Over 200 fantastic, ambitious and passionate people from all over New Zealand have celebrated the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey at Soda Inc’s Ambition Showcase.

The showcase, supported by ASB Bank, took place at the Wintec Atrium on Thursday and featured speakers from Soda start-up companies who bravely shared insights and learnings from their entrepreneurial journeys so far.

Guests were also treated to a keynote speech from serial entrepreneur and current Soda mentor, Jenene Crossan.

Soda CE Erin Wansbrough said the showcase bought together like-minded go-getters who wanted to learn from and celebrate each other.

“It’s great to see so many start-ups being celebrated and so many entrepreneurial people learning, not only from each other’s successes, but their short comings too. It’s great to see collaboration and growth come about with the help of Soda, we love seeing our work come to fruition,” Erin said.

Before the showcase kicked off Soda held four workshops with industry professionals from MediaSense, Motion Sickness, Dynamic Media and Minter Ellison.

Hal Josephson, the Founder of MediaSense, spoke about strategic planning for start-ups in the first workshop.

“I think the customer is the most important thing when it comes to building your start-up company. You never want to sell sizzle without steak,“ Hal said.

The second workshop got underway with some amazing tips from Hilary Ngan Kee and Sam Stuchbury from Motion Sickness on digital marketing strategies.

“If you can’t explain to someone exactly what you’re about, you need to clarify in your own mind what you are trying to do,” Sam said.

He said nobody loved your brand as much as you did, so it was key to be authentic and appealing to your customers to make them care.

Dani Simpson from Dynamic Media shared her insights on how to pitch your story to mainstream media.

Think about who you want to target. Make it personal. Do your research first, understand who the journalist you’re sending it to is."

Cameron Taylor from Minter Ellison spoke about capital education.

He said there were many sources of capital and entrepreneurs needed to figure out what was right for them and their business and discussing the differences between debt or equity funding.

“You need a compelling pitch [to secure capital and] cut through the rest of the noise to come out on top of the pile.”

Natashia Lucas, who started a food co-operative, with her husband Michael, kicked off the showcase event in the early evening.

She shared how she found the logistics and administration of running a co-operative was a nightmare and how she went about solving this for other co-ops with technology platform FareShare.

“After getting it off the ground, came the shock of how much organisation it took. I thought we needed a system that focused on an understanding of business. Co-ops need empowering, so that’s what we set about to do with FareShare,” she said.

Ben Hawken who threw in his well-paying corporate job to follow his start-up business dream and Rikus Wiehahn who taught himself how to code to build their first business Offload App, spoke about their journey so far.

“Our idea was pretty simple, if everyone knows what you’re good at, when you’re available, where you’re willing to go, and what you charge, they could just call you and you could just roll up and do the work and the world would just be an easier place,” Rikus said.

The problem Rikus and Ben faced was, they had no money or idea how to build an app that would bring this idea to life.

Together, they shared their ongoing journey to date and gave some tips they’d learned along the way.

“Aiming for everyone is pretty much aiming for no one, we had to refine our audience,” Rikus said.

“The biggest growth we’ve had over the last year was not from the times we got it right, but from the times we got it wrong,” Ben said.

Maggie Mitchell who faced the tragedy of losing husband, Andy, co-founder and inventor, but is still carrying on growing Departure Lounge caskets spoke about continuing with her entrepreneurial journey in the face of hardship.

“I’m passionate about offering families the chance to personalise these caskets with images that truly represent them. I can truly empathise with families and what they are going through.

“Our story is about turning moments of death into celebrations of life. The grief journey is an emotional roller-coaster. At times, it is very difficult to want to continue. My business mentor, Rick Wells, was so incredibly understanding that I could not give up because he certainly did not give up on me,” Maggie said.

Dr. Susan Wheeler, who has faced every imaginable barrier to grow New Zealand's hop industry through her business Hop Revolution, shared snippets of her incredible journey to date and partnership with MyFarm investments.

“Our goal is to supply New Zealand aroma hops to the craft brewing world. That’s where we stand in November 2018. That wasn’t where I started.

“Hop Revolution was an idea in 2010, it was a research project in 2012, and it was a company in 2014.”

Susan said she originally set out to help some brewing friends who were unable to secure hops from around New Zealand.

“One of the most important people who helped me on my journey was my mentor Tony Hawken, he was my business mentor in the Soda programme. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but this programme helped me figure that out.”

Finally, the special keynote speaker, the passionately disobedient Founder of Flossie, Jenene Crossan, shared her experience as an entrepreneur and change ambassador in New Zealand.

Jenene said we put entrepreneurs up on pedestals and set such high expectations for them with little option for failure, but it was more important for start-ups to value prioritisation over being busy.

“Ninety seven percent of what you are holding on to as a founder can be delegated - the other three percent is what you bring that no one else can and is the secret source of a true entrepreneur.

“When it stops being fun, don't do it. Happiness is number one,” she said as she alluded to her blog: SUCKcess blog.

Following the storytelling session, a short graduation ceremony celebrating all the founders Soda had worked with throughout 2018 took place.


Darren Bainbridge from MyApiary based in Hamilton, a Soda BOOST graduate

Callaghan Innovation Grant Recipient

Brian Russell was his Business Growth Mentor

Nigel Dickinson from Kirkyl based in Te Aroha, a Soda BOOST graduate

Callaghan Innovation Grant Recipient

David Anderson was his Business Growth Mentor

Michele Connell from Off the Beaten Track based in Hamilton, a Soda LIFT Graduate

Callaghan Innovation Grant Recipient

Murray McCaw was their Business Growth Mentor

Maggie Mitchell from Departure Lounge Caskets based in the Waikato, a Soda LIFT graduate

Callaghan Innovation Grant Recipient

Rick Wells was her Business Growth Mentor

Ben Hawken and Rikus Wiehahn from Offload App based in Hamilton, Soda LIFT graduates

Callaghan Innovation Grant Recipient

Ali Grigg was their Business Growth Mentor

Torbin Chambers from Journeys based in Hamilton, a Launchpad graduate

Wintec Foundation Grant recipient

Kelvin Soh was his Business Growth Mentor

Natashia Lucas from FareShare based in Tauranga, a Soda & VC LIFT graduate

Callaghan Innovation Grant Recipient

Malcolm Rands was her Business Growth Mentor

Soda is a Hamilton-based business incubator that works with founders from all industry sectors to create a customised support program based on founder’s needs. Soda goes to market on a case-by-case basis, both locally and internationally, to find the perfect mentor match for their incubated start-ups.

To find out more information about Soda Inc. click here to visit their website.