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What a week it’s been, huh? It’s no secret that at the start of last week, I was nearing burnout territory – uninspired, feeling off, exhausted – and needed a healthy dose of positivity to cheer me up. Coincidentally when I sent off the interview questions, I asked what their best cure for a crap day was and found it to be extremely helpful to cope with the week. So thanks for the foreshadowing, past me. Much appreciated, present me. 


ANYWAY. Let’s carry on.


I spent the week chatting to some of the mentors at this year’s NZ Startup Bootcamp and it’s been really cool to get an insight not only into their career trajectory but their passions as well. From dream dinner guests to advice to people who want to get into their line of work (because how many times have we seen someone in our dream careers that made us wonder how they got there?!), working on these your interviews has been an absolute treat. Thanks Gemma, Julian, Elly, Marc, and Brooke for your time and for generously sharing your stories!


Safe to say by the time Saturday morning rolled around, I was so hyped! The day started bright and early with a 7:30 am wellness class. Shara from Ara Studios took us (well it was for the participants mainly but I love a good tree pose so I joined in) through a simple yoga routine – essential given the weekend was full on and it was nice to start it with a bit of meditation and stretching and mindfulness. Afterwards we were treated to some Gutsy kombucha before heading off to the first workshop of the day. The day was a mix of workshops, mentor time, and working on their ideas. I loved the timer that were on large screens and the video diary style set-up where anyone can record their thoughts/feelings/as the day progresses. 


Here are the top five things I’ve learnt from the day:


It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from, as long as you were keen to participate and work on an idea, you were welcome – I spent sometime with 12-year-old Georgia Tiatia Fa'atoese Latu and her mum Anna, the duo behind Pōtiki Poi. I was so inspired by them – seeing Georgia running the show, working hard on her idea and next steps, Anna doing the mahi while looking after the tiny bub in her arms. Gosh, women are amazing! I sat with them and observed while they work, feeling like a fly on the wall, watching an empire being built from the ground. It was deeply moving. Spoiler alert: they won People’s Choice.


Wellbeing is one of the most underrated secrets to success – there was a group who came prepared with snacks. I spotted some homebaked cookies, fruits, and other treats in one table, obviously some great brain power food to keep them going. Another group went for walks outside to get some fresh air when they felt like they’ve hit a wall or the ideas have gone dry. It was a great reminder that no matter what the hustle and grind culture says (work work work, sleep is for the weak etc), you gotta prioritise your wellbeing. Not only will you be at your best and perform better, you’ll have better ideas and more energy to work away at your idea – essential if you’ve got big plans and dreams to pursue!


The definition of start-up – I feel like the term ‘startup’ is such a buzzword and personally still feel a bit confused as to what they are and how they are different to a company. I know I hear it often and meet a lot of people who have startups so it was awesome to get some clarity around that. We discussed this at one of the sessions and they used Steve Blank’s definition of a startup: “A startup can be defined as a temporary organisation used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model”. 


It’s all about the customer – getting to know the customer is essential to any business, more so in a startup. There are many ways to define what a customer is but ultimately a customer is someone with a problem you’re trying to solve. I like that definition because as someone with a very creative brain and overactive imagination, it’s easy for me to pump out ideas without thinking about who they are for. I’ve already challenged my mindset and reflected on this meaning as I worked on my new project this weekend and the ideas that are flowing feels very different and have a whole new meaning now that I’m armed with this thinking. Another thing that resonated with me was the quote “Treat your initial users as kings. They are really important to the growth of your business”. I agree with this profoundly and think not only is it essential to foster loyalty, from a retention perspective, these users/customers are the backbone of your business.


Investors are looking for your ability to execute
– As someone who admittedly have no idea how financing startup works (I just wanna do the writing and take the photos and do the strategy! I’ve always been mathematically challenged. Ask my High School teacher lol), I found the last workshop of the day ran by Julian So on the fundamentals of a financial models to be the most valuable out of all that I attended. He gave great practical advice and really valuable insight into Angel investing and how it all works like being able to prove you can bring in the right revenue and financial planning.


I was so gutted I had prior commitments and could only attend the Saturday sessions (note to self: clear weekend schedule next year) because I would have loved to come to the other workshops! On my trip back to Auckland, while I was exhausted and ready for a much-deserved sleep, I was also feeling the most energetic, inspired, and motivated I’ve been all week. Thank you NZ Startup Bootcamp and Soda Inc for having me! It’s truly been a great experience.


Signing off for this year’s NZ Startup Bootcamp but I will hand you over to Celine Kao who gave me a lowdown of what happened at the opening and closing ceremony and wrote that beautiful quote you saw above.




Celine:

48 hours, 20 teams, 2 winners – and $20,000 up for grabs.




New Zealand's largest startup competition was about to kick off. Contestants from all over the country had convened at Wintec's glass and brick-walled Atrium, milling about the manicured table settings and free-flowing wine. I was greeted by several friendly volunteers and shown to my table, where I found a seat by my boss. She would be serving as a mentor to the teams this weekend, and was beyond eager to hear their ideas.




