Mahsa Mohaghegh - She#

Name: Mahsa Mohaghegh Title: Founder of She# (pronounced 'She Sharp') Education: MSc, Doc of Philosophy in Computer Engineering Website: Location: Auckland, New Zealand

During high school, I didn’t really envision that computer engineering and computer science would be areas of my future career. I have always had a love of mathematics and problem solving, but my real interest in computers began when I experienced building my first computer with the help of my father.

My parents have always been so supportive of anything I have chosen to undertake, and exploring technology was no exception.

Originally I wanted to study mathematics, but in the end I chose to study Computer Engineering because of its practical and tangible concepts, and its great contribution to technology and scientific advancement. After beginning a Bachelor Degree in Computer Engineering, I quickly discovered a passion for this field. In my second year I founded a group called 'The Computer Engineering Community', for fellow computer engineering students. I was the president of the group for the next three years, during which I arranged a number of conferences with keynote speakers for the whole of the computer engineering school. We helped women with everything from studying for exams using ultra-fast learning tools, to researching the best dha for pregnancy, to helping overcome a general fear of technology and master computers. Twelve years later, this group is still operating.

Although I had significant opportunities in front of me to join the industry, after graduating from my Bachelor’s, I decided to advance my education further, and undertook a Master Degree in Computer Engineering, majoring in Computer Architecture. In 2008 I graduated with an MSc with a thesis in QoS of Wireless Sensor Networks.

After graduating with my MSc, I sent EOI applications for PhD level study to a number of universities in different countries worldwide. Although I was accepted in many of these, after much deliberation I chose to study at Massey University, after finding an excellent supervisor who suggested a very interesting research topic. At the beginning of my study I was awarded two scholarships – one from NZ Educated, and another from Massey University.My research area was in Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing, and my thesis in Statistical Machine Translation of English and Persian language.

During my PhD study I attended and presented at many high-ranking conferences worldwide, where I had numerous publications. I completed my PhD thesis in 2012, and graduated in 2013 with a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Engineering.

In 2010, during my PhD study I began teaching part-time at Unitec Institute of Technology and after a year I applied for a role as a full-time lecturer. In June 2013 I was asked to act as Programme Leader for a colleague who was on maternity leave. During this time I was the Programme Leader for a number of Certificate, Bachelor and Graduate Diploma courses, as well as the Department of Computing’s entire Summer School courses.

In January 2014 I applied for the position of Outreach Development Manager, and hold this position to date. This role is focused on promoting the Department of Computing’s reputation outside Unitec, developing and maintaining its relationship with schools, and organising and running student recruitment activities and competitions to aid in Department promotion. My tasks in this position also extend to establishing and maintaining industry links for the Department, and managing externally sponsored projects within the Department (such as Google’s Computer Science for High Schools workshop).

  1. What is the story of She#? Please share it past and present. Where do you see it in the future?

The gender gap prevalent in most computer science, software engineering and other technology fields has become increasingly highlighted in recent years. The severity of the situation becomes more apparent when companies take drastic measures to address it, such as Google’s public announcement of their dedication of US$50M over a three year period to be used to invest in promoting these areas to females. Regardless of the cause, it is almost unanimously agreed that a more gender-balanced tech sector would provide significant benefits across the board – to both male and female alike.

I founded She# (pronounced “She Sharp”) in June 2014, with the intention of addressing these issues. She# is primarily a group for high school girls, female tertiary students and industry professionals. At She#, we believe that one effective way of addressing the gender gap issue is to create an atmosphere where female high school students can see how exciting and relevant technology is to their lives, and provide them with the opportunity of seeing inside tech companies, meeting their employees and networking with female role models within the industry.

Being able to draw on experience from women in the field is an advantage that should be utilised as far as possible. Nothing is more motivating to girls either studying computer science or considering it as a career choice than to see other women in the field sharing their experiences, challenges and successes.

She#’s goals are to connect technology students to ICT companies by creating networking events where they can meet. Companies have the chance to promote positions to prospective future employees, and students have the opportunity to make valuable industry contacts. The events help promote STEM fields to high school girls, and help them to make contact with female role models in the industry.

A typical She# event is hosted by a (usually) tech-related company, and consists of keynote speakers who share their passion for science and technology, what brought them into the field, and the experiences, challenges, and successes they have faced. These presentations help to give advice to young women and girls considering entering the field. During an event, practical sessions are also run to demonstrate real-world situations, and teach members valuable career skills such as management, leadership and communication.

It was challenging at first working in a small team to manage and direct our future, and in particular we were faced with the difficulty of establishing a team of members who were willing and able to dedicate a significant amount of time to helping form this young group of only 20 members, and channel their energy into helping run events every few months. Since then, we now have a tight leadership team of talented individuals who share a passion for making a change for good, and creating opportunities for others.

Since its launch, She# has already generated much interest in both academia and industry. Over the past year, we have organised and run a number of She# events at major companies around Auckland, including Orion Health, Unitec, IBM, Google, AUT, Xero, and Westpac. Through the contacts we have established within the industry, She# now has full-time sponsorship from Google, Unitec and Orion Health. In October 2015, She# held its first event in Wellington, sponsored and supported by Xero and 920 Career Agents.

The future of She# is very promising. From only 20 members in 2014, we have grown rapidly, and the group here in Auckland now has over 400 members. This year we continue to network, seeking sponsors and companies interested in running events with us. We have had further interest from several organisations in both Wellington and Christchurch, and our hope is that She# can eventually be established in several cities around New Zealand, and girls and women in technology will be given a platform where they can network with each other, and make valuable connections in an industry with a significant gender gap.

  1. What motivates you- both at work and home?

Within my work as a lecturer, one of the most satisfying things is seeing my students progress throughout their career – from the first day they are in class, to the end of their final projects and securing jobs in top companies around the world. Being in a position with the ability to influence people’s lives for good is one of my biggest motivating factors.

This is perhaps one of the reasons behind why I started She#. There is a misconception about computer science fields, and girls are missing out on that could be an exciting, diverse field for them, so there was a need to create a platform and a group where girls can see for themselves what it’s really like. Being able to influence them for good is a privilege.

  1. Do you have a role model? OR - What inspires you?

Unfortunately in New Zealand – and generally in technology fields – there are not as many female role models as there could be. This is something I think we should be trying to change. There are always times that you would like to ask for advice, or like to know more about something, and role models and specifically mentors can be very helpful in giving you the answer you need or connecting you to the right people. Sometimes a lecturer at university can be a lifetime mentor – something which I have experienced myself.

Being an advocate for women in technology, my biggest role model is Dr. Anita Borg . She was a computer scientist, and founded the Institute for Women and Technology and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Ever since I won Google's Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, I found out more about what she accomplished, her visions and goals, and these have been very inspirational in the work I do.

