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New Zealanders spending their money locally keeps home-grown entrepreneurs in business and puts this country at the edge of the world, front and centre, writer Helen Cordery finds.
Text: Helen Cordery
Country: New Zealand

o anywhere in the Western world right now, and chances are good that you will come across the slogan “support small and local” at some point. From England to Australia, Chile to France, people are beginning to think consciously about where their money is going. In recent years people have been questioning the ethics of big-name companies and synthetic additives, and instead have looked more closely at what they are buying.

The movement’s catchphrase has popped up in hashtags, marketing campaigns, proudly displayed on packaging. At some events, being small and local is a prerequisite. Right at the heart of it all is New Zealand, a little nation at the end of the world where this kind of shopping has become a way of life for many, prompting the slogan “home-grown in New Zealand”.

Why support local? According to NZ Entrepreneur magazine, supporting small is one of the reasons why communities outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch can exist and survive. Money stays within New Zealand this way and helps more people find their niche. Plus, all big businesses once started out small.

One such endeavour is Night Owl Creations. Several years ago, Joanne was a stay-at-home mum, a bright and active woman who liked to sew in her spare time. Fast forward to 2017 and Joanne’s small business has 10,354 likes on Facebook and 1,157 followers on Instagram, prompting Joanne to work full time.

One such endeavour is Night Owl Creations. Several years ago, Joanne was a stay-at-home mum, a bright and active woman who liked to sew in her spare time. Fast forward to 2017 and Joanne’s small business has 10,354 likes on Facebook and 1,157 followers on Instagram, prompting Joanne to work full-time. She started out making stuffed owls that soon became a cult favourite among mums, reaching out to them through Facebook and word of mouth. She began to expand her owl-related paraphernalia and today makes anything you could desire, from bibs to buntings, bedding to blankets.

Another business is Living Nature, which Suzanne Hall began in 1987 in a rural Northland town called Kerikeri. Inspired by the remarkable nature she saw around her, Hall sought to include New Zealand’s botanical wonders in a line of natural skin care products, originally created to battle her own complexion troubles.

Harakeke Flax Gel, Totarol, Manuka Honey, Manuka Oil, Hallo Clay, and Kelp are some of the wonder ingredients used, each one rigorously tested, certified organic, and never tested on animals. Living Nature has grown to export to 14 countries but still maintains its original base in Kerikeri.

This change in consciousness towards supporting small really got a push from the rise of farmers markets. There are 25 recognized markets in New Zealand, boasting around 1,000 small food businesses. Every week 50,000 people shop in them, drawn to the community atmosphere.

The Matakana Farmers Market in Matakana is considered one of the best. “Supporting small businesses helps families directly, because the money normally goes through fewer middlemen,” student Donna Davies says. “If you are selective with each dollar you spend, you can have a say in the world you want to live in. When everything comes from a larger store, part of a (usually international) chain, your voice is diluted”.

It is perhaps pertinent to add that supporting small and local does not always equate to business, but sometimes includes national pride. Two moments in New Zealand history stand out.

The first was in 1905, when the nation’s first rugby team, remembered with affection as the Original All Blacks, boarded a ship for Britain to play rugby. At the time New Zealand was a hard place to live, an expansive, wild terrain that shaped the pioneers who lived there. They were also divided, with little to unite them, and certainly no real notions of nationhood. It was in September of that year when that all began to change.

The Original All Blacks were playing the Exeter County Ground rugby team, a trailblazing group that were known across the empire for their successes. So when the London sports news agency of the time received word that New Zealand had scored 55 and Devon only 4, it confidently switched the scores around, assuming it to be a mistake. It was wrong. The Original All Blacks went on to win all their matches, devastating the British and prompting Lord Baden-Powell to surmise that England was full of “thousands of young men, pale, narrow-chested, hunched-up, miserable specimens smoking endless cigarettes”. They became heroes in their home country and lay the path for the nation to follow not only with sport, but with culture.

The second defining moment in New Zealand’s past that linked the people in a similar manner was the movie trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings”. Everyone knew someone who was working on the set. When each film premiered, people of all ages lined up with sleeping bags and pillows to cuddle up at midnight in overcrowded movie theatres.

People cheered at the sight of local actors on screen and even stayed through the credits to catch their friend or relation’s name. New Zealand became Middle Earth and rocketed into the world’s popular culture, a place where the wild frontiers still existed like magic.

Probably one of the biggest successes that came from the trilogy was the promotion of the country as an ideal location to film, given the range of landscapes, as well as the formidable talents of Weta Workshop, the special effects team behind the movies. After their success with Lord of the Rings by director Peter Jackson, Weta Workshop worked on some of the world’s highest grossing films, including “Avatar”, “Tintin”, “District 9”, “The Hobbit”, “Thor: Ragnarok”, “The Great Wall” and “Blade Runner 2049”. Despite their international accolades, Weta Workshop is still a New Zealand-based team, and they continue to work on local productions.

Coming together is not only good for our pockets and the health of our planet but also for the continuation of our nation. From being fans of the All Blacks rugby team and collectively loving Pineapple Lumps, Marmite and Fat Freddy’s Drop, supporting the home-grown is something that we, as a small island nation falling off the edge of the world, have come to realize is in our best interests and so has become a part of the fabric that makes up the kiwi lifestyle today.

Information box

- 3362,856 of New Zealand small businesses state they have zero employees.

- 97% have less than 20 employees

- 61% of the self-employed are male and 45% are over 50 years of age

- MMedian revenue for small businesses before expenses is $70,000.


Supporting small and local has big impact

Nowadays the slogan "support small and local" is very popular in the Western world. People are now more conscious about where they spend their money. In New Zealand this way of shopping is a way of life for many people so it is common to hear the phrase "home-grown in New Zealand".

According to NZ Entrepreneur magazine by supporting small and local businesses, small communities outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch can exist and survive. The money stays within New Zealand and helps local people find their niche.

One of these small businesses is Night Owl Creations that sells home-made owl-related items of all types and was started by a stay-at-home mum who liked to sew. Another example is Living Nature. The owner uses native ingredients, such as Manuka honey, in a line of natural skin care products.

But supporting local is not just about businesses, it also refers to national pride. In 1905 the Original All Blacks surprised the world when they won all of their rugby matches in England.

Another important moment in national pride was the filming of the movie trilogy "The Lord of the Rings". People all over the world think of New Zealand as Middle Earth, a magic place with wild frontiers. The country is now promoted as an ideal location to film. The kiwi team in charge of the special effects for the trilogy later worked on many international films but they still continue to work on local productions as well.



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Supporting small and local has big impact



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