The ceremony was MCed by the effervescent Sacha Coburn, whose introductory remarks set a lively tone for the afternoon. She was followed by three homegrown entrepreneurs - Brooke Roberts of Sharesies, Grant Johnson of Rocketspark, and Tony Burt of East Imperial. Each talked about their share of wins, losses, challenges, and everything in between, stressing the importance of failure, of having passion, and of teamwork. One of Tony Burt's top tips was to hire weirdos, which garnered a loud chuckle from my boss who promptly took a photo of me along with the presentation slide and sent it to the team group chat for a giggle.




After the guest speakers had shared their insights, we were ushered into a smaller room for more drinks and nibbles. The competition participants were itching to launch into their scheduled workshops and strategy-forming, so while the VIP Guests treated themselves to yet another artisanal beer, the teams shuffled off to get stuck into their activities.




The countdown begun.




Just over 48 hours later, I arrived back at The Atrium for the closing ceremony. This time, the tables were sprinkled with platters of bao buns and rustic floral arrangements. It was nearly time for the lead-up to the finale that would determine which teams would be taking home a big cheque, and the excitement was palpable.




Sacha Coburn strutted back onstage in a glittery bright green jacket and explained how the ceremony would work. There were two categories: Existing Startup Ideas and New Ideas, with one winning team from each category. The judges had already whittled the teams down to three finalists in each. Each finalist would have five minutes to present their pitches, with an additional 8 minutes of questioning from the judges. As if the mounting pressure wasn’t enough, there was a large countdown onscreen to amplify the tension.




As the teams presented one by one, I quickly noticed that pitching was a skill that some teams needed to work on, and others not so much. The most impressive pitch came from 12-year-old Georgia, who took the stage with her mother and four-month-old brother. She presented her idea of creating poi from sustainable materials with confidence and passion that outshone her rivals by miles. The judges probed her on how she would handle an increase in demand and if she had any career ideas, to which she proudly replied that she wanted to represent her heritage in a positive light and advocate for Māori culture. Unsurprisingly, she won the People's Choice Award, and she and her mother thanked the crowd with a rendition of their favourite waiata, drawing a standing ovation.




The judges did not hold back though. Teams stumbled over questions such as "How do you intend to market your product?" and "Why do you think your competitors have failed so far in bringing the same product to market?" The judging team was checking carefully for evidence that the team had worked well together, had considered market viability, and depth of research as well as a strong purpose.




The winners were RH Innovation and Chameleon, who were both producing innovative scientific products that would enhance the efficiency of business practices in the agricultural sector – fitting for a competition held in the Waikato. I was particularly proud of Chameleon, a team made up of 4 University of Waikato students (as an alumna, I may be a little biased), who pitched confidently and accepted their compliments with grace and dignity. Their idea is rooted solidly in both personal experience and skill, so I'm very excited to see how they develop their product!




And just like that, my first NZ Startup Bootcamp Experience drew to a close. It was so inspiring to be in a room jam-packed with brilliant thinkers and creators, some of whom I'd only ever seen online fixing the world's problems one day at a time. Hamilton gets a bad rap for being somewhat of a cesspool in New Zealand, but there's a growing energy in many parts of the city and across a spectrum of groups. Things are beginning to move and shake, and the old tagline 'City of the Future' seems less of a distant aspiration now and more of a possibility within reach.




I would definitely recommend anyone with a bright idea and a dream of making it happen to try out for next year's Bootcamp. You never know – it might just become a reality.




P.S. Thanks so much to Jess Molina for enabling me to have this experience. To me she is, and always has been, one of the OG Hamilton movers and shakers. (Ed's note - I bribed her massively to say that. Lol! Just kidding. Thank you)




Celine Kao is just another one of those fresh-outta-uni millennials who’s trying to figure out what to do with her comms degree. Today it’s how to get young people to vote, and also finally figure out the perfect social media bio. It will change tomorrow. Or at least the bio part will (she’s been consistently keen on youth activism).


Her cookie jar is stored online at celinekao.weebly.com and she tweets as @celinesque.




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Investing seems like one of those totally intimidating things only real adults too (because being in your late 20s isn't real adulthood yet... right? #thestruggleisreal lol) but Brooke Roberts and her team at Sharesies are on a mission to make it as simple as possible. I loved chatting to her about this because like I said before, I've always felt like investing was something that wasn't accessible to me at this stage of my life so it's good to dispel that myth. Brooke is a total powerhouse and I'm so excited to share with you a bit of what we talked about.




What got you into Sharesies and how did that start?





I’ve always wanted to start a business and had a passion for finance, for how we can really make money easy. There was a group of us who came up with the idea for Sharesies. We wanted to make investing easy and accessible and we all rallied to make it happen.




What was your background before Sharesies?




Before Sharesies I was in Global Product Marketing at Xero and before that I was at Kiwibank heading up their saving, investment, and transactional product.




