An Open Letter – Let’s Bring Back ‘Kiwi made’ for Doing Business

In the midst of sleepless nights and contemplative moments, I find myself pondering the lack of trajectory of our beloved nation and business landscape. The motivation behind these restless hours is rooted in a frustration from the observation that Kiwi businesses, in times of economic hardship, often overlook the potential of supporting fellow Kiwi-owned enterprises in their business endeavours.

Forgive me for the absence of concrete evidence; my reflections are mostly drawn from personal experience within the advertising sector and catalysed by recent developments in the banking industry (yes that’s you ASB). This deal would have been a multimillion windfall to a Kiwi agency but instead it’s gone to an agency abroad with profits flowing offshore. Far too frequently, we encounter the catchphrase of “streamlining” operations and aligning with larger (international) entities and I’m sure this isn’t limited to the advertising industry. So where is the mutual support of each other?

The significance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in New Zealand’s economic tapestry cannot be under-rated. Recent research underscores that SMEs constitute an astounding 97 percent of businesses in the country, contributing to 28 percent of total employment and generating more than a quarter of the nation’s GDP. We also have a plethora of outstanding and world class independent agencies run by intelligent, highly ambitious Kiwis who are some of the best talent in the world with a direct line to some of the world’s most developed tech. New Zealand’s beating heart are these businesses and its life-line is the support we impart to one another, mostly by doing business with each other. It’s pretty damn simple and so logical. The worst part of all of this, is the recent upsurge of 35 percent in companies entering liquidation just this year. C’mon!

The path towards emerging from our current economic challenges is so obvious. We have an immense reservoir of creativity, talent, and digital acumen in New Zealand – an aspect often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the business world and distracted by shiny new things from afar. We also have some of the best tech entrepreneurs in the world (hello Xero and Tracksuit). Remember the adage that suggests the larger fish in the pond are the ones to watch? I believe it is (without doubt) the small fast fish that demonstrates real agility, and innovative thinking and this is New Zealand to the core.

What grinds my gears the most is the lack of support for one another. If we keep supporting international bank balances, we deepen the crevice of recession and will witness more businesses succumbing to adversity. What’s more, our most valuable resource (people) will seek greener pastures abroad, driven by the allure of better financial prospects and opportunities. And, I understand the attraction, I really do.

The solution is simple. It is high time we resurrect the spirit of the cherished ‘Kiwi Made’ label but for businesses. Let us proudly wave the ‘Kiwi owned’ insignia, underscoring the pride and commitment that underpin our local businesses.

Procurement and decision makers – we understand you need to tick the boxes for sustainability and diversity however please don’t overlook locally-owned enterprises in your criteria. Share the love, inspire our young and support our country and economy. 

My favourite saying is ‘kindness makes the world go round’ but now it’s Kiwi-owned businesses supporting each other that makes the world go round’. Foster a collaborative spirit and inspire prosperity, growth, and shared success for all. It’s so easy. Or at least I thought it was.

– Melanie Spencer, Group CEO