way of getting started. She chatted to Leighton Roberts as he started an investment club when he was 17 and the team was formed to bring Sharesies to life. After working at a bank, Sharesies CEO Brooke Anderson, saw firsthand how bad Kiwis were with saving and how little people knew about investing so jumped at the opportunity to co-found a business that would help them with it – even if they only had a small amount of money to invest. Brooke recently won the Pitch Like A Girl at RISE conference in Hong Kong for Sharesies.

Kendall Flutey is a web developer on a mission to make the younger generations more financially competent through her work at Banqer. The ‘mock online banking tool’ aims to fill a gap in the curriculum and allows primary school students and teachers to interact and learn how to wisely handle money. The company also takes a creative approach to marketing. 

Sam Stubbs is a man on a mission and the CEO of Simplicity, an online-only, not-for-profit Kiwisaver fund that hopes to challenge the status quo of high fees and greedy finance companies taking millions of dollars a year away from New Zealander. It gives 15 percent of its management fee to charities, it has become an activist investor demanding more gender diversity in major New Zealand companies and its marketing strategy is all word of mouth, digital savvy and growth hacking.

Anna Guenther founded PledgeMe as part of her masters thesis on crowdfunding. She has since grown the business to include peer-to-peer lending and debt crowdfunding, while raising more than $8 million for 1000s of diverse New Zealand projects, all the while working on various side hustles such as the Women Who Get Shit Done Unconference. And she's now expanding the company to Australia.

Jamie Newth is working to create more innovation in the social enterprise sector, which he says is being hampered by outdated laws and underdeveloped capital markets. He co-founded Soul Capital, an impact investment company that offers human, social and financial capital to social enterprises.

As the co-founder of Start Up Weekend and former programme leader of Lightning Lab, Dan Khan knows a thing or two about startups. His latest gig, ZeroPoint Ventures, uses a virtual incubation programme that helps companies grow revenues from day one, rather than focusing on maximising shareholder profits. It recently got a shoutout from Silicon Valley-based Garage Ventures Bill Reichert.

There is no shortage of small business owners across New Zealand, but with that size comes concerns around forecasting and managing cash flow. Trent Fulcher and Tapio Sorsa came up with Fuelled, an online lending system in partnership with Xero that gives businesses quick and easy access to cash without any paperwork.



After observing the amount of plastic waste being created by hair care and soap products, Brianne West decided to create Ethique – a ‘solid’ product range that is wrapped in 100 percent compostable, biodegradable packaging – while still at university. In a nod to her efforts, she was declared one of the leading Global Thinkers of 2016 by US Foreign Policy, joining high-profile previous award recipients like Barack Obama. She also recently broke records by crowdfunding $500,000 in 90 minutes on PledgeMe. 

Dunedin-based Ross McCarthy is the founder of AirWave, a New Zealand-made challenger to standing wave machines around the world. It can mimic the shape and size of any wave in the world as it’s moving and unlike other surfing machines, there is no hard surface involved, meaning it’s beginner friendly if someone bails.

Marlborough-based duo Indigo and Wills Rowe run a design and art social enterprise called the Paper Rain Project that creates, among many things, longboards made out of recycled wine barrels. The boards are sold mainly as artworks, but there are also plans in the works to develop a rideable eucalyptus board for commuters.

Picture building blocks that are like Lego, except bendy. Mark Stolten is the engineering mind behind Flexo, which is made of construction bricks and flexible tendons that can be moved fluidly. After a recording-breaking Kickstarter to get the project off the ground, Stolten and his wife plan to use the extra money to establish a charity foundation.  

Umbrellas were an industry that had been safe from disruption for decades until Scott Kington and Greg Brebner came along and created Blunt. The two designed a better, more beautiful umbrella that, unlike many, can stay in tact at winds of over 117km per hour. The pair understand the importance of good branding, the value of limited editions (Dick Frizzell and Oxfam and a special Karen Walker version were recent successes), the role of word of mouth on social media and they are always looking at ways to enhance the product with new technology.

Dunedin-based Escea appreciates that a good gas or wood fireplace is more like a piece of furniture than just a device, and so has created a sleekly designed alternative. CEO Nigel Bamford and his team have created a “new genre” of heating with its DX series of ducted fireplaces that use vent technology to move warmth around a home, and it is conducting R&D into more efficient, eco-friendly fireplace alternatives outside of gas. And its clever marketing and retail strategies – like opening its own store in Auckland to appeal to architects – are ensuring the products gets noticed.

Will McCallum and George Wilkins are the Mount Maunganui-based duo behind George and Willy and they’re making waves in the homeware sector for their simple yet clever designs. Their brown paper rollers are their bread and butter, but they also create store signs, drying racks, desks and much more. They won the Bay of Plenty’s Emerging Exporter of the Year award earlier this year and recently worked with Nike for a special collaboration.

As it says on the Makers of Architecture website: “We enjoy a challenge and particularly the journey that is creative problem solving.” And there are plenty of problems to solve when it comes to designing and constructing buildings. Jae Warrander, Beth Cameron, Grant Douglas and Ben Sutherland push the boundaries of what’s possible using design and CNC fabrication, they’re closing the gap between design and build, their practices are reducing time and waste, and they are continuing to experiment with experiential installations.