What drives you and Sharesies?



For us, we really want to create a financially empowered generation so everyone can feel like they can be an investor and investing isn’t only for the rich. We want all New Zealanders to know that investing is now accessible to them and for more people to be talk about money and have these conversations. You don’t need to share how much you earn but you can always share what you’re doing and your experiences and what insights you have that can help somebody else increase their financial awareness.




What’s the best thing about getting to do what you do?





Best thing… There are so many great things about being able to be in this business especially when you’re so passionate about what you’re doing. The key thing though is I’m excited to go in and be surrounded by all these incredible people who do remarkable work at Sharesies. We’ve got a team of nearly 30 now and I just love the energy and passion that you just feel.




What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp competition?



I just love that people are starting more purpose driven businesses nowadays and I love seeing that energy that people have when they are so passionate about why they would do something. Seeing the hustle and business ideas come to life!




What was the last book/song/or film that’s resonated with you?





There are so many that come to mind! I’m a big fan of what The Spinoff do, I think they have good content that are really insightful. I’ve also really gotten into Mother Father Son. I like the drama of it. I should also probably say Game of Thrones!




A book that I’ve really enjoyed too that I’ve just read recently is Trust Factor: The science of Creating High-Performance Companies. It’s really interesting! It challenges the old definition of what high performance is – it used to be working overtime, work harder, but what I like about that book is that it makes you think about high performance as helping people be their best and making sure that you’re creating an environment that’s inclusive and collaborative and helps people to thrive.




What’s the best cure for a crappy day?



I think for me it’s about managing my energy, not my time. So if you feel like your energy is flat, going for a run, listening to music, or even walking really helps me. Having a laugh with a friend – that’s also really helpful.




What’s your advice to your younger self?




I started businesses when I was in school and I think you’re so much braver in your naivety sometimes. And then you go into University and you learn all this jargon, stuff you probably already intuitively know – not all of it of course. But my advice to my younger self is to just do you.




Any last tips for anyone wanting to get into your industry and follow your footsteps?





If you’ve got a great idea, think about the team you’ll need around you to help make it come to life. For Sharesies, there’s seven people who founded it and I think that has been super valuable in this industry in particular because it’s so highly regulated so it’s important to have all the skills you need to help get your business off the ground. Just go ahead and do it!




Find out more about Sharesies here.




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This one is for anyone who's ever wished financial education was part of the core curriculum we learnt at school. My relationship with money is forever a work in progress and every now and again I wonder if I formed healthier habits with it had I learnt more money skills while I was at school. Enter Banqer, a financial education platform that provides a hands-on environment for teachers and students to get curious, creative, and ultimately confident with money. It's such an innovative concept that's practical and actually makes a difference in the way the future generation look at finances. Best of all, it's 100% free to Primary & Intermediate schools and is already being used by 70,000+ Australasian kids. Today's interview is with the very cool, very talented Marc McHardy, co-founder and lead design at Banqer. We chat about his love of problem solving, dumplings (because why wouldn't you talk about dumplings? They're amazing!), and taking chances.




What got you into your line of work and how did end up where you are:




I’ve always been drawn to building things, taking things apart and illustration so design was a natural choice, heading down the digital path was a no brainer for where the industry was going. I fell into web and interaction design, it seemed to be what I was good at and piqued my interest, there’s just so much problem solving in it, from understanding people to making the technology work. I was lucky to get offered a job at a design agency out of Uni, that was down to a great comms department at Waikato Uni and deciding to do a final project that was a bit different at the time. I got wrapped up in Banqer at a startup weekend in 2014 and have been involved since. I got where I am today by making great connections, by being curious about how things work, and by marrying my own interests with things that I know others will take notice of.





What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?




Seeing the wide range of ideas that come out of it and the slow but steady realisation from teams that they really need to prove to the judges that they have a successful business model. Also just seeing those special teams that have a magic team dynamic where things just click.





Best thing about getting to do what you do:






Solving problems. I love being able to talk to those involved, being exposed to different points of view and life experiences, understanding the problems that are being faced and seeing how all of that can evolve into a beautiful and usable solution that you can be confident about. Without empathising and talking to the people you’re designing for you can’t truly be confident in your design.





Last book/song/or film that resonated with you and why:






Lock In by John Scalzi, it’s a really different type of sci-fi book and gets you thinking from a few perspectives you wouldn’t normally consider. And it’s just a real page turner, that guy knows how to write.





Best cure for a crap day:






Going for a run! …and then eating some dumplings and bok choy with a good beer.






Dream guests for a dinner party:






Ryan Reynolds, Matt Berninger (The National), Jessica Hische, John Scalzi.  Partly because that’s such a weird combo that the interactions would be bizarre and awkward.






Advice you’d give your younger self?






You really don’t have much to lose, take more chances.






