MoZaic August 2022: Share Your Story | Entrepreneurship

The Entrepreneurs Leadership Programme builds on Global Women’s proud legacy of Women in Leadership with over 500 business and community alumnae.

To celebrate the launch of our brand-new programme — we thought it’d be the perfect occasion to inviting in some of the incredible entrepreneurs in our fold for a kōrero on all things entrepreneurship.


Ranjna Patel

Ranjna Patel, ONZM, QSM, JP, Founder of Tāmaki Health & Gandhi Nivas is a humble and unassuming leader, who is recognised nationally and internationally for her inspirational work in the field of healthcare.  When Global Women Chair, Theresa Gattung, invited Ranjna to lead sessions at the upcoming Entrepreneurship Programme, she responded:

“I’ve never counted myself as an entrepreneur.  Challenges and survival are the ways I’ve reacted. Was it my upbringing in a fruit shop? On Fridays when there were peas left, we’d peel them and sold them on Saturday. Saturday afternoon was all the stone fruit, we had to bottle everything.  It was survival.  I don’t like the word entrepreneur.  People do things when they see things need to grow.”

Ranjna continues: “We bought the business (now Tamaki Health, formerly Nirvana Health) in 1977 in Ōtara and there were machete murders and dawn raids.  I was brought up in Herne Bay, and I followed my husband, we borrowed 100% of the funds, plus the legal fees to buy the business.  Health prevention wasn’t even a thought. Government Ministers said that Pasifika and Māori don’t care about their health.  It was a mismatch of perceptions and reality.  When the business started to grow, three doctors complained constantly ‘this Indian couple is doing so well they must be doing something underhand!’ but we persevered.  We had amazing people working for us who were truly dedicated.”

“Eastern philosophy is like the Māori te ao; it is long term and sustainable through the generations.”

When asked why women still have to fight for equity, Ranjna replied:

“We don’t have the strong old boys’ network and don’t defend things well.  We don’t put the ladder down for other women as often as we should.  We need to flip the conversation and focus on our strengths. When women ask me to nominate them for membership in Global Women, my response is that you may be a great CEO but what have you done for other women?  You can create ways to bring other women in, and onto boards; bring someone with diversity of thought and don’t always go for the safe option.”

There must have been numerous obstacles during the building of Tamaki Health?

“We carried on ‘outside the box’. We were threatened many times.  We were told that we were not doing chronic disease treatment the way we should be, so my husband said ‘don’t pay me. If in 12 months I’m successful, you can pay me.’ Know your business and your customers from the bottom up. He tangata are what matters! We have an Indian saying, ‘when a light comes to your door you don’t blow it out.’ Seize opportunities!”

Do entrepreneurs (or ‘survivors’ in Ranjna-speak) need unique qualities to succeed?

“Humility. This is so important. Hire better than you. Where you have doubt, employ the best people. Always listen to other opinions. Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Next time do it differently. Believe in yourself! Try to make a difference. Outsource anything that bugs you! If you like a meal to be ready when you get home, outsource it.  Hire excellent nannies but always pick your children up. The verbal diahorrea you get from them on the ride home is the best you’ll ever get!”

“Entrepreneurship is common sense blown up in a balloon. All the different leaders (in the Programme) will bring a buffet of thought of how we did it. We have good days and bad days; your income should be higher than your expenses. You have full control. Work from your passion and make a difference. Listen to the people that know the work. I founded Gandhi Nivas because I learned in a presentation that 1 in 3 women are abused, and in 2013 that 29% of those women were Indian.  (17% were Māori and Pasifika.) I didn’t believe them, so I went to MIT to learn about Domestic Violence. Then I got the police working as partners in this arena.  90% of women take back the men who have abused them and there was no help to change their behaviour. We now have 60% non-recidivism, that’s unheard of. The Justice Department had 12% and thought they were great! Harriet Beecher Stowe said: Women are the real architects of society. I’m inclined to believe that.”

And here’s a photo of a fortunate leader meeting a real architect of society in Aotearoa New Zealand, Ranjna Patel!