  1. What puts you in a unique position in this competitive market?

Ever since I was a young girl I was always fascinated by new things – new technology or new devices, and once I started studying computer engineering I began to experience the ability of working towards developing these new things. The advance of science and technology and the thrill of being part of researching and developing something new is especially rewarding when we are able to share the discoveries we make with others who would benefit from them, our experiences, challenges and successes.

I personally find it rewarding to be able to use my own experiences to encourage others. This is the core foundation on which She# is built – the use of personal experience to encourage, mentor and assist the next generation, and allow young girls to benefit from networking with real people in these fields. I believe this is one of the key characteristics of She# that sets it apart.

Over the years I have becoming increasingly passionate about encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). As a woman in computer engineering/science, I learned very quickly that I was part of a minority, in a mostly-male dominated field. However I have never let this be a hindrance to my study, my work or any opportunity of leadership that might present itself to me. My determination despite being in this position helped me to take advantage of opportunities that I otherwise might not have.

Founding and directing She# in its early days was very difficult. There were a number of uncertainties present – what was the direction of the group? Is there a market for what we intend to undertake? Where would we get the majority of our funding from? How can we scale our proposed ideas?

My experience in managing risk, and the ability to network and communicate with the right people helped to really get our venture off the ground. Once I had established a vision for She#, it was necessary to ensure everything that was undertaken reflected what this vision encompassed.

After each She# event, we follow up with a team members’ meeting to evaluate what worked and what didn’t, take on board feedback we had received from members, and identify areas that we need improve – then implement these in the next event.

  1. According to you, what are the real struggles of women entrepreneurs? Please share your personal experiences.

Things have certainly changed a lot in the last 15 years since I began my studies in technology, and certainly now that the issue of the gender gap in tech is quite well known. Being accepted isn't so much of a problem, but I think that one of the biggest barriers for women can sometimes be themselves, and a lack of trust in their own ability. This was personally something which I had to overcome quickly – being in a minority does not have to hinder what you are able to accomplish.

The extra effort a female entrepreneur has to undertake isn’t something which is exaggerated. It is certainly better than 50 years ago, and today it is perfectly normal for women to be in positions of leadership, and undertaking entrepreneurial ventures. However when compared to their male counterparts, we have yet to reach a state of true equality. Unconscious bias still pervades our society, and is something which must be consciously addressed to eradicate. We can’t be satisfied with “improved”.

  1. What do you want to share with the young women of today?

I would have several pieces of advice to young women today.

Firstly, be proud of who you are, what you know, and what you want to achieve. Although it has nowbecome a cliché, it is true that you need to follow your dreams, and give them the chance to become reality.

Secondly, seek advice from reliable sources. Learn from others’ experience. Find a mentor – someone you trust, and someone who has experienced both success and failure.

Thirdly, learn from your failures. Any failure can be turned into a valuable lesson – if you correctly assess what happened, what went wrong, and what could have been done to avoid it.

Lastly, practical experience is the best form of learning. Give yourself more opportunities to try out things that interest you, and have more confidence in your ability.

Ramandeep Kaur CONTRIBUTOR

Ramandeep Kaur CONTRIBUTOR


Chloe van Dyke - CHIA

CHIA Founder, Chloe van Dyke. Image via.

Name: Chloe Van Dyke

Title: Founder, CHIA

Education: BSC Neuroscience



In creating CHIA, we wanted to share something of nutritional value for sustained energy and well being. CHIA started as an endurance drink for athletes, but we soon realised that everyone can do with a nutritional boost.

Tell us about your journey with CHIA

After completing a BSC in neuroscience and a post grad focus on Alzheimer’s I became interested in plant biochemistry and nutrition, it was while researching healthfoods that I came across chia seeds which stood out amongst other superfoods as being not only nutrient rich but rich in the nutrients most of us need more of in our diet. After developing my first prototype with Nelson blackcurrants and apples I traveled to the Himalayas to test the benefits of Chia myself.

And so, it was on the trail in the Himalayas, at altitude and loaded with chia seeds and some blackcurrant juice, that I decided to create Chia Drinks for the New Zealand market.

Back in New Zealand there were the struggles of introducing something very different into the market. A lot of education was needed to help people understand Chia and the nutritional benefits.

My family have been a big support with my sister recently joining the Chia team this year.

What is the story of CHIA? Where do you see it in the future?

Chia is about making healthy options easily accessible. We are currently available in New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia and would like to further establish ourselves in these countries as well as growing our product range with healthy nutrient rich food and beverages.

What has been your motivation factor, both at work and home?

I am motivated by adventure, creativity, and innovation. It is important to keep these a part of my work and home life. At the office we have put up a slack line. It is a great way to clear the mind and regain focus.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the little guy who stands up to heard.

In your opinion, what are the real struggles of women entrepreneurs?

There are real struggles for women in business, and it is often the subtle ones that have a large overall impact. The other day I was having a business meeting at a café, at the end of the conversation the person I was having coffee with said that they wouldn’t usually ask a woman by herself out for coffee. Most business deals are done over coffee and if women are
excluded from this it is going to have a big impact on the growth of their business. Similarly many deals are done on fishing trips, I like fishing but I have yet to be invited on such a trip.

Business is business and that involves women and men having conversations together on an equal platform.

What do you want to share with the young women of today?

Don’t hold back, don’t think you need to be ready to start – no one ever is. And most importantly support other women to succeed.

Ramandeep Kaur  CONTRIBUTOR

Ramandeep Kaur  CONTRIBUTOR


Victoria Jollands - Deepwater Group

Victoria Jollands - Senior Policy Advisor / Marine Scientist at Deepwater Group

Name: Victoria Jollands

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Age: 32

Job Title: Senior Policy Advisor / Marine Scientist

Education: PhD Candidate, Master of Science (Hons.) Bachelor of Commerce

Victoria is a successful and respected Senior Policy Advisor at Deepwater Group - a non-profit organisation that works in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries to ensure that New Zealand gains the maximum economic yields from their deepwater fisheries resources, managed within a long-term sustainable framework.

Following a path taken by few women into the realm of policy and taking on the difficult industry of New Zealand Fisheries, Victoria has carved out a place for herself among the boys and recently even travelled to the United Nations Pacific Tuna Conservation Conference in Bali, acting as Secretariat for the duration of the conference.

In today's profile, Victoria tells us about her journey to policy and her plans for the future.

If there was one piece of advice I would give to anyone, it would be to feed your curiosity.

Looking at what key attribute that led me to where I am today, besides drive and ambition, it was my curiosity. Coupled with a passion for problem solving and the ocean, I have been working on a career in marine policy now for 13 years, if you include university.

This was not a straight forward path, however. Growing up I spent most of my time figuring out THE question: ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’.

