Meet the Kilmarnock Team as we move into our new Basecamp in Wigram, Christchurch
Meet the Kilmarnock Team as we move into our new Basecamp in Wigram, Christchurch
Welcome to seeds, a weekly show where we talk purpose with inspiring people making a positive impact with their lives. This episode we learn about a childhood in Mexico, introducing the BlackBerry to Europe with Vodafone, being involved in IT start-ups in England and how all these unique experiences combined to provide a perfect background to working as the CEO at Kilmarnock Enterprises, a world leading example of a Social Enterprise based in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The show “Seeds: Talking Purpose” can be found on iTunes here – subscribe to hear future shows, leave a rave review, and share with others so more positive messages can get out.
Michelle Sharp was a corporate go-getter, working for Vodafone before co-founding a successful tech company. But the Kilmarnock Enterprises CEO says she found her path to happiness when she stepped off the business treadmill.
Steve Jobs said “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”. I’ve always been a bit crazy.
Ever since I started my first business at age nine, the Garfield Drawing Club, I have been feeding an entrepreneurial hunger that saw me gain a great variety of experience in the commercial world. I climbed to the top of the corporate ladder, and found myself looking back at my childhood. It was there that I found my inspiration to climb back down the ladder and begin a new journey.
Nowadays, the change I fight for is a lot closer to my heart. I am very proud to be the CEO of one of New Zealand’s leading social enterprises, Kilmarnock. We provide education, employment and opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities, empowering them to lead purposeful lives. I believe that with the right support, encouragement and opportunity, we can all achieve incredible things.
Despite all the success I experienced in my commercial career, this is the first time that I believe my younger self would be proud of me.
I grew up on the outskirts of Mexico City in a nearby mountainous village. My family was surrounded by poverty, and on a daily basis I saw firsthand the many barriers that stood between good people with good ideas, and the ability to build a business that would feed them and their families. I witnessed my parents fighting to break down those barriers and give the people in our village the chance to make something of themselves.
I remember days when my brother and I would miss school because my mother had offered the seats in our car to the women travelling to the city markets to make money. I recall being upset about missing school so my mother sat me down and told me that one day away from school would not hurt me, but one day in the market could feed a woman’s family for a week.
I reminded her of this years later when I was twelve years old and we had moved to Newbury in the UK. I was being teased in school for looking different, sounding different and struggling with dyslexia. I repeated her words ‘one day away from school would not hurt me’, she stuck by her words but added that ‘running away from my problems would’. She told me to embrace my differences and that one day I would see the value of diversity.
I adapted the way I learnt to counter my dyslexia and went on to study mathematics at the University of Southampton, and later an MBA at the University of Leicester. I convinced Vodafone to sponsor my studies and I spent my holidays working in the different departments and getting to know all aspects of the business. I saw incredibly well-run units and very dysfunctional ones, and I experienced the way one person could so strongly influence the culture of a company. I credit Vodafone for teaching me the importance of ensuring every one of your employees is happy, supported and has the room to grow and develop. Because if the culture is right, the business results soon flow through.
My greatest commercial success was co-founding and becoming the client services director of Timico Ltd, one of the fastest growing business to business telecommunication providers in the UK. We were a telecommunications, data and IT supplier for the small-to-medium enterprise sector. We repeatedly won the Microsoft tech track award for the fastest growing tech organisation.
In that role, I was able to employ a number of exceptionally skilled second line support technicians on the Asperger’s spectrum. I learnt to adapt the work environment to suit the individual and as a result, some incredibly talented people who had previously struggled to hold down employment were able to excel. It was a great feeling to see my team grow in skill and confidence. But slowly I began to burn out.
I was working excessive hours in a high-pressure environment and realised I barely knew my children. My Kiwi husband and I made the decision to make the move to New Zealand in pursuit of better work life balance.
One day I was walking down Riccarton road and came across Kilmarnock Toys. I was drawn in by the beautiful wooden toys and discovered they were advertising for a part time business development manager. I was overwhelmed by the realisation that I could use my business experience to make a genuine, tangible and lasting difference to people who had experienced endless barriers to secure employment. I cannot describe the sensation of discovering a job that combined both my love of business and the intense desire to break down barriers and unlock opportunities for people who has been unjustly marginalised.
Three years later I was offered the role of CEO, and embarked on the daunting challenge of transitioning Kilmarnock from a charity-based model, to one of New Zealand’s pioneering social enterprises. I began by transforming Kilmarnock’s culture into one that is creative, aspirational, and enthusiastic. One where there is no hierarchy and communication channels are open and receptive.
As a nine-year-old in those first days of the Garfield Drawing Club I learnt a very important lesson. I knew that Garfield was popular and I desperately wanted to meet other kids my age. So I sent flyers around advertising lessons on drawing Garfield. The only problem was, I couldn’t draw. Thankfully in my first session I found an aspiring artist who could, and that day I learnt a lesson I still carry with me: that a wise leader surrounds themselves with incredible people who are strong where they are weak.