Cecilia Robinson

Cecilia Robinson is a serial, and serious entrepreneur.  Her outstanding contributions to New Zealand through the founding, with her husband James, of My Food Bag in 2012, and more recently Tend Health, a digital first primary healthcare platform, demonstrate her dedication to changing the health and wellbeing landscape of New Zealand.

Cecilia will lead sessions at the upcoming Global Women Entrepreneurs Leadership Programme and we asked her why she considers this programme necessary?

“Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of our country and our economy and holds the future for our children. We need innovators to constantly challenge the norm and find new pathways to make all our futures brighter. For women this is particularly important and that is where the Entrepreneurship Programme is critical to be able to bring women across Aotearoa together.”

Equity is still not easily acquired by women in business and entrepreneurships, so how has Cecilia persevered?

“Where do I start? Ultimately the journey starts with action, identifying a problem/opportunity and then doing something about it. I always tell people that it’s easy to have an idea, that’s only 1% but it’s the action, the doing, that is 99%. Anyone can have an idea, it’s what you do with it that matters. As for My Food Bag and Tend it has ultimately come to surrounding myself with amazing people and then working really hard. You have got to have a clear vision and purpose to take people on the journey with you.”

Have you experienced “interference” from government during the setting up of Tend?

“When you’re in an industry that is reliant on government and government funding it can be hard to see the opportunity outside of your swim lane but with Tend, we are 100% focused on not letting it be a barrier for us. We ensure that we communicate with key stakeholders and have a good information matrix however we don’t let us define us.

In terms of rigor, we have a very strong board and an excellent Executive team.”

Together with a large number of professional responsibilities, Cecilia is raising three children, so we asked her advice for juggling these roles?

“With great difficulty as you could tell from how hard it was to lock this in (this interview.) I struggle with the idea of saying that “I’m busy” because it’s how I live my life. It is simply always busy.

But I’ve always been very clear on two things – I didn’t have children not to raise them and I also didn’t work so hard in my career to not add value and contribute.   

Most days I juggle around my kids, I’ve always advocated for integration rather than balance. It’s been a big step-up going from two to three kids, it feels like going from having a pet to a full on zoo but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

What unique qualities should an entrepreneur have that makes them driven to succeed, and how will Global Women’s programme harness this motivation?

“An ability to identify a problem and solution! It’s the action that makes you an entrepreneur and separates out those that can versus those that can’t. I think that Global Women will add real structure and support around entrepreneurial women and help give them guidance that is relevant to them on their journey.

Cecilia’s closing thoughts on success:

“Success is like an iceberg, so many people think it happens overnight because suddenly it’s just there. But the fact is that it’s been beneath the surface the whole time. Beneath the surface is the sacrifice, the hard work, the dedication, the failures, the disappointments, the discipline, the focus, the good habits and the consistency. It’s the immeasurable number of hours that no one sees that went into making you an overnight success.

I’d also like to encourage our women to ask for help, to lean in and identify those who can be an ally on their journey.”

Wise words from an intelligent, passionate entrepreneur who we are fortunate to count among the membership of Global Women.

Florence Van Dyke

Florence Van Dyke, who is based in Wellington, is a busy, successful and committed entrepreneur!  She was selected as one of Forbes “30 Under 30”, is an Edmund Hillary Fellow, a co-founder of Chia Sisters (voted “Best for the World” for two years in a row) and is now Head of Sustainability at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

Global Women members want to know what Florence is most excited about in this new role?

“I’m looking forward to using my practical experience from Chia Sisters and academic learnings from UC Berkeley to support New Zealand businesses in their sustainability journeys. New Zealand businesses have a window of opportunity to be leaders in sustainability, particularly in the transition to a net-zero economy. To do so depends on being innovative, learning from te ao Maori, thinking in systems, and committing to equity and justice. Making these types of changes is not just the right thing to do for the planet but will give us a significant competitive advantage in the global economy.

Leadership has some demanding requisites, especially in trying times. What does it take, personally and professionally, to lead effectively?