Once out of school, I was like a ping pong ball released into the world, smashing into anything and everyting I could get my hands on. This led me to retail, modelling, bartending, economics, reception, and administration - flip-flopping from opportunity to opportunity, it wasn’t until I spoke to a mentor at my university that I gained some sort of direction, this package of advice shaped my subsequent choices that led me down the path of science. While urged that this was not a wise choice, I compromised on having something to fall back onto – a conjoint in science with commerce. Finishing up with a marine science specialisation and accounting, I was perplexed at what to do with it. Friends would joke “what are you going to do, count fish?” Maybe not count them, but it was close!

Like the sunshine song, I feel like I still am figuring out THE question. But ever since I moved towards what I wanted to do, every choice has been a conscious one. This does not mean I haven’t made wrong choices either! I don’t believe there is such thing in making a wrong choice, in the realms of career choice anyway.

All choices are collecting experiences and importantly realising more about what you don’t want, to find out what you do want in a career, and life generally. It doesn’t matter if you say yes to the first job offer or to the first flat offer - all these random choices that don’t make sense at the time make you who you are. At the time I didn’t realise what I would do with accounting and marine science, I just had a passion for science and a love of business / social systems.

I still don’t know how to truly marry the two together but that’s part of the todays environmental problems and I guess that is why I do what I do, I picked up something requiring a solution and I intend to spend the rest of my life solving our oceans biggest problems – balancing use and conservation.

Lisa Messenger - The Renegade Collective

With a brand slogan of ‘game changers, thought leaders, rule breakers, style makers’ Lisa Messenger, founder and editor-in-chief of The Renegade Collective magazine, certainly inspires one to renegade thinking.

The Renegade Collective with its online community space called the Collective Hub, is a print magazine where the pages turn themselves once you’ve dared pick it up. From the start to the finish it features stories of newly-blossoming entrepreneurs and their endeavours to cover stories of global influencers such as actress Amy Poehler and the Instagram account ‘Follow Me To’ – all with impeccable design and photography.

Lisa Messenger is a phenomenal lady in herself who has built a magazine and following in 33 countries at a time when print is becoming less popular and everything is online. She has also authored at least 12 books and has contributed to at least 20.

Lisa’s first book began out of the depths of despair when her marriage was falling apart and she felt quite alone in her suffering. She was intrigued with the idea of ‘happy’ and sought to find out what in fact makes people happy. Her book, entitled ‘Happiness Is…’ has stories of incredible Australian people, endeavours and conquests, beautiful photography and bright colours erupting from its pages and, through its birth, Lisa discovered a new passion for communication. She then went on to author subsequent books from ‘intrapreneurs’ (entrepreneurs holed up inside massive corporations and controlled-thinking) and branding for your product to property investing and how to publish in a unique way. This lady is a renegade.

The thing that sets Lisa apart and what drew me to the Renegade Collective magazines (which I eagerly await every month) is her thinking which truly seems to be challenging in its essence. She challenges the concepts and norms which shape our society and in writing about it and featuring other thought-challengers, she challenges us. Her books and their chosen subjects are all products of what she has actually done rather than deciding she is going to write a book and then finding a topic for it.

In ‘Daring and Disruptive: Unleashing the Entrepreneur’ Lisa shares her business adventures and aims to inspire CEO’s all the way to budding entrepreneurs with an idea and a will to succeed. She looks at challenging concepts in today’s society such as the valuing of employees and how money is not the only currency to the dreaded F word (failure) and how to do so gracefully. Yet the beautiful thing is Lisa understands that success in business is not the only bottom line and so has released a subsequent book entitled ‘Life and Love: Creating the Dream’ and shares how to be successful while being ‘deliriously happy’ behind the scenes in life. The book features advice from Lisa as well as her own role models on love, joy and happiness and how to maintain your femininity in life and business while being made of iron to survive. This is definitely on my reading list!

It seems everything in Lisa’s brand is organically grown from the rich experiences of her life which is authenticity in all its rawness. And one can’t help but be drawn to people such as her.

Nicola Johnson - CONTRIBUTOR

Nicola Johnson - CONTRIBUTOR


Sasha DiGiulian - Champion Climber

Image via:

We love to see women doing extraordinary things and Sasha DiGuilian is one such example. The 22 year old champion climber is on a mission to become the first woman to make one of the most dangerous climbs in the world by scaling the alpine peak, Eiger Mountain in the Swiss Alps during the summer between her junior and senior year at Columbia University.

Nicknamed ‘Murder Wall’, the 6,000-foot vertical sheet of grey limestone is considered one of the world's most dangerous climbs. Dozens have died trying to reach the top.

"When other women open the floodgates to showing that something is possible then all of a sudden you see progression in a sport," DiGiulian said, explaining why this climb was important to her. (via).

On August 29, DiGiulian and her climbing partner summited Eiger, not through the original plan due to weather conditions but rather climbing 'Magic Mushroom', a 20-pitch, 5.13a route to the left yet still on the North Face.

Of the climb, DiGiulian said:

"This was a goal that was a challenge to be because it was a step into the unknown... The experience was tough...because I was a beginner on new terrain. Being pushed to that point of physical and mental exhaustion and then realising the dream encourages me to take more chances. You never know until you try." (via)

Victoria Malloy - Claythorne Communications

Name: Victoria Malloy

Location: Toronto, Canada

Age: 32

Job Title: Founder at Claythorne Communications

Education: Marketing, Publicity/Public Relations


First and foremost, I am a discerning, ambitious woman. I love that there are resources like JAGGAR that exist for like-minded women to share and collaborate. I am an entrepreneur myself and started my own boutique PR firm 3 years ago specialising in working with beauty and grooming brands that are clean, eco-friendly, natural and socially responsible.

My roster of clients includes brands that are located across the globe, from Canada to the US and as far as New Zealand. I work with brands to help elevate their presence in the Canadian marketplace and beyond to generate coverage in Print, TV and online media outlets.

I am passionate about aligning myself and my PR firm with brands that are unique and have an interesting story to tell. I love uncovering brands that are hidden gems and then casting a spotlight on them in the media and public community. I myself am genuinely passionate about using products in my daily routine that are clean and pure and mindful on the environment, therefore it was only natural that I extend that passion into the work that I do.

Being an entrepreneur isn't as easy as people tend to think. It takes drive, passion, an open mind a ton of hard work. So much of what I do and what I have done with my business is a result of tips and tricks and ideas that I have picked up from inspirational women who I consider to be mentors. There is no sense in keeping everything that you do a secret, it is important to share and inspire and help one another grow and that is what I love about forums like these.

Why did you decide to start your own firm? I have always had an inherent passion for marketing and storytelling, finding unique and interesting ways to elevate a message. That, combined with my love for natural health and beauty made me want to combine the two and lend my expertise in marketing and PR to beauty and grooming brands looking to elevate their presence. For me, marketing brands and products in an industry that you are genuinely passionate about is so rewarding and allows you to be able to infuse that personal perspective into the work you are doing. Claythorne Communications was born out of these two passions of mine.