Together, my team turned Kilmarnock’s dire financial situation around by diversifying and stabilising contracts and introducing new, previously unimaginable, revenue streams. We now operate essentially six businesses in one and we’re no longer beholden to one single customer for our financial stability. We provide a number of services at a competitive price, including, collating and packing, assembly, labelling, food re-packing, shrink wrapping, woodworking, refurbishing, electronic waste recycling, and much more.
Transitioning to a social enterprise has enabled us to leverage business excellence to greatly enhance our social mission. We provide a fun, connected environment where the team is inspired to take command of their future and show the community that we all have strengths, regardless of our disabilities. I suppose this is what my mother meant when she told me that by embracing my difference, I would realise the power of diversity.
Every day I see something that makes me proud. Just yesterday one of my colleagues came to me after being invited to join the Kilmarnock Academy, an in-house training programme where employees can gain NZQA qualifications for work-related activities. She told me that she was going to decline the offer as she had done very poorly in school and was afraid to revisit the academic system that had isolated her so much in her youth. I was able to tell her that we had offered her the slot because we truly believed in her ability to succeed. I shared with her my story and now she looks forward to proving those who doubted her wrong and rediscovering the confidence crushed so many years ago.
I may not live the same high flying corporate life anymore but I have found something that is far more rewarding. Through my lifelong love of business, I am empowering people to unlock their individual potential, find social and financial independence, gain confidence and build a life for themselves that they truly value.
In every issue of Pioneers Post Quarterly, we take a look at social enterprise around the world. In our summer edition, it’s the turn of New Zealand.
New Zealand has a proud history of social innovation coupled with a unique flavour of creativity and invention which has resulted in one of the most rapidly growing, thematically diverse and resourceful social enterprise eco-systems in the world.
From being the first in the world to offer universal suffrage to establishing a nuclear-free zone in the 1980’s, New Zealanders have always been fearless and unconventional in their approach to social, environmental, cultural and economic challenges.
New Zealand has a population of 4.5 million with a 5.9% unemployment rate and strong economic growth driven primarily by the dairy and tourism industry. The country is ranked eighth in the World Happiness Report and first equal with Denmark on the 2016 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. It is the tenth most highly rated country on the 2016 with very high scores for tolerance and inclusion.
Government investment in infrastructure is well above the OECD average, with a particular focus on rebuilding in the Canterbury region after the devastating earthquakes of 2011. Not only has the post-earthquake environment served as a catalyst for innovation, it has served to shine a spotlight on the fledgling social enterprise sector, advancing its development.
Adversity has fostered community resilience and resulted in an infectious culture of community connection, radical ingenuity and determination to build a society equipped to solve environmental, social and economic challenges.
However, New Zealand still has many challenges to face including environmental degradation, unaffordable housing and an overrepresentation of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities when it comes to unemployment, poverty and health statistics. Social, commercial and government sectors are all beginning to identify social enterprise as the mechanism best equipped to respond to many of the trials we face today.
Social Enterprise has been a subtle part of the fabric of New Zealand’s society and economy for a long time. Only recently has it come to the fore as the increased use of the term ‘social enterprise’ has catalysed coherence and unity in the ‘business for good’ community.
Initially, charities transitioning to a more commercially focussed model faced criticism for their revenue generating activities. In the last few years, perceptions have started to change as the public embraced the concept that their spending can be used to facilitate social development.
A reduction in government funding and oversaturation of the charitable market has quietly forced many in the not-for-profit sector to adapt or disappear. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, donations to charities and NGOs dropped from $120 million to $102.4 million.
Organisations started to gradually evolve and transition to more sustainable and less funding-reliant social enterprise models, without necessarily identifying themselves as ‘social enterprises’. In addition, the rising social conscience of New Zealanders has seen the private sector increasingly engage with social missions.
The rise of the startup has also been significant. The OECD Entrepreneurship report identified New Zealand as experiencing noticeably high growth of emerging startups, many with a strong social mission.
The social enterprise market in New Zealand consists of community-based businesses, a range of not-for-profit organisations with trading arms, and an increasing number of social businesses. New Zealand social enterprises operate in all sectors, addressing a broad range of social and environmental issues, in all regions of the country.
There now seems to be a social enterprise for everything. If you want ethically sourced, plastic-free beauty products, Ethique has you covered. If you want to support a café with free range, fair trade, and vegan food, just log into the Conscious Consumers app and take your pick.
How about a cure for obesity and poor health for Māori and Pasifika people? Book a training session with Patu Aotearoa (pictured below). For a solution to unemployment for people with disabilities, you just need to speak with Kilmarnock. Don’t know how to ensure the most vulnerable children in New Zealand get a healthy and sustaining school lunch? Perhaps you might like to buy your lunch from one of the many organisations combatting poverty with a ‘buy one, gift one’ model.
The sector has grown so quickly that, with an estimated market size of 2,000-2,500, government has been compelled to take notice.
Over the last three years, the New Zealand government has increased its engagement with social enterprise. After forming a position statement in 2015, they have gone on to pass cabinet decisions to support sector development and have invested in a number of programmes that seek to deliver specific objectives and outcomes.
The minister for the community and voluntary sector, Hon Alfred Ngaro (pictured below), has acknowledged that access to finance for social enterprises in New Zealand is a significant challenge: “As hybrid social-commercial entities they often fall between the cracks when trying to secure funding or capital.”