Tips for anyone wanting to get into your industry/follow your footsteps:







Take chances, focus on making sure that the work you’re doing is something that others will take notice of or be interested in. You can be self indulgent but more often than not that’s only going to satisfy yourself.






You may not be good at sketch or illustrator or programming but those are all things you can learn, go learn them, there are so many resources out there, but also get good at listening to people, there’s a difference between listening to someone’s problems and telling someone what their problems are.






Be enthusiastic about what you do, be your own cheerleader - don’t focus on the negatives, I’ve found it really hard to do this and have had to work hard to not bring up the flaws (I perceive) in my designs to clients and colleagues, I think this is the design form of tall poppy syndrome.







Join Banqer here.




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If you have never read a piece by Elly Strang (seriously, where have you been?!), I can assure you that you are missing out. As editor of Idealog Magazine, Elly has written quite literally a lot of articles from think pieces, opinion, and Q&As. Her piece "How can New Zealand design a better society" really resonated with me the first time I read it and I think it's even more relevant now. What an absolute treat it is to have her on this week's In Conversation special! We chat about crazy career opportunities, Endgame (of course!), and her advice for anyone wanting to get into her industry. Girlcrush alert!




Career highlight so far:




There’s been a lot of moments, particularly because every time you put a magazine to print, it feels like raising and then releasing a child into wild – it’s simultaneously terrifying, and a huge weight off your shoulders. But last year was a particular highlight as I travelled to Sydney for Vivid Festival to interview some pretty big names: Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron, Google Empathy Lab founder Danielle Krettek and ex-Wired editor Scott Dadich. All were surprisingly down to earth, and the latter two admitted they still get impostor syndrome, which I thought was quite interesting – no level of fame or success counteracts the natural doubts that affect most humans.



Best thing about getting to do what you do:



I get to connect with people on a deeper level, probe them about what makes them and their business tick and then tell those stories. It’s a process that requires a lot of trust, a lot of attentiveness and a lot of care, but it’s always worthwhile. It hasn’t really got old after five years in the business.



Also, we’re increasingly trying to take a role-model like stance and educating and inspiring businesses on best practice, particularly with our monthly trends we’ve been exploring at Idealog, such as Audacious Change. It’s really meaningful work and feels like we’re creating some change – or at least some ripples – in the business community.



Last book/song/or film that resonated with you and why:



Deepak Chopra’s new podcast, The Theory Of Everything – in particular the episode with Dr. Michio Kaku, a world-renowned physicist, about what’s beyond our universe and the science behind consciousness.



The Avengers Endgme’s ending had me sobbing like a baby.



And I’ve been reading a lot of good books, but next on my to read list is Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It. There’s an excerpt chapter here it looks pretty damn good.



Best cure for a crap day:



I’ve become part of the yoga cult that’s sweeping the world and every time I do a class, I come away feeling so blissful. It’s the antithesis to this busy, noisy digital realm we’re spending most of our time in, and it makes my mind at peace after being bombarded with information all day.



If that’s not an option, then a hot bath and a book or a run always does the trick.



Dream guests for a dinner party:



Oprah is legitimately my spirit animal, I can’t get enough of her SuperSoul and Masterclass podcasts. So I’d say her, Whitney Wolfe Herd (founder of Bumble, co-founder of Tinder) as I really admire the values she built her business on and George R. R. Martin, so he can tell me how Game of Thrones ends.



Advice you’d give your younger self?



Stop being so self-conscious as everyone feels insecure about their abilities deep down, it’s just some hide it better than others. If you can put those doubts aside and stop playing so small, success will be much more closely within your grasp.



Tips for anyone wanting to get into your industry/follow your footsteps:




Start small, and humble: Have big dreams, but start by getting some experience under your belt, even if it means interning for a very small amount of money and sucking up to various publications or people. It means you’re building your portfolio and forming connections that will pay off later when roles arise.



Connections are key: On that note, networking is your best friend. You can be one of many impersonal CVs in a pile or you can form face-to-face relationships that will leave a lasting impression, and these will lead to greater opportunities later down the track. LinkedIn is an awesome tool for this – you can keep all of your professional contacts in one place and use it as a platform to showcase your best work.



No matter how successful you are, always have a mentor and a student-like mentality: When you feel as though you’ve learned all there is to know in a role, you start to get cocky, unmotivated and narrowminded. There are always new skills to be learnt and feedback to take on board, even if you’ve made it to a leadership position. Ensure you’ve got a mentor figure who inspires you and has more experience than you that you can turn to for advice, even if you have to look outside your company to find them.




Follow Idealog here.




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I've always been extremely fascinated in how other people's world looks like - especially those in very different industries than me. Today's interview is with someone from the finance industry, a far cry from my creative background. Reading up on Julian prior to this interview, I found his business so different, so unique, and even quirky. I just knew I had to include him in this series! What really struck me when I was learning about Julian and what he does is how friendly he's made being a CFO. Not that CFO's aren't friendly (in my experience some of them even bring their dogs to work on casual Fridays). What I simply mean is that he's made CFOs so accessible in his business, CFO4U, a contract/virtual CFO service that offers virtual CFO services to high growth and start-up companies. This concept is unique and valuable, and Julian is so interesting to chat to. We talk about the best about what he does and dispel the myth that accounting is boring...




