Two Kiwi small businesses have won over the selection panel in the Small Business Driver initiative - each receiving the use of Toyota Highlander for a year, and a Mediaworks advertising campaign.
Ecozip’s Gavin Oliver from Ecozip and the 'Dumpling Queen' Vicky Ha share a common enthusiasm, and they clearly appreciate their recent good fortune.
The iniative, instigated by Toyota New Zealand and the Mediaworks MediaFund, was hugely popular across New Zealand with 100 packages given away to businesses in need, with many appearing on The AM Show to share their stories. In the end almost 4000 entries were received, making it a tough decision for the selection panel of Tim Lockhart, Marc Ellis, Kirk Hope and Isobel Kerr-Newell.
The 100 recipients came from all around New Zealand, across various industry sectors and different walks of life. The panel looked for businesses impacted through the lockdown period, but also those who could genuinely benefit from the initiative and are able to leverage the opportunity to accelerate their business through the upcoming 12 months.
Both recipients have big plans for their respective Toyota Highlanders, and also innovative creative ideas for their advertising campaigns.
Vicky has already planned a Kiwi road trip to see suppliers in and around the lower North Island, ending up at the Toyota National Customer Centre in Palmerston North to thank them personally with literally the 'biggest ever dumpling' (15 - 20kgs cooked on a six burner barbecue)
Gavin says the Highlander will be used for extensive private tours around Waiheke, with plans to rendezvous with their neighbours at the Waiheke Airfield to pick up passengers for these tours.
Newshub spoke to both Vicky and Gavin about how COVID-19 has changed their outlooks on life.
Looking ahead to the future
"We don’t really know when the impact of COVID-19 will end," says Gavin. "We’re not thinking much more than a few weeks ahead. We have been required to change the way we think. The priority is to try and increase demand in the domestic tourism market. We need to appeal to Kiwis by being innovative. We think adventure tourism is great for corporate team building, or any other groups."
"As a result of lockdown we had to put a planned Kaikōura operation on hold. It had five spectacular ziplines set in incredible scenery, but it’s now in hibernation, and we plan to restart it when the timing is right."
Vicky hopes House of Dumplings - an iconic part of Te Aro, Wellington will still be around in 10 years time. "We’ll keep on innovating ourselves and inspiring people with our local food movement, and producing delicious clean food for a healthy mind and soul."
Sustainable Kiwi living?
"Basically we want to focus on Kiwis supporting Kiwis,” Vicky says. “We can be a relatively self-sustainable country if we choose to be. So, let's raise questions about where our food comes from. We should appreciate what we have got in our own backyard and reward those people who work hard to make that happen for us," she says.
Gavin also talks about unexpected sustainable opportunities. "Waiheke is more than just wine, although it’s an important part too. We have great walking, bush and sculpture trails. It’s a great place for making the most of both conservation and tourism."
Time to re-evaluate the important things in life
"Our society had a reboot," admits Vicky. "Lockdown allowed us to hang out with family, grow veggies and herbs at home. We were experiencing this in our own bubble, but also for the community good."
"Personally, I am very aware everyone is experiencing a post-lockdown 'weird' feeling. So, I am constantly trying to look after my mental health and remind myself that I still have a job," she says.
"In this country we are extremely lucky. I think the lockdown brought unity to our society, and we realised we are not above nature. Maybe 'progress' has come back to bite us. The question is are we going to go back to our over-consumed behaviour? Or are we going to step back and reflect on our behaviour and make some positive changes to our planet's health?"
Gavin agrees the lockdown forced him to sit back and re-evaluate, outside his usual hustle and bustle, while spending precious time with family. "Looking offshore forces you to evaluate what is important. Actually, I’m with my family so this is ok, and we’ll be fine."
"Also seeing the generosity of spirit among Kiwis has been amazing. It’s great to see everyone getting out enjoying their own backyard, and keeping other Kiwi businesses afloat," he says.
Toyota New Zealand Executive, Andrew Davis, said "the response to the offer of 100 Highlanders was well beyond Toyota’s expectations, and highlighted the need for all New Zealanders, businesses and consumers, to support small businesses."
There’s no doubt these two businesses will be making the most of this awesome opportunity. For both, the Toyota Highlander and Mediaworks Fund advertising package has come along at a crucial time.