Another challenge is the limited amount of data about the sector and how it contributes to the New Zealand economy. In response, the government has set up a working group to build the government’s knowledge of the sector, promote its growth and encourage the growth of social finance.
Mr Ngaro describes the working group as a big focus for his work. He plans to meet with social entrepreneurs around the country, raise awareness of the sector and ask other government departments “to look for ways they can join up to make it easier for social enterprises.”
Åkina Foundation, New Zealand’s leading social entrepreneurship and enterprise development organisation, has experienced a steady increase in demand from social enterprises seeking business development support and investment readiness services.
In the 2015-2016 financial year, Åkina provided business development support to more than 750 organisations engaged in social enterprise activity at various stages of business development. Today, Åkina is unable to meet the current demand for its services and is seeking further support from government to grow capability building initiatives, make accessible seed funding, eliminate regulatory barriers that constrain investment and implement enabling policy to grow the sector.
Åkina provides specialist advisory services in enterprise development, enabling social enterprises and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals, generating sustainable and measurable benefits. It also acts to enable social enterprises to access a full range of financing and markets. The organisation also works on sector development – catalysing and building an innovative and thriving social enterprise sector.
In order to achieve its vision for a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive world, Åkina has developed a strategic sector growth plan with the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017 at the heart.
Hosting the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017 in September will be a key step forward in the development journey of the NZ Social Enterprise Sector. The forum will be used to establish a learning environment for community resilience and innovation; a place to discuss new, scalable solutions to current global problems.
Out of this forum, Åkina expects to reach agreement on an inclusive identity and national definition of social enterprise. One of the questions that will be explored during SEWF 2017 and afterwards is the opportunity to establish an organising body for the sector.
Such a body would enable Åkina to facilitate greater collaboration and knowledge transfer, acting as a representative in discussions with government, business and philanthropists on strategy, policy, finance and practical action. Åkina, in conjunction with government, some private sector partners and intermediary partners, is planning for some considerable announcements to be made at SEWF 2017 that will support sector growth.
There is no better place to host this forum than Christchurch, a city where innovative design ethic and commitment to collaboration has built back a vibrant, alive city filled with cutting-edge responses to tough challenges. The social enterprise movement has shown incredible growth in the past few years and continues to develop and diversify with an impatience and determination synonymous with the New Zealand spirit.
As legislation, development programmes and social finance systems mature, the sector will persist and thrive. As the Māori might say: “Ka koroki te manu” – we are creating our tomorrow. New Zealand is the first country in the world to see the sunrise, and so the dawn birdsong symbolises a wake-up call and a welcome to the challenges and glories of a new tomorrow.
Pioneers Post is media partner to the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017, which will be held in New Zealand on 27-29 September. For more details, see www.sewf2017.org.
Photo credit: Alex Hu/Pixabay
Kilmarnock in New Zealand employs 80 people with intellectual disabilities, delivers commercial contracts for big businesses and is about to launch its own training academy. But just a few years ago the organisation was at breaking point. Marketing manager Islay Rackham tells its story.
When I first came to Kilmarnock I discovered a unique organisation, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. Not entirely commercial, but not entirely social either. With a background in the social sciences and with a passion for the charitable sector, I was blown away by the organisation’s business acumen and massive growth trajectory.
I was surrounded by experienced professionals who had already had impressive careers in hotel management, manufacturing, sales and telecommunications. Previously a stoic supporter of not-for-profit, I became an instant convert to the business-for-good model. All it took was to see an organisation that was leveraging commercial excellence and strong business to not only provide a purposeful and valuable workplace for a marginalised group of people, but a movement that was changing hearts and minds and systematically breaking down societal barriers at a speed I had never experienced before. The potential was overwhelming. But even in my inexperience, I could see that Kilmarnock was entering a very progressive chapter of a long and not always uplifting journey.
Kilmarnock’s story is one of transition: from an enlightened idea, to a well-respected and well-known local cause, to a struggling charity and finally to becoming one of New Zealand’s leading social enterprises.
Today, we employ over 80 awesome people – most with some form of intellectual disability. We fulfil commercial manufacturing contracts for some of New Zealand’s biggest businesses including Fonterra, The Gough Group, and Air New Zealand. We have a comprehensive and holistic health and wellness programme that has empowered our team to gain more independence. Soon we will be taking our pilot to the public and launching the Kilmarnock Training Academy. Even five years ago, this growth was unimaginable.
There was a group of people who, through a lack of empathy and understanding, had been stripped of hope and opportunity
Over 60 years ago a remarkable woman identified a problem in her community. She saw inequality deeply entrenched into societal and educational systems and she knew that there was a group of people who, through a lack of empathy and understanding, had been stripped of hope and opportunity. She envisioned a world where the fundamental dignity of people with intellectual disabilities was respected and where everybody was allowed the freedom to aspire.
But Miss Christabel Robinson didn’t stop at just an idea, she created a solution. She harnessed the power of purpose and opened Kilmarnock, then The Canterbury Sheltered Workshop Association, where she used education and employment to bring new meaning to the lives of adults with disabilities.