What got you into your line of work and how did end up where you are:



I am a Chartered Accountant by background and had been in senior finance and executive roles prior to founding my own business, CFO4U. CFO4U provides contract and virtual CFO (Chief Financial Officer) services to high growth and startup companies. It all started as a side hustle when initially I helped some of the startup companies that I invested in their finance area.





What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?



Meeting and working with new people, whether they are mentors or participants of the NZ Startup Bootcamp. What I really enjoy is that one or two years down the track, I can see the positive impact of the event with some of the participants take the learnings from the event and start to build their own startups.





Best thing about getting to do what you do:





Working with so many different business and helping them to succeed!





Last book/song/or film that resonated with you and why:



The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A really worthwhile read for anyone who wants to be a better leader and better person.





Best cure for a crap day:




Exercise. I am a bit of a gym junkie and HIIT (High Interval Intensive Training) is my exercise of choice. What I like about is that I get absolutely wasted after the exercise and all I can think about is recovery, but not the crap that was in my head prior to I step inside the gym.





Dream guests for a dinner party:



I love political debates and discussions! Having a dinner party with all the NZ present and past PMs that I started to follow in their political careers like Jacinda Ardern, Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley and Jim Bolger will be the like best dinner party guests ever. Can you imagine the passion, the heat debate around the table? Sounds like heaven to me!



Advice you’d give your younger self?




Be patient. Things that really matter in life such as relationships, career or business take time to build.




Tips for anyone wanting to get into your industry/follow your footsteps:





Study accounting and work towards becoming a Chartered Accountant is a good first step. People often have this misconception that accountants are boring and the career options are limited. This is far from the truth! I've met a lot of interesting people and CEOs that are / were accountants.  Jolie Hodson, the recently appointed CEO of Spark was an accountant and there are so many others who have started their careers in this industry and have gone on to do other things!




Find out more about Julian and CFO4U here.




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I can’t remember exactly how I met Gemma Major many moons ago, but I'm glad our paths crossed. She's headstrong, brilliant, and absolutely inspiring and I love that we share a lot of the same values. It feels right to be kicking off this week's in conversation with her. I’ve witnessed firsthand her passion and dedication to Seed Waikato right from the get go, and I've admired how outspoken she is when it comes to talking about mental health and her own story.



What got you into your line of work and how did end up where you are:


Because I was pissed off and decided I wanted change the things I cannot accept. I dug deep and found the courage to dream, to find others who believed in that dream, and started executing. I wanted to use my lived experience of mental distress to help other young people overcome their challenges.



When I studies at University of Waikato, I became interested in emerging social enterprise models, and found the challenge of generating impact and profit an exciting one. Introduce social innovation into the mix, alongside community-led development, and I’ve found my playground.



I volunteered with Momentum Waikato when I was studying, and soon after became the second employee. Working in start-up mode for four years at the regions’ community foundation taught me how truly wicked and complex our economic, social and environmental issues are, and in order to support and empower real change, philanthropy needs to be strategic.



After publishing Waikato Vital Signs, and listening to young people across the Waikato, it was clear that millennials wanted a place to call home, to be inspired, to give back, to tackle issues they care about, to improve their wellbeing. So we just started.



What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?



Empowering people to turn ideas into reality that create real value for the world. I’m pumped to share the learnings from my ultimate f*ck ups to accelerate the process for the attendees.



Best thing about getting to do what you do:



Empowering millennials to realise and step into their potential.



Last book/song/or film that resonated with you and why:



It’s got to be Alice in Wonderland, the original 1951 Disney version. It always resonated. Be madly curious and look for wonder and awe, always. It’s there, you just need to look.



Best cure for a crap day:



Road trip to Raglan for fish and chips at the wharf, and a barefoot walk on the beach.



Dream guests for a dinner party:


My niece, Evie Louise

Alice from Alice in Wonderland

Oprah

Andy Warhol

Greta Thunberg

Jacinda Ardern

Brene Brown

Beyonce



Advice you’d give your younger self?




You are capable of epic things. Believe in yourself. Go and figure out how to believe in yourself.



Don’t take drugs. It will make your mental distress so much worse. There are no words to explain how bad it will get.



Tips for anyone wanting to get into your industry/follow your footsteps:




Find like-valued people. Get involved in a community. Surround yourself with dreamers and doers, believers, encouragers, and truth-speakers.



Spend time thinking about and reflecting on what makes you mad in the world. Is it racism? Inequality? Youth suicide? Climate change? The health system? Politics? Talk about it with your friends and Whaanau. Ask yourself: ‘What kind of change do I want to be part of? What kind of impact do I want to create?’ You have to find your own personal ‘why’ that will carry you through the times when you want to give up.



