A week out from the PowerUp Ideas Competition Finals Night, Venture Taranaki, the Regional Development Agency for Taranaki, is shining a spotlight on the top five finalists.

We asked three questions, each finalist gave us an insight into the entrepreneurial growth and development they’ve experienced during the competition process. 

A popular evening on the Taranaki business events calendar, the PowerUp Ideas Competition Finals Night will be held in New Plymouth on 16 June, where the five finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges with one finalist taking home the grand prize of $10,000 to invest in their idea.

The top five finalists (in no particular order) are: 

  • Karen Danenhauer, MamaGaia – a product made from recycled products
  • Jenni Matheson, Mrinali Kumar and team, Kinda Ice Cream – plant-based food products
  • Glen Stephens, Sol + Sea – an innovative skincare range
  • Lauren Oehme and Leon Power, Nanobubble Agritech – agricultural technology
  • Remy Zynfogel, Calypso Science – technology focused on ocean tides and currents

Thanks to Venture Taranaki and its collaboration with Soda Inc, the finalists have received tailored support to help them move forward with their idea, $3,000 seed funding, one-on-one mentorship, and two months of co-working space access.

1) What has been your most significant learning throughout the PowerUp Ideas Competition?

Karen, MamaGaia: How to plan to scale-up my business. I used to have a vague idea about how to grow my business, with dreams of where I wanted to be in a few years. Now I understand how to work through different scenarios and crunch the numbers to develop a realistic business plan. It’s been daunting, but so helpful to determine the concrete steps I need to take to move my venture forward.    

PowerUp finalists

Karen Danenhauer founder of MamaGaia.

Jenni and Mrinali, Kinda Ice Cream: The importance of being proactive and networking. There are a lot of encouraging people who are energetic and excited to see us succeed, who want to support us in any way they can, which is helpful when we’re making important decisions about things we don’t know a lot about. The combination of being proactive and the support we have received from our mentors (Kate O’Leary, Venture Taranaki, and Manifold) has been instrumental to our success so far. 

PowerUp finalists

Jenni Matheson co-founder of Kinda Ice Cream.

Glen, Sol+Sea: The PowerUp programme has enabled us to refine and validate key aspects of the business, such as a single-minded and differentiated brand proposition and brand model, including our messaging, tone of voice, personality, and brand pillars for content. We’ve created a core target consumer profile and trial group for testing and surveying our messaging, and to validate our products, ideas, and key messages. The Powerup programme has helped us to develop and execute this process.

PowerUp finalists

Glen Stephens founder of Sol + Sea.

Lauren and Leon, Nanobubble Agritech: Intellectual property is key if you want your business or idea to get investment.

PowerUp finalists

Leon Power founder of Nanobubble Agritech.

Remy, Calypso Science: To think about my business and myself as a professional, in a broader context. As a scientist, my work can be isolating – just me and my computer. PowerUp is an opportunity to take a step back and consider where Calypso Science sits in the world, what the market needs, and how and where our products can have the biggest impact. The importance of user friendliness and real-world application are now in the forefront of my mind with every decision, where scientific excellence had been sole priority in the past. Our goal is to bring science-based solutions to marine users for the biggest impact. 

PowerUp finalists

Remy Zynfogel founder of Calypso Science.

2) What has been the biggest direction change?

Karen, MamaGaia: I don’t think I’ve changed direction, but being a finalist for the PowerUp Ideas Competition has brought clarity to the pathway and given me the confidence to take the necessary steps to grow my business. I had been struggling with which aspects of the business take priority, but now I have a better grasp of these things, and I also know who to approach when the next questions arise.

Jenni and Mrinali, Kinda Ice Cream: We came into the PowerUp programme at quite an early stage, which has given us the flexibility to be able to change and adapt where required. We haven’t had a direction change yet, but we are researching and growing our knowledge base to achieve our goal, such as what’s the best route to get our product to consumers or where to find the most sustainable packaging option. 

Glen, Sol+Sea: There has been no real direction change, but the PowerUp programme has enabled us to have laser-focus on the purpose of the business, keeping us on our trajectory. Being involved in PowerUp has solidified the ‘why’ and confirmed the main purpose of our business: to protect and restore customers’ skin and our oceans.

Lauren and Leon, Nanobubble Agritech: Our business is in the early stages, so we’ve been busy conducting a lot of proof-of-response trials across a wide range of industries. Naturally, there has been a big direction change post-trials as we take our product to market, conduct in-depth market analysis, test market aptitude, and continue with product R&D. One thing we didn’t expect was the large number of opportunities to partner with various NZ groups that can help to turn our business idea from just a local business into a genuine global opportunity.

Remy, Calypso Science: It’s been more of a change of focus rather than a direction change – considering clients as individuals and investigating the barriers that stop them from accessing data in their field of work. It could be technical expertise, time, or simply knowledge on the availability of the data. The more we understand about these needs the closer we are to guaranteeing that our data is being utilised to its full potential. Success used to be that the models were running with no glitches and the codes were neat. However, the goal posts have moved. Success is now knowing that we are producing usable solutions and promoting access to this data.

3) What is something you thought was true/correct but turned out to be completely different to your original thought? 

Karen, MamaGaia: While I can’t identify anything that has turned out to be completely different to my original thought, PowerUp has provided me with clarity and confidence. It has been incredible to talk through my ideas with so many people who have offered different perspectives and helped me tweak my approach going forward. It has been invaluable to have this assistance in progressing my business.

Jenni and Mrinali, Kinda Ice Cream: Before researching the best packaging options available for our product, we thought plastic would be the ‘villain’ and the most unsustainable option. On the contrary, plastic is currently the best option we have come across because it is reusable and recyclable in New Zealand. Other options such as cardboard tubs, which are thought to be more sustainable than plastic, have a PET lining that is not recyclable in New Zealand. If anyone reading knows of a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option suitable for packaging ice-cream, please reach out to @kindaicecream on Instagram, Facebook or Linkedin. We’d love to collaborate.

Glen, Sol+Sea: The timeframe required to research, develop, validate, and execute the core fundamentals of the business. Our timeframe has doubled from the original plan, which is a good thing because we are playing the long game. The extension of time meant that we were able to participate in PowerUp and get extra help to achieve our deliverables and goals prior to launch. We now have a solid foundation to launch a successful and long-lasting Taranaki-based business, thanks to PowerUp.

Lauren and Leon, Nanobubble Agritech: Not sure yet, it’s all been a bit of a rollercoaster ride at this stage!

Remy, Calypso Science: Prior to taking part in PowerUp, I was 100% certain that marketing was boring. This process has led me to value and even enjoy the process. Creating a marketing strategy for my business has become about sharing the stories hidden in my datasets with like-minded people who care about the sea as deeply as I do. 

For more information about PowerUp, visit Taranaki.co.nz, or to enquire about Venture Taranaki services email powerup@venture.org.nz.