What resources did you find helpful in the early stages and what resources do you still turn to now? I’m a total go-getter by nature and I was born with a healthy serving of ‘hustle’. When an idea has been sparked, I figure out which way to go and how to bring it to life. I consider myself the type of person who is constantly finding inspiration in any nook and cranny in my day-to-day life, and these are all things that have in one way or another contributed to the brand that I have built for myself and my business. There are so many people out there doing amazing things, creating cool products, telling interesting stories and I allow all of these things to inspire me and spark ideas that I can parlay into my own brand. There are so many inspiring PR women running their own firms and I enjoy following along on their journey, learning from them and allowing their ideas to help inform my own. It’s not about playing copy-cat, it is about idea sharing.

Did you have any prior knowledge or experience around starting a business or was it more of a self-taught journey? It was really a self-taught journey. I kind of just jumped in and figured it out as I went along, and that is where my resourcefulness and go-getter nature really came into play. I think that you really have to possess that hustle to sustain it. For me, my business is like my baby and I go to great lengths to keep it moving and growing.

What roadblocks did you encounter (if any) as an entrepreneur? It’s no easy ride running your own business. You are always on the clock and the buck stops with you at the end of the day. There’s no punching out at 5pm. Yes, I’m a slave to my iPhone but it’s all for the good of my business and at the end of the day I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

How long was Claythorne in operation before you began to see early signs of success and how difficult was it in the day to day before the business took off? I feel fortunate in that I was able to quickly identify that I wanted my niche specialty to be in the all-natural beauty industry as a result of strong word of mouth between brands that I was working with. In the early days I didn’t know going into it that I wanted to focus exclusively on natural beauty brands, but that is the way that things quickly evolved and it made sense to pursue it as such.

You mention inspirational women you have as mentors - were these friends, industry professionals, women in similar businesses? I draw inspiration from so many different women that I encounter, whether they are friends, family, fellow entrepreneurs or other professionals in my same field. There is so much to be learned from simply meeting and talking to people.

What spurred you into action to focus on eco-friendly, natural and socially responsible brands? Well first and foremost my lifestyle. I enjoy living a healthy life and that extends to my skin and body care regimen. Over the years I have learned so much about plant-based ingredients from the amazing people behind the brands that I work with and it has made me so much more aware of not only what I am feeding my body, but what I am putting on my skin. Why care for your skin with a product made up of a laundry list of un-pronounceable ingredients when Mother Nature has created something that can do the same (if not better!) in a clean and pure way? It was this philosophy combined with the direction that my business was naturally heading as a result of word of mouth that led me to solidify my decision to focus exclusively on this industry.

How do you set about reviewing a brand's social consciousness? I enjoying reading up on the brand and their story behind it. I look for brands whose philosophy and commitment aligns with my own. I’m a conscious ingredient label reader and I appreciate packaging with the least impact on our environment.

What are the key things you're learned so far on your entrepreneurial journey? That you need to be constantly evolving. In this digital age, your finger needs to be on the pulse of what is going on and you need to adapt your business accordingly. There is no one-and-done to running your own business, you need to stay competitive and find your edge.

Connect With Claythorne Communications

Emma Norton - St. Lawrence International Film Festival

Location: Canada

Age: 27

Job Title: Events and Awards Producer at the St. Lawrence International Film Festival

Education: Advanced Diploma



I grew up with a singular passion in mind and heart: Entertainment. I have always had such a strong love for film and television. From a young age I could rattle off pop cultural knowledge and could easily tell you the primetime lineup for the evening and as I got older, I learned more about the different facets that the industry has to offer. 

After making it through film school where I focused primarily on screenwriting and producing, I luckily found my way into an internship after a volunteering position allowed me to stand out from the crowd (and I snuck into the after-party.) Going back to my youth, since I can remember, I would watch the Academy Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes, etc. in awe. Little did I know, this passion and knowledge for the industry would lead me into working on the Canadian versions of these awards.

It’s an odd thing to be afraid of what you love the most and one of the few things that comes naturally. The fear of failure, rejection, criticism, all of that comes with the territory, but it is so freeing once you face it, regardless of the outcome.
— Emma Norton

From intern to various contracts, I eventually landed a full-time job in Toronto, with a media-centric events company, leading me down another rabbit hole of programming festivals. This is where I was able to hone my knowledge, figure out the key players in both television and film and produce panels based on what was currently in focus in the industry. Always being apart of a small team, I picked up other duties along the way, from sponsorship to operations. Things that never crossed my mind.

I reached a point with my company where I was unable to continue growing, so I made the brave decision to quit without any job to head into. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was moving into the wild world of freelance.

My ultimate goal is the typical Hollywood dream, mostly now because I just hate the cold Canadian winter. Alas, even with the contacts I had made, I realised it would be an uphill battle to make the move to America and on top of that, build my dream career. I do imagine my life in a series of achievements and feel as though I will continue to work on different projects in varying capacities, just focusing on what I'm passionate about. After all, that’s what to me, makes a career and life whole.

Although I believe it to be the best decision I’ve made yet, leaving my full-time job and delve into the unknown was the scariest thing. I’ve always been ambitious, but at the same time I’ve lacked true confidence and for me the buzzword since then has been ‘bravery’. Even writing out my story here seems a bit daunting, yet freeing and I know when I hit ‘submit’ I will be incredibly proud of myself. 

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s wonderful to have others believe in you, but you must also be confident in your passion, your talent and you! Luckily to balance my confidence levels, I am naturally someone who doesn't give up on things where others might. That's a gift and sometimes a curse too.

Since moving into freelance, I’ve pushed myself to be brave. I’ve applied to various jobs all over the place, I’ve sent emails asking people for advice, I’ve added them to LinkedIn! All these seemingly small tasks required an act of bravery from me and still to this day it’s something I struggle with. I've even begun sharing a series idea around, pitching to various companies, which is particularly daunting to share my personal ideas with others. It’s an odd thing to be afraid of what you love the most and one of the few things that comes naturally. The fear of failure, rejection, criticism, all of that comes with the territory, but it is so freeing once you face it, regardless of the outcome.

The Key Things I've Learned Are:

  1. You have to be brave. Whatever that means to you, whatever scares you, do it.
  2. You have to be open to taking an alternate route to your final destination, even if it may take a little longer. 
  3. You have to enjoy the ride and pick up as much knowledge and interesting stories from the people you meet along the way.
  4. Find some confidantes you trust that you can bounce ideas off of and who will be brutally honest with you.
  5. Go with the flow. Even if you're an OCD planner like me, sometimes the universe just knows better.

At times, perhaps my ambitions are too singular, but I am so thankful that from a young age, I knew what I wanted to do. Also that my vision has been broad enough that I have fallen into a variety of roles that have continually both challenged and satisfied me. I've already achieved some major goals which gives me the motivation go keep going for the rest.