Then find a mentor who is an expert in the thing you want to become, and who wants to nurture and develop your potential. Find someone who amplifies values you admire, and has developed their unique strengths to create value in the world.



Invest in your own development, and learn how to increase your resilience and adopt a growth mindset. Practice this often.



Have a self-care plan that you are responsible for. Understand what activities improve your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing and do those things regularly.



Lastly, work hard when no-one is looking.



Yeah, I think that’s it!



Follow Seed Waikato on their website, Facebook, and Instagram.



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So no one told you life was gonna be this way *claps ala F.R.I.E.N.D.S




No, seriously. I was having one of those weeks. It was painful. No matter what I did, I just couldn't shake it off. I was so off my game and I didn't know what was wrong with me. I mean, I knew the week back after a holiday (no matter how short it was), was always going to be relatively painful. Plus all those short weeks we had back in April meant that it's been a while since I've had a full week of working, of being in routine, of doing the same shit everyday.




So while I was somewhat prepared for last to week to kinda suck, I definitely did not anticipate it to feel like that. Work was so busy with new deadlines and a day trip to the other side of country, I started getting sick while in Brisbane and felt the brunt of it on Monday and got progressively worse as the week went by. I was walking around like a zombie in the office and out on the streets as I made my way home. And even though I've declined all events last week so I could just be home and chill out, it still feels like I was running around like a headless chicken. Friday was the longest day I've had in a while and by the end of it, I couldn't wait to go home and have a bit of a cry and hide under covers.




Which brings me to the point of this post. It's not all doom and gloom, not as whiny as it started. But for 24 hours I shut off social media and outside noise, limited my technology time, and did this instead. I had leftover Instax film from my trip (thank you, Undertow Media, for letting me borrow your camera because mine broke and I really wanted to shoot in film) and thought I'd get the creative juices flowing. It's one of the things that always 'fixes' me - imagining, creating, and just playing around with whatever I've got.




I told myself instead of wallowing, I'm going to spend the little energy I had left on things that I actually love. So here it is. My remedy to one those days/weeks/months/years. Repeat as often as you need, until you feel like you're back on solid ground, until parts of you feel human again.




This is what *usually* works for me




A hot bath/shower, watering my plant babies, putting a face mask on (the glam glow glitter/sparkly one is a fave, lighting some candles, cleaning my brushes/rearranging my vanity, eating comfort food aka big bowls of spaghetti and wine in bed, reading a book, jumping in bed to sleep it off.
Things are better in the morning.
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I've seen this quote by Alisa Jacobs pop up everywhere and it's always resonated with me. It seems like these days we are all hustling. Working towards something, chasing a dream, getting our start-ups and side hustles and passion projects off the ground. I can't scroll past Instagram profiles without seeing 'founder/co-founder @' in every second page I click on. It's true - entrepreneurial culture is alive and well.

We are so obsessed with success stories, with how others overcome failure, and how one person's small idea can quite literally turn into an empire and legacy they leave behind. I've always been interested in other people's stories - some would say I'm just nosy - but I love hearing about other people's lives.

I sometimes wish I was one of those founders of something. Because even though I have a side-hustle/passion project, I still hold down a 9 to 5. I feel as though my creative/artistic temperament mean that I shuffle between ideas and need that extra push to finish something. Or maybe I just haven't found 'my thing' yet - you know, that big idea that I feel I can devote my life to get off the ground.

And you know what? That's okay. I think often we forget that we are the founders/EIC's/CEO's of our own lives. That ultimately we have control over how we live our lives, over the work we do, the passions we choose to hone.

That said, while I figure out my 'something', I want to hear about other people who have truly found theirs, who are currently learning as they go, pursuing ideas that they believe in. It's inspiring to see others chase a dream, and I think we need to be celebrating more of that.

I'm partnering with NZ Startup Bootcamp because I love what they're about. Not only do I get to spend time with some of NZ's most brilliant, creative, and inspiring minds, but I get to see new ideas literally being formed over the course of the weekend. NZ Startup Bootcamp is the only 48 hour startup bootcamp in the country and the teams participating have an intense but highly rewarding weekend ahead of them. I guess so do I. I'll be on the ground capturing the weekend, showing you the highs and lows. I hear there will be some incredible speakers and mentors on the day and I'm sure I'll be leaving the bootcamp inspired and closer to finding my 'thing'.

Everyday this week in the lead up to the event, I'll be sharing some stories from people I find interesting and inspiring, chatting to them about everything from how they got to where they are and what book/movie/film they've seen lately that really struck a chord.
This week is going to be so exciting!
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NEO has been Auckland's best-kept secret for the past few months.




I stumbled upon it one rainy Friday night when I went for an after work catchup with some friends. One of them suggested this place on Queen St that I'd never been to but have walked past several times. I've seen people dining on the balcony and had always wondered how the heck do I get up there? But still. I was promised this place had good happy hour deals so off we went.




