Stars in our eyes

By Carroll du Chateau

SARA TETRO

* Training: Half a commerce degree from AUT.

* Style: Energetic; friendly yet no-nonsense, with a slug of genuine caring, especially for young models.

* Terms: 20 per cent booking fee plus 20 per cent commission (models); 10-20 per cent or by negotiation for speaking engagements, advertising, personal appearances, endorsement (sportspeople and celebrities).

* Success message: Be well-connected; cultivate good talent; stay cool - in the fashion sense. "In our industry being cool is vital."

* Key: The guts to have a go; great contacts, getting a specialised accounting programme written.

* Tools: BlackBerry hand-held computer; "my accountant Maureen".

* Top clients: Jamie Sisley, Michael Campbell, Ali Williams, Barbara Kendall.

* Worst experience: Model who arrived at a shoot as a brand-new platinum blonde.

"We had to black it with boot polish."

* Breakthrough points: That first phone call for a booking; the 10-year anniversary.

At 36, Sara Tetro runs three companies, two small daughters and a former All Black husband. And she still has time to sit in the sun and drink melon juice.

Not that Tetro is actually relaxing. She talks fast, acts faster. Her brown eyes rake the people sauntering down Ponsonby Rd. If she saw one who looked right, such as the 14-year-old with the symmetrical face and long limbs she spotted yesterday, she'd be off her high stool in a flash "to talk them into coming in for an interview".

Eleven years ago Tetro decided to open her own business. She had taken a year off after five years as a booker for Maysie Bestall-Cohen's modelling agency when a group of 12 disgruntled models called to say they weren't happy with the representation they were getting. Would she take them on?

Tetro opened 62 Models & Talent two weeks later. "I sent some letters out on the Friday, got a call from a photographer at 10 past 9 on Monday morning." And, she adds, without wishing to sound smug, "I was in the black by the end of the month".

Her background won't have hurt. The fourth child of a Takapuna GP and his wife, and coming after three brothers, she learned self-reliance, confidence, how to negotiate and how to get her own way.

"My father made me responsible for everything ... .

"The signwriter brother [Joel] did the font for my letterhead and logo. My electronics engineer brother [Marcus] helped me with all the computer stuff. And David, who's a stockbroker, went through everything and said, 'You actually know what you're doing'."

She now has 120 models, many of whom go international, plus the children who model for Farmers. One of Tetro's coups was her successful pitch to ad agency Colenso 99 for the Farmers' account. This ensured 62 Models became preferred supplier for all Colenso 99's Farmers work. "It made a massive difference because of the volume of work," says Tetro who won't say how much the account is worth, but takes some of the credit for the new coolness of the once-drear department store.

"Ten years ago girls wouldn't do Farmers. Now we've brought in a new booking system from France to handle the volume."

In 1999, after husband Craig Innes' fellow professional rugby and league players repeatedly asked for help with the commercial side of their careers, Tetro opened 62 Management.

"A lot of players needed help with endorsement work, speaking engagements, press appearances," she says. "There's a lot of money in the [women's] magazines". Tetro, who facilitated Dan Carter's Jockey deal, is chummy with all the editors, negotiates payments for articles, vets copy, tries to stop nasty photos getting into print "and avoid scandals at all costs".

Her third company is the People Shop, which opened last year in response to regular requests for talent for TV reality shows such as Celebrity Treasure Island. "It's based principally on contacts. And if I don't know someone [they want] I'll ring and introduce myself."

Not-for-profit directorships include the board of New Zealand Rugby Players' Association (founding member), the North Shore Hospital Foundation, (mainly raising money) and the Springboard Trust (which helps youth and education charities become financially sustainable).

Although Tetro won't talk money, and her companies are all private, with her as sole director, she says the annual turnover of 62 Models is in the multiple millions, one of the others is doing a million and the other will be there soon.

So how does she do it? "I have a nanny, but not full-time because I like spending time with the kids. I just juggle - and it's ugly and I wouldn't recommend it."

And in the future? That's under wraps too. "Sorry, but this industry is so competitive it's silly to let other people know what you're thinking about doing."

ROBERT KHAN

* Training: BA economics, Auckland. MBA/DipAdmin, Massey.

* Style: Energetic, smart, super-focused.

* Terms: Advertising revenue.

* Success message: Work with the community.

* Key: Operate company as a family.

* Tools: Laptop, mobile.

* Clients: Air New Zealand, Telecom, Western Union, Asia 2000.

* Worst experience: "Don't think I had one."

* Breakpoint: "Seeing the need for Indian-focused advertising."