Face masks haven’t really been updated for decades. But Dan Bowden, the founder of 0202, is changing that with an air-filtration face mask for urban dwellers. With pollution, pedestrians and cyclists on the rise, the masks serve an obvious function – and they’re also beautifully designed to appeal to aesthetically demanding urbanites.  

Globelet’s mission remains unchanged: To rid the world of disposable cups and drink bottles. But the ambitions of founder, Ryan Everton, span beyond being just that ‘cup company’ that supplies festivals with reusables: he wants to create a system in New Zealand cities that will change the way consumers consume. For him, it’s all about the circular economy and what comes around should keep going around.


Seemingly using a portal into a potentially dystopian future, Francis Valintine, the cofounder of the Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab, is like the canary in the coalmine, warning the complacent about the ways technology will change our lives – and arming the interested with the skills to get the jobs. And whether in person, through courses on things like Bitcoin and Blockchain or through TV shows like What’s Next, people are starting to listen.

It can take just 9 weeks to change someone’s life – or, at least, their career – by teaching them to code. And while Enspiral Dev Academy’s Rohan Wakefield is still outside the official education system, its mix of technical skills and soft skills, which are required for increasingly collaborative development roles, has been a hit with students and businesses that are screaming out for the right digital talent.

Communicating science is major challenge, and there are few better at it than Dr. Michelle Dickinson, who created the Nanogirl character in an effort to create more public interaction with science and engineering and promote diverse role models. And Nanogirl Live, which brings science to life on stage, takes that up a notch.

A brilliant writer, commentator and voice of scientific reason in the media, microbiologist and bioluminescence expert Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a pink-haired phenom. Her aim is to demystify science and raise awareness of the threat of super bugs, and one creative way she’s doing that is by making short animations showing nature’s amazing glowing creatures and the many uses of bioluminescence in science.

You don’t create a company valued at over $80 million in your early 20s unless you have something special, and the mile a minute whizzkid Jamie Beaton has done that with Crimson Consulting, which helps students from around the world get into top US universities.

Russell and Dorothy Burt, the programme leads for the Manaikalani Trust, believe that technology can help disadvantaged kids to learn. So, with the help of many others, they devised a way of getting every pupil from years 5 to 13 a computer netbook and, eventually, 24/7 access to high speed wireless internet. So far the results have been phenomenal – and inspiring.  

Partners in life and partners in educational crime, Zoe Timbrell and Vaughan Rowsell founded OMG! Tech to give any primary and intermediate school in New Zealand the opportunity to take part in its award winning workshops that focus on anything from making robots to rockets. As they say: “The really really big ideas that will shape the future are in the heads of our kids and the technology that will enable them to make these dreams reality is still inaccessible to most.”

The perceived disconnect between education and the ‘real world’ is one that many of today’s tertiary institutions are working hard to overcome. And, as the ex-head of AUT’s CoLab, Charles Walker worked closely with industry partners to develop innovative models for learning, research and practice across the creative arts, science and technology sectors .

A multi-award-winning film maker in his own right and an alumnus of Weta Digital, James Cunningham also teaches future 3D animators and directors the ropes at Media Design School, where he often makes films alongside his students.

Miri Young is the lead at Te Papa’s Hīnātore learning lab, which lets children (and probably some adults) experience new technologies, Young aims to build maker mindsets in learners of all ages. But it’s not just about the tech. As a cultural institution, it’s also focused on developing core competencies in collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. STEAM, not just STEM.

Alexia Hilbertidou founded GirlBoss in 2015 as a 16-year-old to encourage more young women to gain skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, where women are underrepresented on both a national and international basis. Through a combination of talent, tenacity, school workshops and careers expos, she’s convinced over 8,000 girls to join the network, as well as almost 400 mentors. She is also youngest person to ever be invited to be part of NASA’s SOFIA Project and ride onboard NASA’s 747 jumbo jet.


A rare breed of academic who has successfully commercialised his research, Dr Simon Malpas had his first big hit with an implantable device that could measure neural signals and he is currently focused on the development of more implantable devices for clinical and research use. As he said, perhaps summing up the sometimes rather organic New Zealand approach to R&D: “A lot of businesses grow out of trying to solve a problem they can’t buy the solution for, so they go out and make it,” he says. “And as a result of solving that problem or attempting to solve it, they realise that there’s a market and that other people have a similar problem.”

One of the country’s most impressive humans and health communicators, Lance O’Sullivan is looking to upend what he feels is an antiquated and elitist health system – and make it easier and cheaper for those who need the most help to get better – through the use of technology, specifically iMoko, a digital platform that allows untrained ‘normals’ to take pictures of patients and send them into the cloud for diagnosis from trained doctors.

A ball of energy, a passionate entrepreneur and, increasingly, a mentor for others, Sam Hazledine started MedRecruit to match doctors to vacancies in hospitals and locums to openings in general practice. That business has gone gangbusters, and he now directs much of his creative energy towards speaking, writing and tutoring, using digital tools to connect with his like-minded followers.

Lateral thinking has been a hallmark of Dr Simon McDonald’s career. The founder of Triodent and Rhondium, his goal is to make life easier for dentists by simplifying often complicated processes and make dentistry accessible to more people. As he says: “It’s about doing things different, but better. We’re using the very latest technology and applying very clever thinking.”