Even in the pouring rain, we chose to sit outside. The area was completely covered and they had outdoor heaters. We were good. I can't remember everything we ate or the drinks we had except that I had a cider and some buttermilk fried chicken, but what I do remember was how obsessed I was by the interiors. The arched mirrored wall behind the bar, the funky but muted wallpaper, the outdoor area (seriously - dining with a view of Dior and Prada will never get old)... I had to find out more! So I did what any millennial would do: I looked on their social media. Imagine my surprise when I realised all their accounts weren't liked or followed by anyone I know! Ummm what? This place was literally untapped territory. It is one of the most picturesque, highly-Instagrammable spots in the city, accessible especially for commuters with Britomart just a stones throw away.




There was absolutely no way that I was letting this go to waste. Coming up here immediately made me feel like I could be in Paris - perhaps because of the lush greenery against old buildings that screamed 'Europe' - and thought that the rooftop area was going to be even more beautiful in sunlight.






I was actually the one who approached NEO for this collaboration. I just knew that I had to experience more of the place, try more of the menu (spoiler alert: the food is divine. They have swedish meatballs in the menu too, and if I remember correctly, that was the thing people asked me the most when I was at the IKEA NZ launch earlier this year. But more on the food later), and learn more about who NEO is.




Luckily NEO is owner-operated and Mariann was gracious enough to host me and do a collaboration. So on Saturday, I took my very tired and hungry self, and one of my best friends for a day of catch-ups and food. I was listening to Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place" on my way there and it turned out to be the perfect soundtrack to what I was about to experience.



 




Interior designer Jess Blair from Jess Interiors (@jessinteriors on Instagram) worked her magic on the place. Every detail is intentional – from the murals to the lush but discreet plants inside that add life to the place, makes for the perfect casual dining experience. I like the way they’ve fitted the restaurant too – there’s cosy corners everywhere and you can either sit on the booths looking out to Queens Arcade (and the DJ booth) or seating near the mural or facing the outdoor area. The first time I was up here, I actually kept taking photos of the bar. There's something about the design, the booze display, the marbled benchtop - it's so luxe yet so chill at the same time. You're in a very nice place without the pretention or stuffiness. I'd go as far as saying this is THE spot to impress someone on a first date.



 



And we haven’t even talked about the real star of the show yet – the food! One look at the menu and it’s clear where NEO’s influences come from. It’s exciting to see Scandinavian dishes so accessible and as soon as I saw the wagyu meatballs I just knew I had to have that. Their menu and pricing is straightforward too - $15 for starters, $20 for small plates, $25 for larger portions. We started with a small plate of the duck croquettes and a coffee. Unlikely pairing, probably. But it was early in the morning (12:30 on a Saturday lol) and I was feeling the effects of a big night out. Perhaps this was the perfect antidote to a hangover – coffee and something fried. The croquettes were perfectly crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Almost like I was eating deep fried risotto or mashed potatoes. It was delicious! I think I won’t share a plate next time because it’s so good. Sorry, friends.




We got to try a fizzy concoction with a simple syrup, the perfect drink for sitting outside on a lazy day. Then it was time for more food! It was so hard to decide what to order first – there were so many choices, so many types of food I’ve never tried before. There was a running joke when we first started that we could stay all day and actually, we pretty much did, lunch turning to cocktail hour. Anyway, the food. We ended up ordering the dill seasoned potatoes, poached eggs, garlic yoghurt, and burnt sage butter from the brunch menu and then the wagyu meatballs with sour cream, rutabaga, and lingonberry as well as the lam shoulder, sweet n sour dill cream, pappardelle dish. I didn’t actually take a lot of photos of it because I was so excited to eat (actually, that’s a lie, I took a while) but just look at them! I genuinely couldn’t pick a favourite dish but right now all I want to eat are those meatballs and the pasta so maybe that’s my answer. I definitely need to do another long lunch up there and try more of their menu – maybe I’ll bring my entire family so I can eat off their plate and try more things. We love a strategy! LOL. Also we were so full we didn’t end up getting dessert so that’s another one for next time.







I honestly cannot get enough of that outdoor area! We were seated right across from Dior andwe kept pretending we were rich ladies who lunch. That outdoor area is also so 'gram worthy not only because of the surrounding buildings but because it gets really good light for some next level selfies.


 


We did, however, move on to one of the cosy couches in the corner for some cocktails.

I had the Emerald Fizz – gin, glera brut, lime, cucumber, mint which is indeed as refreshing as it looks. Simon had the Berry Dangerous fix because he looooooves Campari and this one had that, some gin, cherry brandy, strawberry, lemon, and orange bitters. If you thought the place was so Instagrammable already then you need to see the cocktails! That orange peel carving. The vibrant colours against the marble! Get yourself up at NEO stat for happy hour – they do great deals on craft beers, bottled beer and wine/prosecco 4:30 – 6:30 pm on Saturdays. The cocktails are pretty reasonable for the design and size of the glass considering Auckland prices can sometimes skyrocket when it comes to pretty drinks. These are $18 each and they also have three other concoctions I have yet to try but the Neo Pineapple Daiquiri sounds like a bit of me.