Currently I am the Events and Awards Producer for the inaugural St. Lawrence International Film Festival. We are the first cross-border festival between Canada and the United States. Again I am taking on a varied role that is different than anything I have done before. I've got my feet planted in both countries and I'm helping to build an event from the ground up. It's another amazing experience I am learning so much from and I'm in a leadership role, which is amazing. 

I feel that at this point, although I am still trying to reach a certain status in my career, I know that I am well on my way and I look forward to developing new projects with like minded people that share my passion and balance out my skill set. I look forward to what's next and where it will take me.

Connect with The St. Lawrence International Film Festival

Johann Munro - Shed Pottery

Johann Munro

Location: St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Age: 35

Job Title: Ceramic Artist, Owner at  Shed Pottery

Education: Niagara College - Business


I am a second generation potter. My grandmother taught me the craft. I was born and raised in the Niagara Region. I spent over 10 years in the hospitality industry, primarily working in fine dining as a server and later in my career I transitioned into restaurant management. I was laid off very unexpectedly in November 2014 and took that opportunity to hone my skill and craftsmanship as a potter, ultimately deciding to open my own studio and retail galley. Shed Pottery was established in June 2014.

Since opening a little over a year ago, I have been fortunate to collaborate with local chefs and create over 1800 custom wares for 3 different restaurants.

I am a woman with immense passion for clay. I work every day in my studio from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed. There is absolutely no other place I would rather be, then with my hands in the clay. 

Without an able body and mind I cannot create - without my health my business would suffer.
— Johann Munro

What attracted you to pottery?

I was drawn to clay because of it's calming qualities.  Working with clay is reminiscent of playing in the mud when I was a child.  It feels good between your fingers and the messier the better.  My style as a potter, is a little country, a little primitive, earthy and feminine. 

Clay can turn you into whatever artist you want to become; a sculpture, a painter, an illustrator.  The possibilities are limitless. 

Why did you choose to start your own business?

I decided to invest in myself, to work hard for myself. I decided to be happy.
— Johann Munro

I had worked really hard for my previous employer.  I sacrificed time with my family and I worked long hours.  I assumed ownership in my position and stressed on behalf of someone else's business.  In the end I was laid off when I left for surgery.  I promised myself that I would never give my time and my life to an employer again.  I decided to invest in myself, to work hard for myself.  I decided to be happy. 

How difficult was it as a craftswoman to be at the helm of a business in a niche market?

The most challenging part of being a one woman show, is finding balance between creating and operations.  I do have experience in business management, and I am a highly organised person, however, sometimes the demand for my work has made it difficult to stay on top of the operations side of my business.  The flip side to that statement is, if I did have the extra time to spend in the office working on marketing, finances and all other administrative duties, that would mean there weren't enough people interested in what I am doing.  So, as it stands I am thankful I struggle to keep up.  Also, I now have extra attention that I place on my physical well-being.  Without an able body and mind I cannot create - without my health my business would suffer. 

What outlets do you use to sell your goods - online, direct or retail?

I have a small retail gallery out of my home.  We are located just on the outskirts of town, in a country setting.  I am located on the Niagara Wine Route, which puts me on the map for tourism.  I focus attention into photo blogging on Instagram about new wares and my process.  I post current works on Facebook, which links to my Twitter account.  I feel social media has played a large roll in generating and establishing a customer base.  People like to be enticed and informed with new ideas and creations. 

I have also linked up with an extraordinary young woman, Dominique Del Col.  Originally a local farm girl she has moved to the Beaches in Toronto and opened an Apothecary called, ROWAN Homespun Market.  She makes her own holistic skin care products and she carries my pottery.  It is a "match made in heaven", as Dominique puts it.  She trusts in my vision and allows me to send whatever I feel inspired to make.  I am grateful for this freedom because I think that is what draws people to my work, they are interested in seeing fresh ideas. 

I have had three large contracts between three different local chefs in the area.  The wholesale side of my business has been the biggest portion of my revenue this year.  I have made almost 1800 wares in total between the three chefs/restaurants.

No online sales at this time.  This might be a side of the business I look into developing over the winter of 2016.

You've collaborated with local chefs to create custom ranges for restaurants - what can you tell us about the process and what you did or didn't enjoy?

The restaurant projects have been overwhelming in a thrilling way!  I have been working everyday since I began the first large contract in February, taking on the second in April. I have allowed myself a day or two off during the last seven months, but not much more than that.  I have had to increase the amount of space I work in, and the only way for me to do that was to turn other rooms in our house into secondary studios.  Also having more than one kiln was absolutely necessary, so I purchased 2 additional kilns.  The firing process can take anywhere from 24-30 hours from load-in to cool down, and each pot must be fired twice.  I hand-paint three to four coats of glaze onto each ware and each pot must be completely dry in between coats.  I can only work as fast as the pots will dry and the kilns will fire. 

I have definitely had many mental obstacles along the way.  I agonise over each creation and I can easily get caught up in subtle differences between wares, whether it be in it's form or the glaze results.  I have had to learn to let go of wanting everything to be precise and now I embrace the story each pot tells through their differences.  I feel very connected to each piece and I want each pot to succeed in its function and its beauty.

I have had to keep my head down for the last seven months.  It has been work since the moment I get up in the morning until I am exhausted in the evening.  I have had to decline invitations to events, we cancelled a trip to Europe and I have neglected time with family and friends, but unlike when I worked for someone else and had to make similar sacrifices, this is far more rewarding.  I absolutely love what I do, so I am grateful there are people who enable me to work everyday at my passion.  

Do you have a preference as to whether you're working with a local family or local business?

I have met so many interesting and wonderful people since I opened shed in June 2014.  I work with both businesses and families, but there has always been a connection to Niagara.  Local is important to me.  I want to support my community, just as the people in my community support me.   I find Niagara is booming with lots of young ambitious entrepreneurs, and everyone supports one another.  There is a new generation of people with like-minded intentions building up our community.  There is a focus on being authentic, and getting back to our roots.  We are living as our grandparents and great grandparents did - farming, building, creating, and working hard.  

What support was there when you were looking to set up your business?

I have incredible and unwavering emotional support from my parents and my husband.  There has been a great deal of blood, sweat and tears that have gone into gaining momentum at shed, and during the tough moments is when my family stood by me the most.  Proud and happy for me they have never shown a moment of doubt that I could live my dream.  

St. Catharines has excellent resources for people wanting to start their own business.  The Enterprise Resource Center of St. Catharines offers free consultations, start-up information, programs and funding information, business plan development, and other valuable tools.  I accessed this resource and used the consultations to help build my business plan.  I looked into funding programs as well, but I was fortunate enough to hit the ground running with work, and in the end funding wasn't needed to grow my business. 