To this day, Kilmarnock holds close the values of its founder. We acknowledge and respect the fundamental value of all individuals. As an employer, we are committed to providing a supportive, respectful, and compassionate environment for our team where they can learn, grow and reach their full potential. It is our social responsibility to promote equitable treatment and the elimination of discrimination in the wider community.
The founding vision has guided Kilmarnock towards some incredible successes and also kept our conviction strong through some very difficult times. In the beginning, the organisation was supported by many powerful patrons. Educationalists and local politicians sang Kilmarnock’s praise and the government provided considerable support and funding. Local businesses such as the Returned Veterans Association and a local shoe manufacturer outsourced small bits of work which kept the team busy and provided a tokenistic income. For many years this worked well but as the political environment changed, so did the government’s commitment to funding initiatives such as Kilmarnock.
After many years of dwindling income, an unequal dependency on government and a defensive relationship with the community, Kilmarnock hit a breaking point. In 2011, just a few days before the Christchurch earthquake that February, we got a call to say the Returned Veterans Association ANZAC Poppy contract was to be sent offshore, taking with it 30% of Kilmarnock’s revenue-generating activities.
For the last 33 years, assembling the commemorative poppies had been a great source of pride for the Kilmarnock team. They knew that every poppy worn on ANZAC day was made by them and that their contribution was appreciated. Kilmarnock’s pride was dented and we were on the precipice of financial collapse. As it turns out, this was the shake-up Kilmarnock needed.
Faced with defeat, Kilmarnock returned to the vision of Miss Christabel Robinson and, with renewed passion and direction, the organisation began a dramatic transformation. We started by forming four pillars: purpose, people, community and, the previously undervalued, commercial.
Kilmarnock’s purpose meant we had every reason to fight for survival. We knew that Kilmarnock was opening doors for uniquely talented people and giving them the confidence to pursue their idea of a good life.
At the time I joined, Kilmarnock was supercharging its culture and building back an organisation that valued diversity, inclusivity and creativity; abolishing the hierarchy that had built up over the years. We developed a comprehensive and holistic health and wellbeing programme that addresses fitness, nutrition, personal safety, budgeting, self-determination and empowerment. A structure was created that encourages professional development and the undertaking of responsibility. Now we have a culture that is envied by the social and commercial world alike.
We have an incredible team of people with disabilities who are perfectly capable of breaking down the stereotypes that exist about them
We’ve realised that a core component of what Kilmarnock has to offer is the changing of attitudes. We have an incredible team of people with disabilities who are perfectly capable of breaking down the stereotypes that exist about them. So we have opened our doors and invited the world in. With transparency as a core value, we have connected with schools, businesses, government and the community. Just like me, everyone who comes into contact with Kilmarnock becomes enthralled and inspired by the story.
With strong strategic direction, our commercially-experienced CEO and diverse board turned our financial situation around and we now generate over 85% of our revenue through commercial activity. We have honed in on our unique competencies and rapidly diversified our contract work to include collating and packing, labelling, food packing, e-waste recycling, woodworking, sewing, refurbishing, assembly, health and safety training and office services.
With newfound confidence in our abilities, we have sourced commercially viable contracts with well-respected national and multinational businesses on an equal footing. With certifications in quality and food safety, we win contracts on merit and have become proof that a diverse workforce holds the keys to success.
With ambition and enthusiasm at an all-time high, Kilmarnock has made the bold decision to embark on the next chapter of this story. It took absolute determination and fortitude to secure the first large-scale case of social impact investment in New Zealand. As a result, Kilmarnock has moved into our brand new, fit for purpose premises that we call Basecamp and we are now beginning the journey to becoming an accredited training academy. The name ‘Basecamp’ came from the idea that Kilmarnock is a warm, safe starting point at the beginning of an ambitious journey. A place where people can prepare and become equipped before going on to achieve incredible things.
In working with the community, Kilmarnock has identified a metaphorical cliff for school leavers with intellectual disabilities. While many of their peers move on to employment, university, apprenticeships and training institutes, the same further education stepping stones aren’t available to those with disabilities in New Zealand. The Kilmarnock Academy will provide a bridge between high school and employment for school leavers with disabilities by providing hands-on, practical training, enabling those wishing to find employment to pursue their passions.
If Miss Christabel Robinson could see her little charity now, she would be overwhelmed by the incredible path it has taken. Far from dampening her vision, the adoption of a social enterprise model has amplified the social impact of the organisation, enabling greater opportunity, inclusion and personal and professional growth for people with an intellectual disability in New Zealand.
I know that despite the overwhelming transformation and growth experienced over the past 60 years, this is just the beginning for Kilmarnock.
Kilmarnock’s CEO, Michelle Sharp (pictured left, centre, with Kilmarnock employees), will be speaking at the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017, which will be held in New Zealand on 27-29 September. For more details, see www.sewf2017.org. Pioneers Post is a media partner to the event.
International business experts have jumped on board with Christchurch-based social enterprises to boost productivity and reach those in need.