The rise of wearables means better opportunities to collect health data. And Ben O’Brien of Stretchsense is predicting the – and beginning to profit from – the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where sensors and wearables change the way we interact with technology. A believer in transhumanism – the augmenting of human features with technology – he’s leading the way in New Zealand with experiments involving AR, data input gloves and sports sensors to track information.
Hong Sheng Chiong and Hannah Eastvold-Edwins from Odocs are turning iPhones into eye clinics to prevent people from losing their vision. What previously required expensive equipment and was out of reach of millions who were in danger of losing their sight is now accessible, showing the brilliance of basic solutions that harness the amazing technology that is all around us.

Dr Hartley Atkinson and Marree Atkinson started their pharmaceutical company, AFT Pharmaceuticals, in a room off their garage around 20 years ago. Now it’s valued at $250 million. It’s an incredibly competitive, not particularly creative sector, but they’ve done things differently from the start and embrace Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision in a few ways: by being weird, by finding gaps that the big guys miss and keeping the IP in New Zealand while operating globally.

Andrew Slater, the CEO of Homecare Medical, is on a mission to scale virtual healthcare services in New Zealand and has streamlined the disparate telehealth system so that patients can more easily get the health, wellness and counselling services they need, as soon as they need it.


Technology is making kids no longer go play outside, right? Amy Wolken and Melanie Langlotz, the creators of Geo AR Games, which lets children create their own augmented reality games and worlds that can be explored outside, don’t believe it has to be that way. Think Minecraft, but involving the outdoors. The games are delivering on the promise, too: initial data has shown average sessions clocking in at 30 minutes, with kids running 500m to 2km during a session.

A satire game that features Donald Trump jumping off walls may not be expected to be born in New Zealand, but Auckland based Oddboy Studios did just that last year with Jrump. Jrump was Tom Bellamy and Ben Markby’s first foray into gaming and was hugely successful, picking up coverage from the likes of Mashable and the Huffington Post, while fans of Trump sent menacing threats. Another game, Kabashians, features 10 exiled Kardashians on a deserted island and is due for release in December.

Mario Wynands is the chief executive of PikPok, New Zealand’s largest locally owned games developer and is responsible for smash hits like Into The Dead, which was downloaded 80 million times, and Flik Kick Football. It’s now gearing up to release Into The Dead 2 at the end of this year. Wynands has been a key player in helping grow the local gaming industry in New Zealand, with his company now employing more than 80 people.

It’s undeniable that gaming is fun, but Benjamin Dunn’s company Swibo is ensuring it can be used for practical and health purposes too. Swibo’s latest product, Tilt, is a physiotherapy device that engages both the mind and body. Smartphones can plug into the board, which essentially acts as a balancing board, while playing one of three games the company created. The Tilt boards are being used by physiotherapists across New Zealand and Australia.

As esports become a legitimate broadcast media attracting big audiences and deep-pocketed advertisers, John McRae is leading the charge in New Zealand. The founder of Let’s Play Live, an organisation that aims to harness the popularity of gaming as a viewing experience, he helped launch the first New Zealand High School eSports League this year, which involved 50 teams from across the country and is screened on Sky, and he has plans for much bigger things.

Public transport is an increasingly important issue. But who knew it could be fun? Twins Peter and Robert Curry from Dinosaur Polo Club tapped into our inner planner with Mini Metro, a minimalistic subway layout game that has received a whole heap of love from players, press and reviewers.

Jarek Beksa, Alex Garkavenko and Jeong Su Jeon created a world first last year with the Audio Games Hub, which is designed to be played by both the blind and sighted. Considering the overwhelmingly visual nature of games nowadays, the premise is an obvious step out of the box. But the binding aspect is simple: just use sound.

Dean Hall says his company, RocketWerkz, is more like a ‘creative factory’ than a game development company. And that makes sense when he says: “We are inefficient, rebellious, and unconventional”. They’re also very good at what they do, they embrace some unique policies like unlimited leave and employee profit share, they’ve got investment from Tencent and they’re doing it all from Dunedin.


Iyia Liu knows the power of social media prowess and that's how she started multi-million-dollar business – corset retailer Waist Trainer and supplement and apparel brand Luxe Fitness – out of her Auckland home. Liu has spotted trends early, and harnessed the still-new market of social media influencers. And as she says in true creative fashion: “For me it has been all trial and error."

Donielle Brooke founded Designer Wardrobe, an online marketplace where users list, sell, rent or look for designer items on Facebook, in 2013, as a way to pay rent after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Now it’s closing in on 100,000 members and she recently crowd-funded $1.7 million in the space of a few days to grow her business.

Jay Goodey was just 22 when he quit his job as a television editor to launch Onceit, an online store where retailers can sell their outlet stock and consumers can get a bargain. The membership-only site has grown like topsy, it has embraced the bricks and clicks trend with a pop-up store in Newmarket, it now handles over 20,000 orders a month across premium apparel, homewares and beauty. Once It differs from most online retailers in that it doesn't hold most of its stock at a warehouse and send items quickly. Instead, it holds sales on behalf of brands, shooting campaigns, processing orders, and sending items out once they arrive.