Mariann said she wanted the place to feel like an oasis, somewhere you can escape to that makes you feel like you’re hidden away somewhere without having to leave the city. From where I was sitting I could hear the hustle and bustle from the ever busy Queen Street. A musician was in the corner playing a tune that sounds familiar but I can’t quite place, there was chatter, the occasional honking from the buses. I saw lush greenery against old buildings (Queens Arcade itself has been around for 90 years), the stretch of the main CBD Skyline, Commercial Bay in one corner. Being up at NEO makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into the city’s best-kept secret and I just can’t get enough.


NEO

Level 1 Queens Arcade

34 - 40 Queen St


This post was created in collaboration with NEO
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1. This illustration of me by Bonnie from Studio Bon literally made me ugly cry on my couch. It was a Sunday afternoon when I saw my Instagram was buzzing with notifications. It didn't register at first that I was tagged in a post, I just assumed it was the previous post Bonnie wrote following the events at Christchurch. Imagine my surprise when it finally clicked that she had illustrated me! ME!!!! ME??? What!




2. Ben & Jerry's recently sent me their new moo-phoria range and it's really good! A bit sweeter than the vegan range, but the P.B. dough is so so so goooood I had this big bowl of ice cream as a pre-dinner snack when I finished work this afternoon. Maybe I'll have it as dessert tonight too. Who knows? (I do and I will)




3. ROCKETMAN!!!! I've lost count of how many times I've watched the trailer. I even made my parents sit down and watch it with me. LOL. We're nearly in May and while a part of me is shocked at how fast 2019 seem to be going, there's a huge part of me that's pretty darn excited for it because of Rocketman. I've always loved Elton John's theatrics, the outlandish outfits, overall IDGAF cool vibe he exudes... and from the trailer it looks like Taron Egerton pretty much nails it. Also Richard Madden is playing John Reid. You know I'm thirsty for The Maddening (a nickname that no one else but me uses haha) so my excitement levels are through the roof right now! Also this Tiny Dancer duet with Elton John and Taron Egerton is so good. My heart!






4. Took the bus to the shore for the first time last night and went along to the Federation runway show at Madam Woo. Got absolutely spoilt with a full banquet dinner and a fashion show. I don't think I've ever had a proper dinner of rice and veggies and meat while a DJ was spinning some serious beats in the background before but it was so much fun. THIS power outfit is exactly what I had imagined I'd like to wear when I smash the patriarchy and lack of diversity in mainstream media. Needless to say, I need this in my life stat!





5. Logitech recently sent me the MX Master 2S mouse to try and it's been an absolute lifesaver these past few days. I've started working on some changes on this website in the long weekend (hello new colours!) and even though I've been an Apple user for ages, I still can't seem to get used to right clicking on the trackpad. This mouse has made coding and HTML easier and it's really good for different kinds of surfaces so I've been working from bed and have been using the mouse on linen. It's a dream.




6. There comes a time in your life where you realise that quite possibly you have turned into one of those corporate wankers who uses buzz words in their everyday vernacular. This shocking realisation came to me this morning as I was organising my desktop and started thinking about ways I could 'optimise' my life. I've been working on an optimisation project at work lately and I guess it's so ingrained into my thinking now that I'm starting to apply this strategy into aspects of my life. Jess Molina Optimisation coming this winter! LOL.





7. Last week was an epic week for deliveries and I still have to pinch myself whenever someone sends me things to try. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd get some pretty cool opportunities through this website and the word grateful isn't enough to describe it. Anyway, if you watched Blues Clues as a kid, you might remember the mail song that Steve sings: Here's the mail it never fails it makes me wanna wag my tail when it comes I wanna yell MAAAAIIIIL. I think I'm gonna sing that song everytime I 'unbox' from now on.






8. About Time is still my favourite movie of all time. It is literally everything good about film.






9. I took my pal Thomas with me to the opening of Platform 8 two weeks ago and we had such a great time! The lobby of the old Auckland train station has been turned into a beautiful restaurant and bar. It was so nice to dine under those intricate ceilings. The food was so amazing and fresh and I can't wait to come back! It's so exciting to finally have a decent bar/restaurant to hang out in near Spark Arena. You know when you're not feeling the opening act and you know that the headliner is going to take their sweet time and delay the concert anyway but you want to be nearby just in case? Well, this place is the answer! Concert or not, this place is worth the trip especially for the chicken skewers and smoked tuatua.






10. On a more serious note, this piece by my good friend Chamanthie wrote this harrowing piece called 'From Christchurch to Colombo' over on The Spinoff. It's a must read and quite confronting. I still don't have enough words for the senseless acts of terrorism we've seen these past few months. It feels too painful to talk about and often I don't even know where to begin. But this piece is a great place to start.
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