What are your goals for Shed Pottery?

The ultimate goal is to keep moving forward.  I intend to build a large working studio gallery on our property.  I would like to expand the retail side of my business and continue to collaborate with local chefs and businesses.  When the time is right I would also like to work on strictly art related projects, I would appreciate an opportunity to put my work in galleries.

Connect with Shed Pottery


Sharon Warren - Freelance Consultant

Sharon Warren

Name: Sharon Warren

Location: Vancouver, Canada

Age: 41

Job Title: Freelance Consultant in Marketing, Branding, Communications and Story Analysis


Education: Bachelor of Arts, Sociology / Post-Graduate Certificate in Public Relations / Professional Certificate in Project Management (I LOVE continued education geek)



I never really thought of myself as someone who people would want to hear MY story - even though I've spent the better part of my career telling stories, be it promoting actors and Television programs, marketing of products or non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, or reading stories, then analysing them and helping creative executives determine if they should be made into movies or TV series. 

Working in Television was my dream since a young age, and when I landed an entry level job in publicity and communications for a Canadian broadcaster in 2001, I couldn't have been more excited! That job, quickly lead to an opportunity with Warner Bros. International Television (The WB, I mean....awesome!!), and I jumped in as a Junior Publicist and worked my way up to Manager, Promotions and Publicity over the next five years.

No matter how small you may think you are, your actions and attitudes might inspire someone else to be brave, and go after their own dreams.

I stayed in that position for some time, and was truly happy, but had spent so much of my time working, that I was missing out on life. So at the end of 2012, I took a risk, quit the job I loved for many years, and hopped a plane. First to Australia, where I spent a couple of weeks, and then headed to New Zealand, which had been on the top of my travel list since the 6th grade. I LOVED every minute of my time there. And even though I had left a job I enjoyed, travel, taught me so much more and fulfilled me in so many other ways. 

After about six months of traveling on and off to Australia, New Zealand, Bahamas, Scotland, Ireland, California (anywhere my heart took me, or that I was invited to), I landed back in Toronto, Canada. I worked in a couple of contract opportunities, including one back at my former employer, Warner Bros., which was awesome. But something was calling me elsewhere. So I've packed my bags again, this time more permanently and made a move to beautiful Vancouver, to set up a new home and business (Marketing, Communications and Creative Project Management) there, a place I've dreamed of living for years. Finally making it happen and embarking on a big journey, where I will land in Vancouver with no home, no true job, and a lot of dreams, and I'm determined to make it all work. 

Knowing your dream career from a young age, did you feel you had the support you needed through school or organisations to be able to pursue this? 

I actually wasn't sure who to turn to in university.  I knew I loved TV and wanted to find a way into it, but oddly, it was a customer I used to serve frequently at Outback Steakhouse in my small hometown of London, Ontario, who suggested I go into Public Relations, believing I would be good at it.  So I started exploring and realised that could probably lead to entertainment publicity.  It seemed like a good option for me, and when I got into school, one thing just led to another and before I knew it, I was working for CTV.   I'm sure there were some ways my school or other organisations could have helped, but I actually just kept my focus on what I wanted, followed the nudges and went down the path that felt right to me, and thankfully it just seemed to lead to a really great place.  

What resources did you wish you had at the time? 

I wish I had learned the art of networking at a younger age.  We weren't taught this in school, and I had to learn through others, but I waited until a number of years into my career and definitely feel it would have been more beneficial if I had started sooner.  Relationships are the best aspect of business, often lead to new opportunities that you never would have found on your own, and the element of helping others down their own path, is very rewarding too. Linkedin would have been great back then too, as it allows you to easily find the people who are doing the kind of job you want and directly reach out to them in the hopes of taking them to coffee.

You progressed through your dream career at one of the world's most recognised studios - how did you feel on a daily basis working at such a prestigious company?

Oh my gosh, Warner Bros. is an incredible company, filled with amazing people, many of which I'm still lucky enough to call friends.  I loved every minute of working there, learned so much and felt very proud to be a part of one of the most recognised content creators on the planet!  Our offices in Toronto were filled with pictures and promotional pieces that reminded me each day of the legacy of the company, and the incredibly iconic stories that have been told over the years. And when there were chances to go to the studio in Los Angeles, I felt an amazing buzz  knowing I was even a small part of legendary storytelling. 

What resources do you turn to frequently now for support and education? network is my biggest resource.    People are amazing, supportive, helpful and overall kind.   I think we often forget that and assume others don't have time or won't want to help, but every time I have questions, need advice or just someone to lean on, my network of colleagues, friends and family have always come through.  They also educate me in so many ways - I ask a lot of people a lot of questions, and that helps shape my own thoughts and ideas.   

There are also so many cool online sources for education - TeamTreehouse, Lynda, Skillshare - and I read a ton, on a variety of subjects - anything from trends in my own business, finance, architecture and design, travel and entertainment news.  Constant learning keeps me growing, and diversity of learning is key for me - you never know where an idea will spark from that can enrich the project you're working on.    

You're heading out on your own now - how are you finding the journey so far? 

It's exciting, invigorating, exhilarating, overwhelming and a smidge terrifying, all at the same time.   But I wouldn't have it any other way.   Would be great to say it's all roses and sunshine, but that wouldn't be an honest picture.  It's hard work putting yourself out there every day, but I'm building something I'm passionate about, hope my work can help people reach their own business dreams, and that fuels the journey as I keep my eye on the goal.  

With your world travels and your new venture in a new city, have you encountered fear in any significant way and how did/do you manage it? 

Fear - it's often there.....but like Susan Jeffers book says "Feel the fear, and do it anyway".   Travel is a great way to work through your fears - especially going solo.   It builds your confidence, improves your communication, and makes you more adaptable - all things that can help you tackle other challenges in life and business.  Through those experiences, I've learned not to overthink things, and not to worry as most things can be figured out. So if I feel the fear, I tend to take a deep breath and just jump in. Failure may happen, but you've got to try first, otherwise you'll never know. And amazing things tend to develop when you go out of your comfort zone. 

Lastly, do you have any additional advice or words of encouragement for our JAGGAR readers? 

No matter how small you may think you are, your actions and attitudes might inspire someone else to be brave, and go after their own dreams. 

And also, I think what you're doing here is very cool. There are so many different stories to tell, and so many amazing women, that might think their story won't have an impact on someone else....but my good friend taught me differently.

Jessica Alba - The Honest Company

In 2008, pregnant with her first child, Honor and celebrating the impending birth, Jessica Alba’s mother told her to ensure she pre-washed all the gifted onesies with baby detergent before use and upon using a mainstream brand of baby-specific detergent, Jessica broke out in hives. She wondered about the effect a mainstream product would have on her child who is naturally more sensitive than herself, and began spending her nights Googling the contents of her bathroom cabinets. She found everything from formaldehydes to flame retardants in all her everyday products and in began shopping around for more eco-friendly options to no avail.