Kelly Karam became a floral designer almost by accident after discovering she didn’t like making clothes. But the world is better off for that particular accident, because Blush Floristry has become “one of the go-to stores for amazing high-end flowers” for events large and small, its beautifully designed new store is second to none in her industry and it’s even come up with an innovative signature paper carry basket.

From food to clothes to razors, subscription services are all the rage at the moment, and if you get it right, it can be a goldmine. Annabel and James Hurman spotted a gap in the market for  an oft-neglected but incredibly important tool to be delivered every month, so they establishedToothcrush (previously known as Freshbrush) with a photo exhibition of their own sustainably made brushes. And, after gaining 4,000 subscribers, it’s recently launched a kids range and is heading to Australia.

What started with 12 employees in 2006 is now 450 employees and a store with a reputation as the purveyor of fine New Zealand foods. James and Janene Draper from Farro Fresh have always been driven by supporting artisan producers and, as well as selling their wares,  they also play an active role as advisors to startup food businesses who need that knowledge and assistance to simply get their product onto the shelf. The pair also got in early on the meal kit game and the instore experience is outstanding.

Mai Young, who runs subscription box service Bark Bag, and Gretchen Hamlen-Williams of dog accessories retailer Wolves of Wellington, decided there was safety in numbers so they created the Canine Collective, a group of small but perfectly formed ecommerce businesses selling dog-related goods.

Health-oriented specialty supermarkets are nothing new in New Zealand, but Auckland’s newest example of the genre represents a genuine step forward. Like a much classier Bin Inn, James Denton’s GoodFor is a ‘wholefoods refillery’ where bulk goods flow free and plastic packaging is nowhere in sight.

By grouping individual orders together and buying direct from the factory, Ben Nathan’s Container Door, which claimed to be a world first when it launched in 2015, cuts out the numerous middle men in the retail supply chain and offers products at very appealling prices if enough people order the product. In a show of commitment to the business, Nathan still fronts the video promotions for many of these products in a particularly enthusiastic, attention-grabbing, some might say endearingly terrible fashion.

“Why can’t we source a decent blank T-shirt?” That was the conundrum facing young entrepreneur Lawrence Railton when he started his wholesale t-shirt company AS Colour in 2006. Since then, demand for quality basics has boomed. And with a clever dual strategy where the wholesale side moves the volumes and the retail fashion side produces the margins, the brand has gone from strength to strength (with a major investment recently), expanded rapidly and managed to maintain its cool factor.

Perplexed by the massive gender-divide in children's clothing, Rachel Hansen decided to do something about it and began offering kids an ethically-made alternative to the highly-gendered, factory-made clothes that dominate children’s clothing. So Freedom Kids was born and it’s grown up to be very popular indeed.

Founded in 2008 by food commodity traders Sean Hills and Andrew Vermeulen, as a one-day-a-week clearance store in Wiri, Auckland, Reduced to Clear deals directly with wholesalers wanting to get rid of excess stock, which means it’s a win for all concerned. Everyone loves a bargain and it has now expanded to 12 locations.


Tim Alpe is the man behind Jucy, an independent tourism company that began in Auckland with just 35 rental cars. Today, through a combination of continuous innovation and bold, attention-grabbing branding and marketing aimed at youth, it has almost 4,000 cars and motorhomes on the streets of Australia, New Zealand and the US and it has since expanded to include a ferry service in Milford Sound and ‘pod’ sleeping accommodation in Queenstown and Christchurch.

Ryan Sanders quit his day job in banking to found Haka Tours, a unique, customer-designed tour company that aimed to appeal to thrill seekers coming to New Zealand. By harnessing digital tools, social media marketing and personalised online video, it is now New Zealand’s number one ranked tour company and has grown in size to include mountain biking and snow tours, as well as an upmarket backpackers chain called Haka Lodges, with plans in the pipeline for hotels to open next.

Sarah Meikle is the organiser of Wellington’s annual food festival, Wellington On a Plate. She has been there since its inception when it had just 30 restaurants on board in 2009. It has since skyrocketed to become a fixture in any New Zealand foodie’s calendar, with 121 restaurants taking part in 140 events in 2017 and 123 burgers developed for the burger challenge. Meikle manages a small team behind the scenes who help pull it off, with her love for food, wine and interesting experiences the driving force behind the event’s success.

Beth Brash is the general manager of Beervana, New Zealand’s two-day celebration of the craft beer scene hosted in Wellington. This year, it expanded to include a road to Beervana pit-stopping at breweries throughout the North Island. An estimated 15,000 flocked to the capital to trial 451 different flavours of beer, including brews from international breweries. The event has sized up year-on-year and is cementing Wellington as New Zealand’s craft beer capital, as well as proving to be a significant tourism drawcard for beer lovers around the world.

Serial inventor Grant Ryan’s latest venture is Purepods, a totally immersive, private experience for tourists of New Zealand nature. The glass pods are built to operate entirely off the grid and have as minimal effect on the environment as possible, while the glass component provides 360 views of the nature and sky around them, tapping into the astro-tourism and stargazing trend. Half of the founding shareholding profits are going to Ryan’s not-for-profit The Cacophony Project, which will measure birdsong data around the country to help improve New Zealand's predator trapping ability.  