Last updated 05:00, June 4 2017
The 2017 SAP Social Sabbatical had 12 international and local business experts mentor the founders of Christchurch-based social enterprises: Ethique, Kilmarnock Enterprises, Science Alive, and Cultivate.
SAP, based in Germany, was a technology company providing software solutions for thousands of organisations around the world.
SAP Australia New Zealand head of corporate affairs Perry Manross said the mentors became so invested in the enterprises they called contacts from around the world to help out.
The enterprises were chosen out of about 40 that applied in January.
Two Australian and one Kiwi mentor helped business owner and scientist Brianne West’.
Almost ten years on, her company Ethique was internationally recognised and made cruelty-free, environmentally friendly cosmetic and household products using 100 per cent vegan ingredients.
Despite her success, West hit a road block most businesses hope to one day run into: keeping up with burgeoning demand.
“The challenge we are experiencing is how on earth do we keep up with the demand we are forecasting, which is pretty significant,” she said.
“We’re expecting 25 million [orders] by 2022. It would be amazing if we can do it.”
Quality assurance was the main issue West worried about.
“Making sure we can keep up with demand for packaging. Growing is very difficult,” she said.
The mentors helped West’s team look at their manufacturing and lab processes to figure out the best way to grow the business.
“Social enterprises are so in the moment,” Manross said. “They’re resource stretched and don’t always have the capacity to take a step back and say hang on maybe we should do it this way or that way.”
“So many social enterprises are at a cross roads and what they decide now could shape what they look like 5-20 years from now.”
West valued the opportunity to take a step back.
“It’s been incredible. I was unsure to start with because having new people around can be quite disruptive, but they’ve been very good and positive, it’s been really exciting,” she said.
Every year, SAP employees were eager to be involved in the sabbatical to bring back passion and drive to the company.
Manross was always surprised at the amount of interest in the program.
“Some people have been supported by a social enterprise or charity hybrid in their lives. There are certain causes our people identify strongly with.”
It’s been announced the World Social Enterprise Forum will be held in Christchurch next year and local business are keen to capitalise. Last night, the Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew presented a report on how to grow the social enterprise sector – which uses commercial strategies to achieve social benefits. Two of the people who helped write that report are Michelle Sharp from Kilmarnock Enterprises and Alex Hannant from the Akina Foundation.
Ghandi’s famous quote: Be the change you want to see in the world, quite aptly describes how Social Enterprise Kilmarnock Enterprises chooses to operate.
Focused on projecting positive attitudes about disability and helping smooth the transition into work for school leavers with disabilities, CEO Michelle Sharp strongly believes that to achieve the organisation’s objectives, projecting the changes they want to see, through their work is imperative.
“For us, it isn’t enough to just say that we would like to see attitudes change towards people with disabilities, we need others to know in the community that we really believe what we are saying, and the best way to do this is to live and breathe it ourselves, so it is reflected in the support, training and employment opportunities we provide for those we work alongside.”
Measures in which Kilmarnock can gain validation for committing to this positive ethos have come in the form of coveted awards for example; being named Charity of the Year by the Canterbury Champion Business Awards 2015. Seeing as the award celebrates excellence, innovation and success, naturally Kilmarnock were absolutely delighted and honoured with the win, with the primary reason being that it showed “they were heading in the right direction”.
A further accolade that helps strengthen this belief is its ACC Workplace Safety Award it received in 2014. “Once again it was nice to be acknowledged, as for us adhering to health and safety practices isn’t just about ticking the boxes, we are genuinely dedicated to insuring that everyone that works with us is safe and strife to be a top employer. Never has this been more important, as we continue to secure more business contracts that require increasingly complex and robust safety practices,” Michelle says.
Keeping things in a healthy state is also reflected in the workplace activities Kimarnock offers to their staff which include; a weekly Zumba Class and chances to participate in fun runs/walks/events which are always very much about fostering team spirit. In fact, Kilmarnock are such strong advocates for a healthy lifestyle, last year’s Christmas present was a pair of professionally fitted sports shoes from the Shoe Clinic for all staff and those they work alongside.
“It’s all about healthy body, healthy mind and engaging in this stuff is also really fun, with the added bonus of team building. After all, we see it as part of our job to provide the very best working environment for the people we work alongside, so they in turn can continue to grow, learn new skills and make meaningful contributions to the communities they live in,” Michelle says.
Arise, Sir Richie McCaw. Are these words coming for our Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks captain?
Sacrilege perhaps, but I don’t really care. Actually, I’m not sure McCaw is enjoying the continued questions around whether he’ll take the title if – or rather when – it’s offered to him again either. Okay, I admit to getting up early last Sunday morning to watch the final and may have yelled at the screen in accidental enthusiasm, but it’s just sports I can’t say it’s just a game, because it’s a profession these days and a well paid one at that.
I’m no fan of our reintroduced old-fashioned honours system, so find the use of sir and dame in New Zealand odd, but I’m also not a fan of our sporting heroes getting a gong for playing well – they’re already well recompensed for that.
Yes they train incredibly hard and yes I’m happy for Dan Carter getting Man of the Match after missing out playing the previous two World Cups – he had an outstanding game and silenced his critics (there must be a few embarrassed faces among those who thought he should have been dropped).