She teamed up with Christopher Gavigan (of Healthy Child, Healthy World), web entrepreneur Brian Lee and Sean Kane to form The Honest Company, named for the transparency of its product ingredients and by 2011 she was lobbying Washington D.C for updated legislation, particularly of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act.

The company grew dramatically, firstly as an online ecommerce diaper delivery business before expanding into brick and mortar retailers across the country including mega brand, Costco and extending its product range to include a myriad of household products.

In its first year of business (2012), The Honest Company was raking in $10 million in revenue. Now that figure has grown to $150 million in revenue with a prediction of almost double that for this year. With a stake of between 15% and 20% of the business, that stands Alba with a fortune of around $200 million and a view to a spot on FORBES’ new ranking of America’s Richest Self-Made Women list.

Next on the horizon is international expansion first into South Korea and potentially China in 2016. 

Elizabeth Holmes - Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes is not your ordinary entrepreneur. Ms Holmes has entered the 2014 Forbes 400 list as the youngest self-made female billionaire with an estimated net worth of USD$4.6 billion, owning a 50% stake in her company, Theranos. 

The 31 year old Stanford drop out has reinvented Phlebotemy by inventing the way medical professionals the world over administer blood tests.

Her Advisory Board has been called  'the single most accomplished board in US corporate history' with such members as Henry Kissinger and George Schultz among others and as of 2014, Ms Holmes had "18 US patents and 66 non-US patents in her name."

As a child, she told her father that she wanted to change the world - but not in a generic superhero fantasy, rather the precise goal " to discover something new, something mankind didn't know was possible to do" via (by the way, that was written to her father at age 9.)

At a relatively early age I began to believe that building a business was perhaps the greatest opportunity for making an impact, because it’s a tool for making a change in the world.

While in New Zealand, our public healthcare system is heavily subsidised to enable you to undergo free or incredibly cheap tests, in countries like America, the costs are prohibitive and this new method of blood testing will cut those costs to a quarter or even a tenth of what standard medical professionals in the US charge. 

Even private healthcare in New Zealand would be of benefit, in an interview with Glamour Magazine, Ms Holmes mentions  "the price differences are amazing. It can cost hundreds to get a basic fertility workup but through Theranos, at Walgreens, you could get the testing for something like $35. And the cholesterol test...might cost $85 at a doctor's office and at Walgreens, it was only $2.99." 

Todd Tankersley    Brown Bird Design

Todd Tankersley  Brown Bird Design

At age nine, she was planning to take over the world and learning Mandarin. In high school she started her own business selling C++ compilers to Chinese Universities. She gained early admission to Stanford University and was inducted into an elite freshmen group, the 'president's scholars' and then with next to no formal biology training, she travelled to Singapore to work in the Genome Institute laboratory to work on a project for detection of SARS in blood and nasal swabs.

When she returned, she drafted a patent application, not long after which at age 19 she dropped out of Stanford, formed Theranos and has quietly grown her company under the public radar until now, a decade on and entering the media with a bang! 

By the age of 31, Elizabeth Holmes has already achieved more than the vast majority of entrepreneurs and she's done it out of the public eye. Generally, in business we're taught to get our brand out there immediately, advertise, put a face to the name, get your brand name on people's lips, in their faces, make your brand a household name. But up until recently, 'Theranos' and 'Elizabeth Holmes' were names only known to the medical industry, quietly brokering deals that will save Medicare upwards of $98 billion and Medicaid, $104 billion. via

Ms Holmes is 'drive' personified. She knows herself and her capabilities and has never thought there was anything she couldn't do. Her confidence and self belief has led her to life-changing decisions, to the constant betterment of self and of the world as she continues to strive for a dramatic change in the world, in business and in the healthcare industry. 

If these incredible feats are what she has accomplished by age 31, it is empowering, inspiring and exciting to think what else she will have accomplished 5 years, 10 years or longer down the track. 

She is truly an entrepreneur to watch!

Deanna Yang - Moustache

As a kid, Deanna Yang started 'Deanna Craig' - a gym for cats - yes cats - and while her one member lost 0.5kgs, Deanna's real success was the idea of 'Moustache'- a milk and cookie bar she dreamed up when she was 8. At 18, she decided to go for it and spent the next three years working three jobs to make it happen.

At 21, she opened the doors of Moustache on Auckland's Wellesley Street in the heart of the CBD to a long line of eager customers, (some of whom camped out in sleeping bags the night before) already hyped for the promise of what lay inside. 

When the decision was made to close the physical store (currently still open but will be closing this year), Deanna wouldn't accept that it was the end and launched a crowdfunding initiative  for a Moustache Milk and Cookie Bus - a travelling commercial kitchen in a bus that serves cookies and shakes to not just Auckland residents but all the big cities and small towns around the country even to weddings, festivals and fairs.

Her goal was to raise $80,000 to fit out the bus and gain all the compliance requirements. On the 17th of April at 11pm,  Moustache's crowdfunding closed with 1277 donors pledging $91,049 - $11k over what they needed for the bus which will go towards Deanna's stretch goal of also being able to open another Auckland fixed premises for Moustache when the time is right.

We've been following Deanna's career for a while now and below we share both an interview we did with her on the success of Moustache (completed last year) and an excerpt from her blog on her view as a female entrepreneur. Read on!

1. At age 21 when you decided to open Moustache, what was your decision process? – was it a ‘leap first, ask questions later’ decision? Or one that was thoroughly researched and discussed?

I made the decision to open Moustache when I was about 18-19 years old. Over the next couple years while I studied at university, I was constantly building and developing the concept. So Moustache was researched and discussed over a few years but once the ball got rolling, everything happened so fast that I felt like I just leaped first and had to figure everything out on the go! 

2. Did you have any prior business knowledge before you launched Moustache?

I started this project with no prior business knowledge, no money in the bank & didn't even know how to bake properly! I was just a home baker who had a huge passion for cookies, learning and I wasn't afraid of working hard.  Even though I had none of the necessary skills to start a baking business, it was sheer passion & determination that pushed me. 

3. How has Moustache grown since its inception?

Moustache exceeded my expectations from Day 1. I remember when we opened, I had a small Kitchenaid like the ones you see in people's home kitchens! Within two weeks we had to upgrade our mixer to a 20 litre dough mixer and then shortly after we had to upgrade again to a giant 40 litre mixer. It's amazing thinking back to when we first opened and how far we have come since then! 

4. What was the gap in the market that you identified and how does Moustache fill that gap?

We just do one thing and we do it well. It's a tiny little shop but there's a lot of heart behind it. I think the gap in the market I saw was that there wasn't anything quite like it and I worked hard at developing a unique an quirky brand. 