Rotorua Canopy Tours managing director James Fitzgerald begun his business by luring the first visitors to the treetop zip-line experience with the promise of free pizza. It has since grown from not just being a popular tourist attraction but also a successful conservation and pest eradication programme, bringing nearly 250 hectares of New Zealand native forest under predator control. It now also offers visitors the chance to buy traps, tapping into experiential trend  for visitors to get involved in conservation and environmental efforts.

The Pop-up Globe, a to-scale replica of the famous second Globe theatre, was a world-first that kicked off in Auckland and brought the world of Shakespeare to a huge and appreciative audience – including 20,000 school kids who got to attend. In just a few short years, Dr Miles Gregory and Tobias Grant have created one of the biggest theatre companies in the country and it has also expanded into Australia. And all because Gregory’s daughter was reading a pop-up book that mentioned the Globe and asked if she could see it. What dad wouldn’t give his daughter what she wanted?

Hamish Pinkham is the founder of Rhythm and Vines, New Zealand’s infamous new years festival that is in its 15th year of operation. Pinkham has rolled with the punches over the years and while the festival has come scarily close to folding, he and the team’s strategic, innovative decisions have set the festival on a path to success, with tickets near sold out months in advance. Rhythm and Vines is now recognised on a global scale, it continues to get creative about how to improve the experience and it has helped boost the wider economy of the Gisborne region.

Famous for the giant Tourism New Zealand rugby ball that travelled the globe before the Rugby World Cup in 2011, Mike Mizrahi and Marie Adams of Inside Out productions are world leaders when it comes to creating immersive experiences. And whether it’s directing the World of Wearable Arts show or creating a Les Mills exercise programme, you’ll be impressed.


Liam Bowden began making one-off leather pieces and jewellery in his garage. And now Deadly Ponies has become an internationally renowned leather accessories brand that has challenged traditional notions of design. And a recent collaboration with My Little Pony cemented its pop cultural cool factor.

The Huffer label has been around for over 20 years and you don’t live that long unless you keep evolving. From the iconic t-shirts, to clever collaborations with Audi, Absolut or Allpress, to cheeky messages on the labels, co-founder Steve Dunstan, who is still heavily involved in the design process, “provides immense creativity to the design process and an innate brand understanding that drives the Huffer consumers know and love today”.

The idea for Offcut Caps came when Matt Purcell and Adrien Taylor were walking through Taylor’s father’s Christchurch curtain business and came across a room of material destined for the landfill because the pieces were too small to be used as curtains. They thought they could create something valuable out of that waste material, rather than see it go to landfill. And the trendy caps have struck a chord, selling out quickly. They also walk their environmental talk, planting a tree for every cap sold.

From using dogs to promote her sunglass range, to creating designer facemasks, to collaborating with The Caker Jordan Rondell, Karen Walker has never been one to go with the flow. The doyenne of New Zealand fashion is restless and thinking outside the box has helped the label move in unexpected directions and stay fresh for many years.

Josie Bidwell was frustrated by underwear that was flimsy and never lasted, and as a design student, she decided to do something about it. Well-designed, aesthetically pleasing, and imbued with a Kiwi sense of humour, Thunderpants has embarked on some creative marketing, from the ‘Philanthropants’ banana undies collaboration with All Good, to a popular comp to find the country’s oldest undies.

Steve Ferguson and Helene Morris, co-founders of Lonely, describe their label as “for women who wear lingerie as a  love letter to themselves”. Its international campaign, the Lonely Girls Project, features raw, body positive portraits of women from all over the globe and of all ages wearing its lingerie – and its stores are a love letter to beautiful design.

With parents wanting the best for their young, developing children, their shoes need to be more than just good looking. And with some intense R&D, great design and a range of designer collaborations, Chris and Colleen Bennett, the founders of Bobux, have created a range that ticks both boxes. It’s been so successful they’re aiming to sell one million pairs by 2020 and two million by 2024.

Founder/creative director of I Love Ugly Valentin Ozich’s career began picking t-shirts in a cold factory. Since then he has progressed to build one of the strongest menswear brands in the world, selling his products in over 86 countries globally. The brand started in 2008, and he originally envisioned an illustration and design collective that would profile musicians and artists around the world. Clothing became the choice of creative outlet instead, and the minimalistic, on-trend menswear and edgy marketing catapulted it into the consciousness of young Kiwi males.

Matt Saunders says ilabb’s action sports brand focuses on clever collaborations, whether that’s with other brands, athletes or musicians. It has enlisted Kiwi athletes to co-design clothing lines with the brand (and receive a financial cut from the sales), and collaborations with music festivals like Rhythm and Vines allows the brand to have pop-up stores at events where its key customers are likely to be.

Hamish Acland has taken the merino revolution started by Icebreaker a few steps further with Mons Royale. He noticed a gap in the market for stylish merino base layer garments that functioned well in the action sports arena and he has filled that gap with a trendy, well-loved, well-designed and expanding brand.

Holly Marbeck’s venture into earrings initially begun as a creative outlet on the side of completing her university assignments and working at New Zealand fashion house Georgia Alice, but it has since blossomed into something much bigger. Dubbed Mars, the earrings’ unique galaxy-like, out-of-this-world look have attracted the attention of fashion influencers worldwide.