The local heroes I rate and would love to see getting a bigger share of the limelight are the community leaders who volunteer their time or choose lower-paid careers to help people. Now some of them do get honoured each year – their projects win awards and they get featured on One News’ Good Sorts series – but there’s no shortage of people who make lifelong commitments to the community sector who stay under the radar.
This week I visited Christchurch for work and met some people doing amazing things in their community. Project Lyttelton is a grassroots organisation committed to building a sustainable, connected community. Their projects include NZ’s first time bank, a farmer’s market, a range of festivals, a library and other initiatives. For our visit, they also hosted reps from other community groups who are exploring an alliance together to strengthen their impact across youth work and mentoring, helping people rebuild lives after domestic violence and supporting people with disabilities into the workforce through a social enterprise. Next stop was Kilmarnock Enterprises. It may be NZ’s first “modern” social enterprise, starting more than 55 years ago. Today Kilmarnock employs more than 80 people, most with intellectual disabilities, and delivers all sorts of contracts like packaging food, cleaning plastic containers for reuse and deconstructing electronics for recycling. They also produce iconic wooden toys and bespoke furniture.
There is more to NZ than rugby and I felt honoured to meet some of the Christchurch people leading the way. However, if NZ is going to hand out titles to rugby players, I nominate Sonny Bill Williams for his gifting of his World Cup medal to a child. I read a brilliant and hilarious column by Stuart Heritage at www.theguardian.com about it. As Heritage points out, SBW has raised the bar for every person who wins an award – the headline said his “thoughtless act of generosity has ruined sport for ever”.
Heritage wrote: “Time was you could just get drunk and lose the award in a taxi on the way home, but Williams’ unforgivable decency has taken care of that. He should be ashamed of himself, the big, kind sod.” The column is worth a read – it’s a great comedic piece about selflessness, and yes, it is tongue-in-cheek. For a more heartfelt local version, check out Polly Gillespie’s reflections on SBW in the NZ Herald. Now our extended rugby season is over, there might be a few extra column centimetres spare for us to read more stories about people making a difference.
-Nicola Young has worked in the government and private sectors in Australia and NZ and now works from home in Taranaki for a national charitable foundation. Educated at Wanganui Girls’ College, she has a science degree and is the mother of two boys.
Two Canterbury businesses recognised as Champion Canterbury supreme award winners.
The region’s top business gongs on Wednesday went to Solar Bright and irrigator Central Plains Water (CPW) as supreme winners.
Solar Bright, a solar lighting company, was named as supreme in the small enterprise spot and CPW in the medium to large category.
The Champion Canterbury Business Awards 2015 attracted a record 196 entries, 21 per cent more than the previous record year of 2012. A sell-out crowd of 1330 people was due to attend last night’s event at Horncastle Arena.
Those entries were whittled down to 51 finalists in the awards that showcase the region’s business successes.
In their 13th year, the awards are run by a subsidiary of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and judged by a panel of about 30 people from the business community. Prime Minister John Key was on hand to help present the top gongs.
Leeann Watson, a director of Champion Canterbury, said there had been depth and breadth of talent shown across a range of business sectors. “The awards have been a showcase for business innovation in all its forms.”
Export business Solar Bright was listed by judges as designing and manufacturing sustainable, energy-efficient lights. The products are designed to be cost effective, safe and enhance the lifestyle of users.
Last year Solar Bright won a significant contract from the World Bank to supply 250 solar street lights to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. It has also launched a light emitting diode (LED) system for business applications.
The company’s start in Christchurch dates back to 2006 and an initial focus on solar-powered LED streetlights, now used in different New Zealand locations.
Both Solar Bright and Central Plains Water, which is backed by farmers and corporates, won multiple awards.
Backers of the CPW irrigation scheme have already opened stage one of what one day could be a $375 million Canterbury plains project. They are now moving towards a second stage, preparing designs and seeking shareholder funding.
In the initial stage CPW moved 3.5 million cubic metres of material, laid 130 kilometres of small piping, plus some extra man-sized pipes, installed 50 pumps and more than 100 farm connections. It amounted to more than $130m of construction in less than 12 months.
The plan echoes the Government’s desire for more New Zealand irrigation to drive agricultural production. The Government has provided grants and loans to CPW.
This year’s Champion Canterbury saw a special commendation award to Anthony Leighs, the founder and managing director of Leighs Construction, for his contribution to the region.
Leighs played a key role after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in building stabilisation and innovation work. He has been involved in the construction of a number of Christchurch’s post-earthquake buildings.
In 2014 the commercial builder signalled he wanted to build a significant Auckland operation, planning to attract new staff and look for work opportunities.
The family trust-owned Leighs Construction has been in business for about 20 years. It has revenue of about of $150 million, according to a 2014 estimate.
“Anthony’s … ability to look ahead and position his business to weather challenges and take advantage of new opportunities is second to none,” Watson said.
“He’s a driving force for the development of his sector nationwide.”
The role the region’s charities play in creating and maintaining a healthy community was acknowledged with Camp Quality winning the charity award for a small enterprise.
