Annette Presley

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to business and women

Annette Presley has been described as driven, strong and focused - all qualities that have helped her succeed in her various businesses.

Starting her first company, IT recruitment firm Stratum, at just 24 kicked off a career which Presley says was extremely tough at times.

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In 1996, she co-founded CallPlus, which now includes Slingshot, Orcon and 2talk and was bought by M2 last year for $250 million.

It was New Zealand's third largest telecommunications and broadband provider during her leadership.

She led the unbundling of the local loop in New Zealand, which brought pricing down more than 50 per cent and created competition.

Being appointed an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and women, Presley says she is humbled, joking that perhaps it was all worth it.

"I was blown away actually," Presley said.

"It's sort of surreal because you go along, you're doing what you do, and it's just like any person that's succeeded in business, you have days where you think, 'This is too hard'," she said.

"I must admit when I got the letter, one of my reactions was 'wow', it's almost like someone saying it was worth it. And the stuff I'm doing with women is my heart's work so it's something I'm going to keep doing and I love doing, so I feel really honoured and humbled."

Outside business, Presley dedicates her time to encouraging the next generation of women technology entrepreneurs, and is an investor and dedicated mentor to Creative HQ's Lightning Lab XX programme that supports start-up businesses with at least one female co-founder.

She is a philanthropist and was patron of the charity StepUP which gives business inspiration to teenagers, and has been actively involved in supporting charities such as Dress for Success, Shine and Kidz First Children's Hospital in South Auckland.

Last year, Presley established the charity Elicit, a camp to inspire teenagers to strive for their dreams, and a programme she has run in schools for 10 years. Among her many accolades, Presley was inducted into the Co.OfWomen Businesswomen's Hall of Fame in 2015 and named Metro Magazine Business Woman of the Year in 2006.

When previously asked about her success, Presley has been humble.

"People over the years have said, 'Oh gosh, you're so lucky'. Yeah I know, I am lucky. Luck's a part of it - if you're born into an environment where you can create these opportunities.

"We were born here. New Zealand is just an incredible environment to make your dreams come true."