New Zealand has a new event on the business calendar, in the form of a two day “festival” for small and medium enterprise (SME) business owners and entrepreneurs.

The 2021 SME&E Festival powered by Xero is scheduled to take place on 27 and 28 October at Wellington’s TSB Arena, and event founder Craig Murray says attendees should expect “not a conference”, but a format more akin to a music festival.

Programming for the SME&E Festival includes 24 workshops, seven world class keynotes, an expert business panel and a business networking party complete with a yet to be announced well known New Zealand band.

Talking to NZ Entrepreneur, Murray said that while the event is intended to be as much of a celebration and acknowledgement of the role of SME business owners in our communities, that programme content is very much designed to enable attendees to learn, adopt and deploy valuable business tactics in their own enterprises.

“Too often we go to a business event, hear some inspiring speakers, but then there is a disconnect. We want people to be able to hear our thought leaders expertise but then learn how to actually apply what they are saying in our workshops so that they can action those insights straight away.”

MC’d by award winning journalist and broadcaster Jehan Casinader, headline speakers include Kiwi business luminaries such as Justine Troy, investor and co-founder of 42 Below Vodka; serial entrepreneur, former advertising boss and AUT entrepreneurship professor Mike Hutcheson; author and marketer Cassie Roma (fresh from NZ’s recent series of The Apprentice); food and beverage entrepreneur Rachel Taulelei; Angus Brown co-founder and CEO at brain food startup Arepa; and Craig Hudson, NZ & Pacific Managing Director of event sponsor Xero.

Murray says the headline speakers and workshop presenters will be working around a theme based on five pillars including the power of an idea, marketing for the now, wellbeing in the workplace, working in the new normal and planning for future business success.

All keynotes and workshops will be filmed and available for attendees to revisit for a month after the Festival, and for those who can’t make it to Wellington, or in the event of disruption due to COVID, tickets are available to attend the Festival virtually.

The Festival will also incorporate several new innovations with some cutting edge Kiwi-developed event technology being used in New Zealand for the first time.

The tech will be provided by Queenstown entrepreneur Scott Witters’ tech startup, Glownet. Witters, former CEO of Rhythm Group, the team behind events such as Rhythm and Vines explained earlier this year that with every attendee owning a smart phone, event promoters today had the ability to provide more seemless and personalised experiences with apps leveraging RFID / NFC cashless payment, live interaction with speakers, sponsor activation and rewards, and access control.

The learning also continues online well after the festival ends, with attendees receiving a complimentary 12 month registration for the Startup NZ Entrepreneurs Programme with every ticket sold.

From running the one of the worlds largest enduro mountain bike races, to carnivals and music events, Murray is no stranger to event management,and says he is looking forward to the chance to change up the event scene in the business space.

“I have learnt over the years that great events thrive like any other business when organisers focus 100% on attendee value. At the end of the day it is actually their event not ours so everything we do is focused on what they can get out of it, not just what we think would be cool.”

WHAT: NZ SME&E Festival
WHEN: 27 & 28 October
WHERE: TSB Arena Wellington and online
TICKETS: Earlybird tickets for the NZ SME&E Festival are available at

Watch the interview below.


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