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BusinessApril 18, 2018

Ten young entrepreneurs New Zealanders should know about


Wisdom and experience come with age, but these young people are proving to be wise beyond their years. We’ve picked out ten Kiwi business moguls aged 30 years or under that are promising good things for the future of New Zealand business.

We love to perpetuate the stereotype of the slacker millennial, spending hours on end scrolling through social media and whittling away a lifetime’s worth of savings on $22 brunches. But when we look at some of the most exciting businesses in New Zealand today, young people are are often the ones leading the pack. Because what young people lack in experience and expertise, they make up for with enthusiasm, freshness and a whole lot else.

Our previous list highlighted ten amazing women in business, but it’s a list that could’ve gone on and on. This time it’s no different with hundreds of young people promising good things across New Zealand. But ten is a nice round number, so we’ve taken the time to pick out a few young people in business who we think deserve your special attention:

Motion Sickness co-founder Sam Stuchbury (Facebook/Motion Sickness)

Sam Stuchbury – Motion Sickness

From living in a dingy Dunedin flat to being New Zealand’s sole representative for this year’s Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list, Sam Stuchbury’s already accomplished a lot at just 27 years old.
Along with fellow Otago University alumni Alex McManus and Jono De Alwis, Stuchbury helped establish creative content agency Motion Sickness in 2012 during his final year of study. Six years later (which included a move up to Auckland from Dunedin), Motion Sickness now boasts a slew of high profile clients including Blunt Umbrellas, Burger Burger, Les Mills and Jim Beam. Stuchbury and co. have made a name for themselves as social media gurus, and in 2016, branched out to help co-found The Social Club which links up brands with social media influencers to collaborate on campaigns. The Social Club is the largest company of its kind in New Zealand, working with 3,500 influencers and 350 different brands.

Kiwi Landing Pad’s Sian Simpson (

Sian Simpson – Kiwi Landing Pad

Based in the startup epicentre of San Francisco, 26-year-old Sian Simpson has been running Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) – a work, gathering and mentoring space for New Zealand companies – since 2014. As global community manager and sole KLP employee, a large part of Simpson’s role involves meeting with business owners, connecting them with local networks and facilitating events throughout the year, making her a crucial figure for providing a “soft” landing point for New Zealand in the heart of the Bay Area.
In addition to her work with KLP, Simpson has also been creating videos and interviewing speakers for SaaStr – a website for companies that provide ‘Software as a Service’ – for the last three years. In the past, she’s also worked for the US arm of Kiwi video production company 90 Seconds.

GirlBoss founder Alexia Hilbertidou (supplied)

Alexia Hilbertidou – Girlboss

At just 18-years-old, Alexia Hilbertidou’s resume already reads like a lifetime of work. Soon after winning the Unitec Coding App competition in 2015 for online food redistribution platform KaiShare, 16-year-old Hilbertidou founded GirlBoss NZ – an organisation encouraging young women to embrace STEM, entrepreneurship and higher leadership. She was inspired to create GirlBoss when she noticed she was the only girl in her Year 12 IT and physics class at Albany Senior High.
More than two years later, GirlBoss has become New Zealand’s second largest network of women with nearly 8,000 members. It primarily targets high school students through workshops and presentations on leadership, entrepreneurship, science and technology, with past speakers including My Food Bag’s Theresa Gattung, Xero’s Anna Curzon, Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Between all that, Hilbertodou’s also managed to make time to intern at the New Zealand Treasury, win a 2016 Westpac Women of Influence Award, receive a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, and become the youngest person ever to go on a project mission with NASA.

Crimson Education’s Sharndre Kushor and Jamie Beaton (Supplied)

Jamie Beaton & Sharndre Kushor – Crimson Education

When you think of smart, young entrepreneurs from New Zealand, most people’s minds will think of the pair behind Crimson Education. Launched in 2013 when Jamie Beaton and Sharndre Kushor were still in their teens, the Auckland-based global consultancy that helps people gain scholarships to Ivy League schools has since worked with over 20,000 students and is worth more than $200 million. Crimson employs more than 2,000 tutors and mentors from around the world with locations in places like Australia, Vietnam, Thailand and Russia.