Kilmarnock Enterprises, a finalist in the 2014 charity award for a medium/large enterprise, returned to win the award in 2015.
Kaiapoi based Men at Work, a first time entrant, won the ACC workplace safety award, recognising their workplace safety systems and procedures.
Watson said the more recent growth of the awards programme was pleasing.
“It’s a good reflection of the positivity and confidence we are seeing across the business sector,” Watson said.
CHAMPION CANTERBURY BUSINESS AWARDS 2015
Champion Supreme Award
– Solar Bright, small category.
– Central Plains Water, medium-large category.
Champion Producer/ Manufacturer
– ARANZ Medical, medium-large.
– Solar Bright, small.
– Mr Box, small.
– Central Plains Water, medium-large.
– Traiteur of Merivale, small.
– Addington Raceway & Events Centre, medium-large.
Champion Professional Service
– BVT Engineering, small.
– Computer Concepts, medium-large.
– Akaroa Dolphins, small.
– Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa, medium-large.
Champion Global Operator
– Pacific Simulators, small.
– ARANZ Geo, medium-large.
CDC Innovation award
– Solar Bright, small.
ACC Workplace Safety
– Men at Work, small.
– Camp Quality Christchurch, small.
– Kilmarnock Enterprises, medium-large
– Anthony Leighs of Leighs Construction.
Creatives have turned much of a Christchurch quake house into beautiful and useful objects.Christopher Gardner
That was almost two years ago and on Monday week 114 of the useful objects – many of them indeed beautiful – will be auctioned to the general public. Proceeds go to the creatives and Kilmarnock Enterprises, a manufacturer that employs about 70 people with intellectual disabilities.
The project, known as Whole House Reuse (WHR), has been on show at Canterbury Museum since early June. It was the brainchild of Juliet Arnott and Kate McIntyre and a stepchild of Rekindle, a social enterprise founded by Arnott that is best known for recycling wood from vacated earthquake houses into tables, chairs and artworks.
Creative Tim McGurk contributed many pieces to Whole House Reuse Charity Auction.
Whereas Rekindle used a tiny percentage of the materials available from quake houses, WHR set out to use everything from one house. It turned out to be a step too far. Unexpectedly, asbestos was found and the tainted materials had to be disposed of appropriately. And it turned out that some materials simply didn’t inspire somebody creative.
Still, 398 objects were created from the materials of 19 Admirals Way, New Brighton. It was a 1920s, three bedroom bungalow and in many respects unremarkable. That was part of Arnott and McIntyre’s point: It was an “everyman’s home”, said McIntyre, just like the many thousands of Canterbury homes that have been demolished because of quake damage and are now mere memories and landfill burden.
By reusing one entire house, WHR could pay homage to those lost homes and make the point that contemporary disposal methods are flawed. An entire house – or much of it anyway – could be reused.
Lath Dining Chair by Tim McGurk and Trudo Wylaars.
Perhaps the classic example is a set of dinning chairs by Tim McGurk and Trudo Wylaars, who shaped lath wood into seats. Lath and plaster were widely used to finish building interiors before the advent of gib board. Laths were the narrow strips of wood onto which plaster was trowelled. Lath held the plaster in place.
Deconstructing lath for reuse in fine furniture was a tedious business, Arnott says, but the results are immensely sturdy and eye-catching seats. They are the “only chairs like this in the world”, Arnott says.
Oh, somebody somewhere might have built chairs from lath, but not lath from quake-condemned 19 Admirals Way. It’s this New Zealand backstory that imbues the objects with such interest, says Canterbury Museum exhibitions manager Neil Phillips.
It’s also why the museum exhibited WHR, he says. “A lot of the pieces are about honouring the house,” he says. The project’s intention and results were museum quality, he agrees.
Which is why the museum intends to buy three items from the show for its permanent collection. One is a lath coffee table by McGurk. It features a striking ridgeline that projects out of the top of the table. The ridge could be a mountain range, breaking waves or an earthquake fault.
Frame Chair by Mike Hindmarsh, a fine furniture maker from the Nelson area.
More conventional but undoubtedly beautiful is “Frame Chair” by Mike Hindmarsh, a fine furniture maker from the Nelson area. The low single seat is a “place to relax and unwind” according to the auction catalogue.
Made from highly finished rimu in from the “body-contact areas” — seat and back — and raw unfinished timber for the legs and frame, the entire chair is a “tribute to the material’s original purpose”. It’s an “especially fine piece of furniture”, says Arnott.
Manufacturing dining tables from rimu studs was an obvious solution to the WHR challenge and two of New Zealand’s finest wood craftsmen — David Haig and Hamish Southcott — each built tables of exceptional quality, Arnott says.
Haig is perhaps best known for his signature rocking chair. When studying the studs from 19 Admirals Way, he noticed the lathe and plaster had left a “ghostly ladder-pattern” imprinted in the wood. Rather than plane away all of that pattern, he incorporated some into the table.
The result is a table clearly made of recycled wood — and a beautiful object — but with patterns that “maintain a connection with the wood’s source”, according to the catalogue.
Tim McGurk’s lath coffee table features a conversation-starting ridgeline.
