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How to Make Your Dreams Come True in Auckland: Business & Work

Jun 4, 2015 etc

This story first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Metro.


Start your own food truck

Test your product and your systems before you buy the truck. Sarah Frizzell of The Lucky Taco told us they did several pop-up events before they started, learning about cooking on demand, being organised, feeding lots of people at once, the stamina they would need and what people actually want to eat.

• Locate and secure a good spot. Don’t leave it to chance — the council will close you down if you don’t get it properly sorted.

• Think about winter. The Lucky Taco puts out umbrellas in the wet weather.

• Keep it simple. Choose just five items and do them really well, Frizzell says.

• Use social media to build your brand. The Lucky Taco was on Facebook, “sharing the journey”, a full year before they opened the truck.


Be a better networker

Yep, the N word. The vernacular equivalent of Mike Hosking: nauseating, terrifying and deeply enviable.

First, ask yourself what you’re using a network for. Moving overseas? Need a new job? Need $10,000 and some cocaine? Know your goal. Then, make a mind map with several different headings: ex-bosses, colleagues/internal contacts, external contacts, friends/family, overseas… try to work in everyone you know under these headlines.

Now, create a table with column headings of value they can add to you and your goal (trusted advice, money, more contacts, etc). List your names down the side, and tick which columns they fill. This will find you the people you need to talk to most. Email them, say you would like their advice and suggest coffee. Always offer to pay, and finish with, “Do you know anyone else I should talk to?”

Chris Johnson, who coaches executives, wrote the book Taking Charge and is an adjunct professor of management at Auckland Uni, says: “The biggest problem people have with building a network is they build it at the wrong time. The time to start is the time you don’t need it. Then it’s there for when you really do need it.”


Get more customers for your business

Not so long ago, in Britain, theatres started giving free tickets to popular local tweeters — on the condition they tweeted throughout the play. It was phenomenally successful.

Social media is it. If your customers are 18-25-year-old rich young things: Instagram. Students? Snapchat. Mums, 40+s and the odd grandma? Facebook. Don’t be dorky about it, though. Employ someone who knows this stuff.


Find a mentor

Mentorships are like pot plants, they only seem to exist in company offices. Female business students at Auckland Uni can apply for the university’s Women’s Mentoring Programme. The NZ Institute of Management has mentoring schemes and Business Mentors NZ offers mentoring for start-up businesses and existing companies looking to expand. If you’re running a small business, don’t be shy about it. Mentors are common.

But if you’re of a different breed, finding one can be trickier. Ask everyone you know and respect if they can recommend you a mentor. When you get a name, email them and in the first line mention the person who referred you. Otherwise, it won’t be read. Tell them straight that you’re looking for a mentor. If you get a meeting, they’ll be trying to decide how likeable you are, how energetic you are, how needy you are and whether they think they can help you specifically. You probably can’t change much of that. So, good luck.

Whether you’re looking for a mentor or thinking you might be one, remember this: people like doing it. David Hill, writer, mentor with the Society of Authors, says, “There’s nothing like working with a mentee to remind a mentor of the excitement and energy and willingness of someone starting out. And that’s hugely enjoyable.”


Achieve work/life balance

Did you know work/life balance was invented by Karl Marx? “For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being,” he wrote in 1846, “each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

Actually, being able to rear cattle in the evening and criticise after dinner is more likely, not to mention more desirable, than the advent of communism. Just tell your boss you’re going home now, and they should too.


Start your own lunch-catering business

• Get some experience, not just with food but with business. Controlling costs is harder than making wraps.

• Learn the rules. If you’re making food to sell, you have to meet the council’s food safety standards for kitchen prep, storage, transport and presentation.

• Expect to work your arse off. Tom Antscherl of Little Brown Bear, who sells lunches in central city offices, told us he gets up at 3am six days a week and finishes around 5pm. That’s probably all he does.

• Know your market. Antscherl’s customers, mainly women, want “healthy complete meals with lean meat and grains”. He has a friend who sells mainly to men in garages and workshops. “He does a roaring trade in sandwiches.”

• Plan to expand. If you make and sell all the food yourself, one day you will fall over and even if you don’t, your business won’t have any commercial value — you won’t have anything to sell when you want to move on. Make it about the food, and employ salespeople who can connect to customers as well as you can.


Find an angel investor

Angel investors are there to help you get a business started — and make money for themselves when you succeed. Which is exactly what you want: smart investors with skin in the game to push you hard and keep you honest.

How do you find an angel? “We have a monthly member meeting,” says Andy Hamilton, CEO of Auckland business incubator Icehouse, “and normally 50-100 angels attend. Read business mags, go on LinkedIn and search. They actually put ‘angel investor’ on their profiles.”


Start an online business

“Are you an aspirin or a vitamin pill?” asks Andy Hamilton (see above). It’s to do with determining demand for your business, and the approach required for each is different. If your business is an aspirin, you’re trying to cure a problem; if you can do that, you’ve got a product. Offer a holistic solution, and you’ll have to educate. “People will pay straight away for an aspirin, but you’ve got to convince them of the value of a vitamin pill.”

Then: “Get your minimum viable product up on the internet and see what traction it gets. Test it, iterate [keep making improved versions]. You only want to build a full-scale product once you know people will buy it.”

Build a product? How? “Befriend a coder, or learn to code yourself.” See below.

Then find help. “Surround yourself with mentors — entrepreneurs — who’ve done this shit before. Reach out and ask.”


Learn to code

There’s a free online coding tool at Code Academy, and Andy Hamilton says after three months using it you should know enough to build a prototype of an online product.

It’s hard to find a teacher, though. Decode is a local tech business, started by coding whiz-kid Christian Silver, which offers sessions in some schools and is currently expanding to take in adults. Khan Academy offers more online resources.


Join a big law firm

It’s not about what school you go to, it’s about your grades at university and, on the strength of those grades (and having a focused, engaging personality, of course), getting into one of the big firm’s clerkship programmes. That’s the door to recruitment.

But remember, there are thousands of lawyers in this city living fulfilling lives without being a cog in a big machine.


Join a consultancy firm

So you heard that currently the masters of the universe work for companies like Bain, McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group? When they’re sniffing out new consultants, they look for three things. One, your academic background: where you went to university and how good your degree is. You don’t need to have done commerce, but you do need to have excelled.

Two, your experience with leadership, innovation and creativity. Did you organise your university ball? Have you fundraised for orphaned pandas? Created a snappy start-up selling paperclip sculptures?

Lastly, your business experience. This is important. Have you interned with Treasury or a reputable corporate?

Note: McKinsey doesn’t recruit from New Zealand, so you need to hop across the ditch for them. Bain and BCG do recruit from here.


More ways to make your dreams come true in Auckland:

Life & leisure

Sex & relationships


Fashion & health

Fame & fortune


Illustration by Beck Wheeler.


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