In between building their multimillion dollar education empire and providing mentoring/tutoring services to students themselves, both Kushor and Beaton have achieved notable success with their own education and careers. Shortly after setting up Crimson, Beaton went on to study maths and economics at Harvard University while working as an analyst at Tiger Investment. Currently, he’s studying towards an MBA and Masters in Education at Stanford University, and is set to study at the University of Oxford next year as a Rhodes Scholar. Kushor went on to study health sciences at the University of Auckland and serves as a director at multiple education-based organisations such as MedView, Play Atlantic and NumberWorks’nWords.

Donielle Brooke at Designer Wardrobe’s Auckland-based rental store (Instagram/@doniellebrooke)

Donielle Brooke – Designer Wardrobe

When Donielle Brooke was 25, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer which drained her energy and left her bedridden for a year. With bills to pay but unable to work, she started selling a bunch of her designer clothes online. She set up a Facebook page – Designer Wardrobe – which, in a matter of days, attracted hundreds of members as a place to virtually sell and buy designer goods. Designer Wardrobe had clearly hit a nerve, thriving on people’s love for pre-loved fashion.

After mostly recovering from her debilitating illness, Brooke went on to grow Designer Wardrobe into a business force to be reckoned with. It now boasts more than 100,000 members and a board consisting of big names like Spark chief executive Simon Moutter and GrabOne founder Shane Bradley. It’s migrated to a dedicated website which brings in over 1.2 million page views a month. It even has a physical location now in the Auckland suburb of Grafton where people can go and rent outfits for special occasions. Last year, it had its biggest financial success yet, raising over one million dollars via equity crowdfunding platform Snowball Effect.

Shay Wright (right) with Te Whare Hukahuka co-founder Travis O’Keefe (Facebook/Te Whare Hukahuka)

Shay Wright – Te Whare Hukahuka

In 2016, Shay Wright, then 27 years old, was named as part of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list in the Social Entrepreneur category. He was listed for his work with Te Whare Hukahuka (The House of Innovation), the organisation he co-founded with Travis O’keefe in 2015 that aims to help iwi and other Māori organisations create or grow profits from their assets and offer training and education to local Iwi leaders.
Wright has been involved in developing strategies for the Māori unit at The Icehouse, Māori trusts embarking on new growth projects, the initial Callaghan Innovation’s Māori Engagement Strategy, and the Government’s Māori Economic Development Advisory Board. Wright was also a finalist for the 2016 Young Enterprise Alumni Award, and the 2017 Young NZ Innovator Award and Matariki Young Achiever Award.

Jessica Grubisa (left) and Madeleine Harman (right) (

Madeleine Harman & Jessica Grubisa – Harman Grubisa

Madeleine Harman and Jessica Grubisa first met while studying fashion at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. They later went on to launch Harman Grubisa in 2014 and become a rising star of New Zealand’s fashion scene.
The pair, now in their late 20s, have gone on to win international awards with five-figure cash prizes, open New Zealand Fashion Week to join the ranks of Kate Sylvester and Trelise Cooper, and expand into more than just clothes with a range of footwear and jewellery on offer now as well. Their most recent big break was having their clothes worn by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her feature article in Vogue magazine.
In between all that, they both still work on the floor of their Jervois Rd boutique, dealing directly with customers while their studio sits upstairs.

Passphere’s Ezel Kokcu (

Ezel Kokcu – Passphere

At 24-years-old, Ezel Kokcu is already a seasoned entrepreneur. Last year, she launched Passphere, her third start-up, which gathers analytics and information on visitors at events which can then be used as a marketing tool for organisers. It builds on her two previous ventures, Non-Stop Tix, a ticketing start-up, and STQRY – an app that allows people to discover museums and events in their area that match their interests. STQRY (which is now known as Area360) was a particular success, raising $5.5 million in capital before Kokcu decided to sell it off. Not bad for a university dropout.

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