“There is so much to effective leadership. Some of the most important pieces are:

  1.  Invest in your people. You are only as good as your team. Give them the support, tools and space to thrive and you will reap the benefits.
  2.  Stay a learner. Listen to those around you. Everyone has a perspective to add. The more diversity that you can learn from, the more perspective you will gain and the better leader you will be.
  3.  Build feedback loops into the mahi you lead. This makes it easier for those around you to respond, adjust and alter your work and their own as changes arise. We live in an uncertain and complex world. Change is inevitable, how we lead in response to change counts for a lot.
  4.  Prioritise your own mental and physical health. We can give our best to others when we take care of our own wellness.”

Servant leadership is a practice more akin to iwi in NZ. How do we align Māori and Pakeha leadership so that both styles blend successfully?

“New Zealanders are lucky to have the opportunity to learn from Māori tikanga. Pākeha leaders can start to align with Māori leadership styles by:

  1.  Working to gain respect rather than power. It is through respect that a person can lead most effectively.
  2.  Stretching time horizons and thinking long term. All too often traditional styles of leadership take advantage of short-term wins at the expense of long-term gains. An inter-generational te ao Māori view can ensure that we improve systems beyond the next election cycle, annual budget or promotion.
  3.  Analysing systems as a whole. More effective change can be made by understanding the impact of leadership on people, planet and community rather than just the task at hand.”

What advice would you give to women wanting to follow in your footsteps?

“All too often we concentrate on our weaknesses to become more well-rounded. But it is by focusing on the strengths that reflect your passions and values that will make you shine. And once you find a role that reflects your values do not be scared to say yes to challenges. It is through the challenges that we rise.”

Stay tuned for more impressive insights from this intrepid entrepreneur!

Katherine Corich

Katherine Corich, based in the UK, is the Founder of Sysdoc a global service provider delivering transformational change and efficiency programmes that include leadership, change management, business process engineering, blended training and knowledge management. Katherine is recognized as a visionary leader with contagious entrepreneurial energy. In 2017 she was inducted into the NZ HITech Hall of Fame and in 2015 recognised in the UK as New Zealander of the Year.

Katherine shared her thoughts on the importance of the Global Women Entrepreneurship Programme:

“Growing a business can be the most rewarding endeavour that a women can embark upon. It can also be the most challenging. The Global Women Entrepreneurship Programme will encourage female entrepreneurs to reach for the sky, strive for the moon and arrive somewhere in the big wide universe. When you believe, work hard, and have a network of people who believe in you, you can achieve. This programme will give women the opportunity to learn from people who have walked in your shoes, who know many of the challenges you will face and who can help you to successfully navigate the obstacles and opportunities that will be in front of you.”

How do women gain equity and capital in the entrepreneurial and business world?

“Sysdoc has been self-funded since day 1. This was a deliberate strategy on our part. When I founded the company 35 years ago, access to capital for women-led businesses was very limited. Not much has changed today. According to Forbes “Women-led startups received just 2.3% of venture capital funding in 2020”. We recently established a tech start-up as part of the Sysdoc Group and have funded this privately out of retained earnings. Launching just before the Covid pandemic changed our funding trajectory as we would have sought external funding had the borders not slammed shut. We are now looking outward at the world as a place of opportunity so hopefully in our next funding rounds we will be able to say that we are part of the 2.3% and growing.”

Katherine also finds time to volunteer in vital issues concerning children:

“I chair a global Social Enterprise called ‘It’s a Penalty (IAP)’. IAP harnesses Sport as a Force for Good to raise awareness of child trafficking and abuse at major international sporting events, including the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Rugby, Cricket and Football World Cups and the SuperBowl. We run campaigns in the period leading up to and during these major sporting events, which bring together all the participants Olympic, Commonwealth and SuperBowl committees, city hosts, law enforcement agencies, airlines, airports, border control, ride-share companies, hotels and security firms, to identify trafficked children and young people, and then to seek out, identify and arrest child traffickers.”

All interviews and stories written by our Editor in Residence,

Jenni Prisk (Global Women Member)