Southcott’s table is likewise a large and fine recycled timber object, but his “Role Reversal Lamps” caught the eye of many museum staff and outside creatives, says the museum’s Neil Phillips. The lamps are role reversed because concrete piles from the house are no longer supporting something (the house), but are now themselves supported by something (rimu frames from the house).
Role Reversal Lamps by Hamish Southcott caught the eye of many museum staff.
Holes large enough for small LED light fixtures have been gouged out of the base of the piles and the power cords cleverly hidden. “No-one has thought to put lights in a concrete pile before,” says Arnott. Three of Southcott’s four lamps will be sold at the auction.
Sculptor Hannah Kidd is known for her lifesized animals made from welded metal, For WHR, she made necklaces from “conduit”, the metal tubes that carried electrical wiring behind walls and under floors. It is a most utilitarian material from which to create “high fashion” necklaces, but that was her point: “to make something unexpected and, at first glance, unrecognisable from the materials selected”.
Glass works by Frances Woodhead.
The creative brief was that the final objects had to be useful, says Arnott, and designers seemed to find usefulness in different ways. “Some looked at a bath and made a bath,” says Phillips. Others wanted to make an object — say an easel — and went looking for materials in the WHR collection that could make an easel.
The items being auctioned aren’t all large and likely to be expensive. Also going under the (silent) hammer will be rimu pens and chopsticks, totara serving spoons, and wooden toy cars shaped by Kilmarnock Enterprises. It’s a “contract manufacturer that proves how capable people are who have a disability,” says marketing co-ordinator Islay Rackham.
WHR and Kilmarnock will develop a new collaboration after the auction, Arnott says. Auction proceeds and Creative NZ funding will be used by designers who can identify waste streams in New Zealand, create a product for Kilmarnock to manufacture and on-sell for profit.
The house at 19 Admirals Way, New Brighton, Christchurch, before demolition.
An example might come from WHR itself. Russel Frost, once from Tasman region and now of East London, made an alphabet from wood blocks, each with a letter carved onto them. Wood blocks were once used by the printing industry, even if metal was more durable and popular.
Frost’s collection of WHR type blocks will be live auctioned as a set but he’s also hand printed limited edition posters, which will be sold in the silent portion of the charity auction.
These posters celebrate the kowaro or Canterbury mudfish, an example of which Frost carved onto a wood block. He saw in the the little-known and threatened mudfish a “metaphor for the resilience of a population which is also in need of help”.
* Whole House Reuse Charitable Auction will feature silent and live bidding. Monday August 24, Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch. Tickets: $25 from ticketek.co.nz. Doors open 5.30pm, auction begins 6.30pm. Phone bidding may be possible. Contact: email@example.com
I was delighted to see Kilmarnock recognized again for the great work they do. Kilmarnock Enterprises has surpassed expectations and added the ACC Workplace Safety Award to their list of accomplishments. Health and safety has always been a top priority for the disability employment provider and their efforts have been rewarded at the recent Champion Canterbury Business awards.
I caught up with the Kilmarnock team at The Press Summer Starter over the weekend.
Kilmarnock’s health and safety practices range from quirky yellow pool noodle hazard markers, to robust and extensive health and safety protocols, to hazard identification for all new contracts, and proactive rehabilitation for employees, as well as a comprehensive health and wellbeing programme and incident reporting.
Social enterprises and charities are rarely nominated in the business section of the awards and the Kilmarnock team are very pleased.
“We are exceptionally proud of this award” CEO Michelle Sharp says “It was so humbling to be counted among such incredible businesses and to have our efforts recognised.”
Stringent business practices, HACCP food safety systems, and ISO9001 accreditations have positioned Kilmarnock as a key player in the service industry. Gone are the days of assembling ANZAC poppies, they now hold a number of significant contracts including food packing for Murdoch’s Manufacturing and assembling test kits for the Gough Group.
Kilmarnock provides a range of services including assembly work, collation of goods, food repacking, shrink- wrapping, carpentry, and electronic waste recycling but Sharp says it is their adaptability and willingness to collaborate that sets them apart from other service providers.
Sharp discusses the impact of these business successes on the Kilmarnock team. “Success within the business sector gives our employees such a sense of pride; knowing these commercially focussed organisations value the quality of work our team delivers makes them realise that they can participate in society in the same way that anyone else can.”
Health and safety is a top priority for Kilmarnock now more than ever. “As we introduce more industrial contracts, the potential hazards increase and as a result, our safety systems become more robust and developed” says Sharp. She anticipates next year’s entry will be even more impressive.
Kilmarnock Enterprises is quickly becoming a commercial force to reckoned with, all whilst remaining true to their core purpose, to provide supportive and fulfilling employment to people with disabilities.
Everyday people with disabilities struggle to find meaningful work, social inclusion, and the tools they need to succeed. They are so often undervalued, disadvantaged, and excluded by the wider community. Kilmarnock Enterprises is changing all that by helping people with disabilities develop lifelong skills and friendships in a work environment.
Kilmarnock is a place where people with disabilities can go to learn, grow, and develop in a supportive and enriching environment that gives them the skills, confidence and knowledge to participate in their community and carve their own path.