Award for business adviser’s support

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Business owners who have a ‘‘fire in their belly’’ are the sort of people Tara Druce, of Alexandra, wants to help.

She has spent the past eight years providing advice, support and tools to many different businesses so they can grow and develop new products and ideas.
She is the business growth manager for the Otago Regional Business Partners Network and is team leader for the three­person team.

Ms Druce also won an Outstanding Contribution Award for her work for the network at its conference in Nelson this month.
‘‘We worked with 270 businesses across Otago last year, in all stages of development and across all sectors,’’ Ms Druce said.

She is seeing a surge in start­up businesses and those expanding.
Many were involved in high­value tourism and horticulture, including cherries and viticulture, as well as the service sector, construction, and start-ups.
‘‘These are people who have fire in their bellies,’’ she said.
‘‘They have got aspirations for growth and development of their businesses.
‘‘If they bring that to the table we can help.’’

The network is a government initiative, half funded by the New Zealand for Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and half by Callaghan Innovation.
The Otago Chamber of Commerce is contracted to deliver the programme to Otago on behalf of NZTE.

Part of Ms Druce’s job is to help connect businesses with support and funding, to help them grow their capabilities and skills.
In addition there is funding available for research and development.

‘‘Each solution for each business is totally bespoke and the challenges for each business are completely different.’’
She said to qualify for funding for research or development, businesses had to have ‘‘an element of breaking new ground, something you can’t buy off the shelf’’.
One of the trends she noted was the move towards more people working remotely in Central Otago, as connectivity and fibre services improve.
‘‘Why wouldn’t you work here in Central Otago?
‘‘You can live here for the lifestyle and work as well.’’

The network also manages the Business Mentors New Zealand (BMNZ) programme, which provides more experienced mentors to offer advice and act as sounding boards to businesses.
‘‘They work with people, from those with business ideas, to those with established businesses looking to scale up.’’

Ms Druce was keen to hear from anyone wishing to become a mentor.
The organisation is holding an event in Queenstown on December 5, for existing and new mentors.