5. You were a journalist before this – how did the transition from writing to baking come about?

I studied journalism in university & went on to do a lot of communications-based jobs but really longed to create my own brand and product. So in my second year of university I decided to start my own business with the aim of opening Moustache right after my graduation. I used to bake cookies in high school and sell them to raise money for World Vision. They were so popular, I would always sell out and my friends would always tell me to open my own cookie shop. So I did! 

6. When looking to build a business, we hear you looked at a wishlist from when you were younger, how hard was it to sell that idea to backers?

The first seed of inspiration for Moustache came from my childhood bucket list. Because I grew up with very little, the younger version of me would always dream of the big things I would one day do. Number one on that list was to open a cookie shop. Because a milk & cookie bar is a very niche idea, a lot of people told me I was naïve to think I would be able to make any money just from milk & cookies. On top of that, I was young, I was of Asian ethnicity & I was female. I think these three factors made it almost impossible for people to take me seriously. Bankers, real estate agents and "adults" wouldn't give me their time of day. It was impossible for me to sell the idea to anyone. I knew the only way to make my dream come true was to back it myself. So during university, I picked up three jobs on top of full-time study and saved up penny by penny myself. 

7. Did you seek out any business mentors or partner with any existing business owners to assist you in the start-up?

Moustache is 100% owned and created by my own sweat & tears (and there were a lot of those!) I currently don't have a business partner but would love to find a business mentor! I love to read and take a lot of inspiration from the likes of Richard Branson and Robert Kiyosaki.

8. What is your vision for the future of Moustache?

Eventually I want Moustache to not just be a New Zealand brand but a global brand. I want to see the world, test my boundaries and see where I can take this brand. 

9. What do you think are the 5 most important things to remember or note for future entrepreneurs?

1) You have to back yourself. Because if you won't believe in yourself, then nobody else will.

2) We live in a generation of 'now'. With the internet and technology, a lot of people want things given to them instantly. But success doesn't come overnight - be willing to break your back to make your dreams come true.

3) Don't sweat over making mistakes. You make them, you learn from them and you move on. You're better for it and those mistakes are part of your story. 

4) Stop making excuses for yourself. I was young, I was naïve, I was inexperienced & I had no idea what I was doing. But don't let those factors stop you otherwise you'll never get anything done. Just get started & learn as you go. 

5) Most importantly, have fun. Stop looking at the statistics and numbers all the time. Life is all about having fun and making stories. 

10. What are the mistakes you made during the first year and is there anything you would do differently?

I can't remember all the countless times I've made mistakes but I can tell you that I'm still making them everyday! Especially during the start of the business, I made a lot of mistakes that cost me thousands of dollars and stress. In saying this, I don't think I would ever do anything differently. Had I not made those mistakes, I wouldn't be the same person today. You cannot know what is straight until you know what is crooked. 

11. How long was Moustache in operation before you began to see early signs of success and how difficult was it in the day to day before the business took off?

To my absolute surprise, Moustache took off from the very first day we opened. I remember we had people in sleeping bags lining up outside our shop at 5am on opening day & we didn't even open until 7am! We sold out of everything that day 8 hours early. Those first weeks were tough - never would I have expected the amount of demand we had. I was working for 23 hours a day just to catch up. I remember I would walk to my car, sleep for an hour and then walk back to the shop and start baking all over again. But I am absolutely humbled and fortunate that people took to the brand so early on and have supported me. 

12. What kind of leader are you and how did you find the transition from years of working as someone else’s employee to becoming the Director of your own company?

I like to lead from the trenches. That means I'm in the arena with my staff and willing to get on my hands and knees to scrub the floor or just do the menial tasks. I don't really believe so much in having hierarchy within Moustache but place a bigger emphasis on mutual respect and consideration for other people. 

13. What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in the business so far?

There are so many challenges that get thrown at you when you're trying to build a startup. The biggest thing for me is the challenge of having work/life balance. It's so easy to get absorbed into the business and you become the business. I'm slowly learning to let go & start having a life of my own outside of Moustache. 

14. What do you wish you had known before you started?

That everything always ends up taking twice as long and for twice as much money as you predict. So always be prepared for setbacks and unaccounted costs. 

15. On your blog, you note how difficult it is juggling everything all at once and the effect it has on your mental health at times- do you have any advice for new business owners in the same boat?

I think it's easy to get overwhelmed especially when you're a new business owner. The main thing is to take a step back, take a big breath and remember to take things one step at a time. Don't look at the 100 things you need to get done, just focus on just one thing at a time. Get that done and then focus on the second thing and then the third so on and so forth. 

16. What is your advice for New Zealanders preparing to launch their own business?

Don't be afraid to be different. But remember that criticism comes to those that stand out. So don't be frightened of getting criticised - it comes with the territory. Nobody successful gets unanimous praise - ever. 

17. What’s your favourite Moustache cookie flavour? 

Chocolate chunk is my favourite cookie of all time because this was the cookie that inspired me to open Moustache. It is the quintessential cookie of my childhood.

Check out the video below to learn more about the crowdfunding and Deanna's dreams for Moustache.

Excerpt from Deanna's blog on her view as a female entrepreneur.

"I have at least over 100 emails sitting in my inbox from men telling me how wrong I am, how this isn’t how you’re meant to “do business”, how I’m a silly little girl, offering their advice and how they know exactly how to run my business. They see my photo and from that moment, I don’t stand a chance. I have everything against me. Every bad stereotype. Every box they try to shove me inside.

I am a woman.   I am young.   And I am Asian.

Flashbacks to meetings when I would ring my older brother & say, “Justin, are you free to come to my meeting tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I am. Why’s that?”

“Because they treat me different if you’re not around”

Do I hate the game that I must play just so I can compete? Do I hate that I have to jump through a million hoops just to prove that I deserve to be talked to? If I negotiate for what I feel is fair, I am a demanding bitch. If I have any downs, it’s because I am a stupid little girl who doesn’t know what I’m doing. If I am successful, then it is credited to good luck.

Sometimes, I have to sit pretty & play within their rules because that is the only way I can survive. But. This is not the world that is becoming. This is not the world that we are creating. Slowly, we are creating a world without those glass ceilings.

So this is why today was more than just a victory that enables the next phase of Moustache’s story.

This shows me the future of our society. This shows me that social media has revolutionised the world. That no longer is it just the rich & powerful, but also the little people that can have a voice. Without the power of our fans, the power of the Mo people, we wouldn’t be heard. I would be stuck to the confines of the stereotypes that I am boxed within.

Yes I am a woman, yes I am young, yes I am Asian... But i will hold onto those perceived weaknesses because they will become my strengths. Those attributes do not define me.

Don’t let them define you. Don’t let small-minded people tell you who you are. You are whoever you want to be.

So to those hundreds of emails from condescending haters that tell me “you can’t do business like this.”

I say,

W a t c h  m e ."

Connect With Moustache