In an industry competing desperately for attention, Trish Peng’s intricate bridal gowns have a habit of gaining bucket loads of it. In 2016, she broke a catwalk record with her 20m long a bright red dress with a record-breaking 20-metre-long tulle train. And this year, she did it again, with a NZD $20,000 dress made out of 12 different types of fresh flowers. Now based in LA, she’s becoming a bridal designer to the stars.

Tim Brown, the co-founder of Allbirds, battled away for years in an effort to design the perfect shoe, using strengthened merino as the main ingredient. The shoes have been widely lauded as the world’s most comfortable, the direct to consumer model allows it to keep the feedback loop tight and its marketing – from limited edition shoes tied to different cities, its animated ovine mascot, Peter, and, more recently, beautifully designed retail stores – keep things interesting.


One of the country’s most sought after interior designers, Rufus Knight has worked abroad and since settled in Auckland to open his own interior design firm, Knights Associates. His stylish, tactile approach crosses a diverse array of projects, from luxury apartment building The International to the award-winning designs of lingerie label Lonely’s store, as well as curating part of the New Zealand national pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Nat Cheshire lives and breathes urban design, and is the force behind many of the most transformative projects Auckland’s CBD has seen in the last decade, including Britomart, City Works Depot and Wynyard Quarter. His skill isn’t limited to just urban projects, however, with two rural cabins he designed winning the 2014 Home of the Year, while he also engages in product design and branding at Cheshire Architects. He’s a passionate man with a vision for what the future of the city he lives in could be.

Richard Naish heads up the multi-award winning RTA Studio, an architectural practice that has been led by his ability to be thoughtful and intuitive to the environment surrounding each building it works on. This is perhaps best demonstrated in his own Grey Lynn family home, which he designed. It’s shaped like an ‘E’ and has three separate-yet-connected huts to cater to the site’s slope and size, nabbing Naish a 2016 NZIA Auckland Architecture Award.

In a male dominated industry, Spaceworks CEO and creative director Lizzi Whaley brings a breath of fresh air and playful creativity to interior design. Whaley has worked across high-profile sites of corporate and creative companies big and small, from Google and Frucor’s offices to Huckleberry’s redesigned retail stores. Whaley has a deep understanding of user-based design an eye for what will be visually engaging and incorporates this into each project she works on.

Vanessa Carswell is principal of Warren and Mahoney’s Christchurch studio and has been instrumental in complex rebuilds within the quake-damaged city. She was the project architect for the rebuild of the Isaac Theatre Royal Rebuild project in Christchurch, one of the most complex heritage projects to arise in New Zealand architecture, with innovation used to maintain parts of the building’s original structure. In 2016, she was the joint winner of the National Association of Women In Construction Outstanding Achievement in Design Award.

Since bursting onto the architecture scene as an AUT intern at Jasmax, Rameka Alexander-Tu’inukuafe has taken up a full-time role at the practice in Tauranga and emerged as a leader in Maori architectural design. His work on the temporary Maori exhibition at Auckland War Memorial Museum won a Best Awards Purple Pin, while currently, he’s leading the design team for a Ministry of Education kura kaupapa Maori total immersion school project in the Far North.

Dean MacKenzie and Hamish Monk, the two creative minds behind Monk Mackenzie Architects, are well known on both a national and international stage for their innovative designs. Their neon pink cyclepath called Te Ara I Whiti, or Lightpath in Auckland’s CBD, collected the transport category gong at the World Architecture Awards last year, while their futuristic, X-shaped bunker house in the works in Queenstown is up for a World Architecture award this year.  

Pamela Bell is the founder and chief executive of not-for-profit Prefab NZ, an organisation that researches how offsite construction and new technology can achieve a better built environment – as in houses that are more affordable, more innovative, greener and of a higher quality. She also founded the HIVE (Home Innovation Village) in 2011 following the Christchurch earthquakes. With an ambitious goal to increase prebuilt construction to 40 percent by 2020, Bell works tirelessly to look at ways to help solve New Zealand’s housing woes.

Toni Brandso and Liv Patience are the two halves of Material Creative, a spatial design practice that captures the imagination and inspiration of the variety of clients it has on its roster. Their beautiful interior creations feature everywhere from Little Bird’s Ponsonby cafe, to the new, swanky, table-service KFC in the CBD, to the gold-coated canvassed walls of Naumi Hotel. They also took out the Supreme Award for their design of the Junction Eatery at this year’s RED Awards.

After a stint in architecture abroad, Ana Heremaia returned to visit family in Northland and was shocked by the social and addiction issues plaguing the youth. She decided design and architecture could help create purpose and meaning and co-founded Akau with Ruby Watson and Felicity Brenchley. The design gives young people in the far North a chance to be involved with shaping the environment and community around them, test out their skills and work alongside the pair. So far, they’ve designed a marae in Waiomio, a start-up space in Whangerei and have plans to reinvigorate the town of Kaikohe.

One of New Zealand’s leaders in urban and landscape design in public spaces, LandLab’s Henry Crothers was one of the key players who brought the neon-pink Lightpath and Wynyard Quarter commons to life. He’s currently working on a new public park for Ponsonby (which won a public vote), a rooftop garden terrace for Commercial Bay in the CBD and the redevelopment of K Rd.


