Annah Stretton on being ahead of the market, getting a mentor and rocking the boat

Annah Stretton on being ahead of the market, getting a mentor and rocking the boat

New Zealand fashion designer and entrepreneur Annah Stretton has just released her latest book, Rock the Boat. And she isn't pulling any punches when it comes to going after what you want.

You're already so busy! What prompted you to write another book?

I see the way most people struggle to deal with difficult scenarios and tough conversations. Most of them are the masters of avoidance. I also see how so many are happy to accept the status quo in their lives when the status quo is not great. They are afraid of change and nervous as to what others may think should they endeavour to make change. They simply don't want to Rock the Boat. The content of the book is drawn from some of my many experiences over the past 21 years and endeavouring to use these – by writing this book – to enable others.

It's heavily illustrated – who did you use for the illustrations?

We have in house illustrator who I briefed. Essentially she caricatured me and relevant others to fit the chapter themes. The business of fashion and publishing are extremely visual so it was always about creating a visual book to inspire and engage the reader.

What's been the most pivotal moment in your life in terms of being successful in business?

I don't really think that there is one pivotal moment. There have been so many learnings from both the successes and failures. I suppose if I had to identify one: the overnight loss of $2 million worth of Kmart business in the first three years of operation ensured that I diversified early and made sure that this dependency never happened again. And rather than let the market drive me to change I now always look to be ahead of the market, anticipating the changes that will eventually occur and in the digital age this is no easy pathway. 

Any advice for bringing dreams to fruition? 

Plenty… it’s still possible to create substantive business models from tried and true products and services. It’s a sad fact that there are not many of our so called ‘entrepreneurs’ in this country are great at what they do. Hence their products and services are seriously lacking and their longevity is short-lived. If you do have a business dream, do the research and ascertain you really have a market. Get many mentors, have conversations with lots of capable and relevant people, make sure you are adequately funded and that all your personal (family) ducks are in row and go out there and give it a go. Don't let others deter you from your dream and if it doesn’t work there’s no stigma in failure. You will just be closer to achieving your dream next time you give it a go. Great business is about passion, focus, risks, great ideas, hard work and people.

Who do you admire the most – in terms of business leaders – and why?

Through the Global Women Network I am fortunate to mix with so many capable female leaders from this country. I don't know if I identify or admire anyone enough to single them out. Great leadership is about a sense of calm, an aura of capability and an essence of trust.

What habits do you think you have that have helped you in driving for success?

I am incredibly disciplined. I use time very well. I don't stress about anything especially what I cannot change or cannot anticipate. What will be will be. I have an incredibly black and white perspective especially when dealing with the tough stuff. I will never avoid the difficult conversations. Integrity is the most important thing to me. I value the people I value and ensure I make a very real contribution to their lives. I trust myself and absolutely like who I am. I will never let others determine my destiny. I act from the heart just as often as I do from the head.

See more on Rock the Boathere.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).