Social enterprise/charity:

Growing up in Colombia, Adriana Christie always had the entrepreneurial drive and wanted to help those in poverty. Business is a good way to do that, so she created The Pallet Kingdom, a business that has two purposes, the first being to recycle wooden pallets into furniture, and the second to work with disadvantaged teens who have been referred by their parents or the DHB. She has also moved into politics and starred on an online DIY series for Mitre 10.

Ōtākaro Orchard’s Chloe Waretini wants Christchurch to move from the Garden City to the Edible Garden City. She has a plan for 3 stage development in the heart of Christchurch comprised of an edible urban park (for eating and educating), a local, regenerative food hub/cafe and, eventually, a Danish-designed dome for more food production and teaching. A project requiring full community support, she hopes this will become the start of a movement to turn more green space into productive land and she kicked off with the first planting last month.

Eat My Lunch’s Lisa King and Michael Meredith embraced the popular ‘buy one, give one’ model with Eat My Lunch and, recently, Eat my Dinner. Using consumption to help those in need, the social enterprise has given over half a million lunches to kids in need – and helped countless workers feel good about themselves during corporate lunch-making sessions.

At 12 years old, Sam Judd participated in a Future Problem Solving team that won the nationals and then placed 10th globally at the world championships in Rhode Island, USA. That desire to find creative solutions has continued with Sustainable Coastlines, which not only cleans up the beaches, but educates hundreds of thousands of people about what they can do to stop rubbish from getting there in the first place. From convincing teenage boys to care about plastic pollution (by highlighting the impact that endocrine disrupting chemicals have on the size of boy’s private parts), to creating an innovative crowd-funded, crowd (and Corrections)-sourced HQ in Wynyard quarter, Judd is the living embodiment of finding a way.

Deborah Manning brought the food rescue concept to life in Dunedin in 2012 with FoodShare and started KiwiHarvest in Auckland in 2015. Every month they deliver 20,000 kg of food to over 120 Auckland charities. And the fresh food that would be wasted is now matched with want.

Rebecca Stewart decided to make the most of food being an international language and founded social enterprisePomegranate Kitchen in late 2016. It hires women from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Africa to cook for lunch deliveries and catering, helping with both economic and social outcomes.

It started as a temporary art installation, but Benjamin Johnson saw potential and the Free Store was born. The Free Store operates like a shop, but with one major difference: it doesn't take any money and simply hands out food to those who need it every weeknight, be they students, refugees, elderly or the homeless. But for Johnson, who also created a pop-up store giving away clothes, it is also a way of bringing different walks of life together and showing generosity, inclusion, participation and resourcefulness.

While many choose to support their favourite charities, Pat Shepherd just wants people to give regularly, ideally around 1% of their income every month. And the Generosity Journal, a magazine and website full of amazing stories and charitable folk contributing their time and talents, aims to get more people to do that.

Bringing some fairness into the food and bev game, Simon Coley fought Big Banana with All Good Bananas and then set up a social enterprise calledKarma Cola that benefitted those who provided the ingredients. Creative marketing, beautiful design, a clear purpose to offer a range of fairer drink options, regular fan endorsements and, recently, pick-up from the likes of Jamie Oliver, its drinks are increasingly popular here and around the world – and suppliers from the developing nations are better off.

Catherine Bell, the founder and chair of the Garden to Table trust (and the co-founder of Dish magazine), aims to change the way children approach and think about food in an effort to help them make better food choices. With initiatives like Young Gardener of the Year, Garden to Table products that can be sold as fundraisers and an in-depth education programme called Empower, it’s living the slogan: Grow, Harvest, Prepare, Share.

Since it began, Kilmarnock Enterprises has offered meaningful work for people with disabilities. But it was forced to go through a major rethink of its own mission when it controversially lost the contract to make ANZAC poppies. CEO Michelle Sharp helped to reinvigorate the business, creating new services for the likes of Air New Zealand and food packaging for supermarket chains.

Natalie Whitaker, the founder of Givealittle and serial social entrepreneur who now heads up Two Tales, created a charitable monster, and changed the way New Zealanders gave – and received. Sausage sizzles still have their place, but the online platform has allowed Whitaker and her team to help New Zealanders raise over $50 million for tens of thousands of causes – from saving beaches to saving loved ones – before being acquired by Spark Foundation.

Shay Wright wants to make a difference for the Māori communities like the one that he come from. And through his work with The Icehouse and now his own business, Te Whare Hukahuka, he is helping rebuild the local Māori economy through education and training – and other indigenous nations and governments are now looking to him for help.

Most creative brand:

Spark is an example of a brand that has embraced the full diversity of the modern media mix. Basketball courts, emotional TV ads, strategic corporate partnerships and clever digital clips are all tied together seamlessly to present a hip brand, far removed from the lumbering antique Telecom represented.      

The impact of Air New Zealand’s creative approach extends well beyond local shores. The organisation has completely redefined what an airline safety video should look like. And if imitation is the best form of flattery, then the various competitors who have now made copycat efforts clearly see something worth flattering in the air carrier’s creative approach. Beyond the safety videos, you also find a brand committed to finding creative ways to address the various issues travellers might encounter. This could be as small as an app that orders your coffee or as progressive as automated check-in at the airport.     

It’s easy to be cynical about a company that makes millions selling fossil fuels at a time when the climate is reaching a tipping point, but Z Energy seems to have a legitimate desire to adapt its business and prepare for a very different future, as evidenced by its huge $26 million investment into the country’s largest biofuel plant, its focus on social responsibility (with a particular focus on local neighbourhood groups and charities), its roll out of an electric car fleet years before most (and, now, its intent to become the electric charging network of the future) and its ongoing desire to create better experiences for customers

Behind New Zealand’s most-loved brand over the last few years, you find an incredibly ambitious creative strategy. Whittaker’s is a brand untethered to the standard tropes of traditional confectionary advertising.  Unlikely collaborations with other well-loved New Zealand brands, reinvigorating old favourites and staying utterly committed to New Zealand (and its local ingredients) has seen Whittaker’s take on global competitors and win. All the while, with the big smile of domestic goddess Nigella Lawson leading the way.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more successful product launch than Steinlager’s Tokyo Dry in recent years. In a market that last year saw the emergence of 1,041 new variants of beer enter, Steinlager knew that doing something generic wasn’t going to cut it. The company responded by fusing Japan with New Zealand to develop a Japanese-styled beer that contributed 40 percent of total new product sales. Not bad for something that didn’t exist 12 months ago.

It’s particularly difficult to stand out in the energy market, given it’s occupied by 35 companies all providing virtually the same service. In a context typified by sameness, Mercury strove to set its brand apart with an infectiously positive positioning that focuses on the positive difference green energy makes to the world. The symbol at the centre of the lead campaign of a young woman casually riding her e-bike up hilly terrain is a wonderfully simple metaphor for what the company does for customers.        

It’s no easy feat for a brand to sport stereotypically American imagery and still have a distinctly local flavour. And yet, this is exactly what the crew at BurgerFuel has done since the company’s inception in 1995. It’s a brand known for taking creative risks, pushing the bounds and surprising its consumers with a range of cheeky references (sometimes even to Colombian drug lords). And what’s perhaps most impressive is that all the creative work is done in-house.    

Conventional design principles often suggest that branding should be consistent across all products. But this is something Garage Project ignores outright, working with different artists to make every new product a unique experience. And while all the products might look different on the shelf, there’s still something that ties it all together. Call it creativity, branding or genius, the independent brewers in Wellington definitely know what they’re doing.   

Xero claims to sell ‘beautiful accounting software’. And while this might seem an oxymoron, it’s clearly evident across the company’s communications. Employing digital video, podcasts, blogging and social media campaigns, the in-house team does everything in its power to separate its brand from the jargon-laden world of accounting. Something has to be said for the degree of difficulty in making an endless stream of numbers interesting.    

Kiwibank has over the last year rethought what advertising in the banking industry should entail. The company’s single biggest creative investment over the last two years was in the TV show ‘Mind over Money’. In addition, the company has also signed a strategic content partnership with The Spinoff and continued to celebrate the ordinary individuals who make up the customer base of the bank.

Fonterra, New Zealand’s biggest company, is a tough ship to turn around and a major global corporation that still makes the bulk of its money from selling a commodity isn’t normally placed in the creative category, but it has recently attempted to change perceptions, investing in Milk in Schools, focusing on its committed farmers with the 4.31am campaign and launching ads that talk about its global reach and clever use of technology. As well as launching clever products like candy cheese, it has also continued to invest in creative marketing for its hero brand, Anchor, whether the award-winning milk slams as part of its Go Strong platform, or the nostalgic campaign to extol the virtues of protein and natural dairy.

Any brand that has the guts to put rabbit skins on a billboard or literally tries to singe the tastebuds of its customers with the hottest chillies in existence deserves inclusion on this list. It is constantly experimenting and innovating, both with its products and its marketing. And stepping so close to the offensive line without crossing over takes an enormous amount of creative control and skill. And that’s what makes Hell Pizza a strong contender in this category.

Whereas grocery retail is often ridiculed for getting a little screechy, New World has made an ardent commitment to creativity with campaigns that go beyond product to tell stories. And beyond the ads, the brand also responded to criticism about the environmental impact of collectibles by launching the Little Garden series, with rave reviews from both kids and their parents. If creativity is about solving problems, then New World certainly meets the definition.      

Beyond being described as the ‘most comfortable shoe in the world’, Allbirds has exported Kiwi ingenuity across the world. It has become the preferred shoe of the tech kids in Silicon Valley, it has harnessed the power of limited edition runs to drive demand, its collaborations with cities are a master stroke, it has redesigned the taken-for-granted shoe box, and its mascot, Peter the sheep, is a star. So far, it’s been a pretty impressive three years for a brand that started its journey on social media.     

Another brand to have taken local-bred genius abroad is Huffer. The independent clothing brand, which focuses on youth and urban style, has set itself apart with bold fashion design that refuses to conform to existing trends. The company first hit US stores in 2008 and it remains a standout brand across Australasia—all of this off the back of a willingness to do things differently.    

While many see Vector as a monopoly lines provider, it is aiming to deliver efficient, sustainable energy solutions and, as a result, its future could be very different. Rather than wait to become irrelevant, it’s taken the initiative and imagined what it might be by securing deals with Tesla and supplying its home batteries, embracing artificial intelligence to ensure the grid keeps working, investing in LED lights for the Auckland Harbour Bridge, it’s gone on an acquisition run and it has invested in a network of charging stations for electric vehicles.

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