Robert Khan, 36, is one of the few independent media owners in New Zealand. His Radio Tarana may be a minority station with just 5 per cent of the Auckland market; it may be broadcast in Hindi and aimed unashamedly at the Indian community; but it also offers quality journalism, almost 100 per cent local content - and makes money.

The station broadcasts around the clock and gets out and covers the territory. You can catch a live feed from BBC India. Don Brash and Winston Peters have fortnightly gigs. Tarana was the only electronic media organisation to accompany Winston Peters on his visit to Fiji last month.

Says Khan: "Our role is not only to make sure the Indian community is supported, but [make it] part of New Zealand culture."

Khan, the son of a government official in Suva, was sent to college in New Zealand at 13. "Then the [1987] coup changed everything." The family moved to Palmerston North. Khan embarked on a BA in economics at Auckland, followed by an MBA/DipAdmin from Massey, Albany.

A job in international marketing took him to London where he mingled with Bollywood figures. Back in Auckland he imported Indian movies then DVDs before spotting a gap in the market - "somewhere to advertise to the Indian community was lacking".

Next he leased airspace from Access Radio's Planet FM, broadcast a two-hour programme, Suhana Safaar, and swiftly realised the vacuum was huge. Khan estimates there are 120,000 Indians in New Zealand, 80,000 of them in Auckland, all hungry for something to glue the community together. Khan's long-term partner, Hairish Lodhia, bought the 1386 AM frequency and Radio Tarana was born.

A year later Khan bought out Lodhia and took over Tarana himself. His first six years were tough. " ran Tarana as a business and a service to the community at the same time."

From 2001 he started making money. While figures are confidential, advertising clients pay from $85 for a 30-second spot. There are six minutes of advertising per hour, 18 hours a day. Plus the sponsorship deals. You do the sums.

Today Radio Tarana has 21 staff. Its Kingsland premises bristle with Khan's innovation: co-sponsorships to bring Bollywood stars to New Zealand, and the Diwali Festival of Light that attracted 10,000 to Aotea Square.

A Tarana/Diners Club card, Tarana-sponsored premieres, shows and competitions all illustrate how this small radio station is the heartbeat of Auckland's Indian community.

Last year Khan took Tarana online. "We've got respect from people [an average of 20,000 click in and listen] who play our night programme in Holland, South Africa, all over the world."

Khan, who lives in Ponsonby with wife Prakashni, works 12-hour days, already owns other frequencies and looks to alliances with international media companies, possibly involving TV. "When they look at New Zealand they look at us."

GRANT ROBERTSON

* Training: BA (hons) political studies.

* Style: Friendly, frank, easy-going.

* Terms: Salary.

* Success message: Building relationships.

* Tools: Mobile phone.

* Key: Pride in being a New Zealander.

* Clients: Heather Simpson; Hon Helen Clark.

* Worst experience: "Putting yourself out there and being attacked personally."

* Breakthrough point: Listening to Kofi Annan and James Wolfensohn (then head of the World Bank) at the UN and realising, "I'm here, I'm doing this and I'm only 27!"

As a senior adviser in Helen Clark's private office, Grant Robertson is a powerful man. As the person assigned to the shadowy Heather Simpson, Clark's chief of staff, he is more influential still.

At 34, Robertson has had a hand in a range of Labour's policy papers on economics, social and foreign policy; works with Labour's minority support parties to push legislation through; sells ideas to the electorate and fronts the media for Simpson.

His conversation is sprinkled with terms like "trade-offs" and "negotiations". Legislation and moves he has had a hand in include: interest-free student loans; helping achieve 20 per cent New Zealand music content for commercial radio; and helping the GM debate through to royal commission and emerging with the "case-by-case" solution.

In this role he would need to be warm and Robertson is. He also fits smoothly. In a department tolerant of sexual difference, he is in an openly gay relationship. A committed liberal, he came up through student politics. His areas of special interest are education, sustainable development and, of course, politics.

Education - because he was there, one foot in the door at Otago University, when Phil Goff first imposed tertiary fees in 1990? "For me it's about equality of opportunity. And education is the absolute key to unlocking your quality of life and potential."

Robertson had only one job, slicing veges for a supermarket, before moving into politics. He learned negotiation skills as head prefect at Kings High School ("the one on the flat, as distinct from Otago Boys High on the hills"). Next came a year as president of Otago University Students Association, then two years full-time at the New Zealand University Students Association in Wellington.

In 1997 he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, first as overseas aid officer for Samoa, then in support of Simon Upton, who held the chair of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development. Next came a job with the New Zealand team at the UN in New York.

"They were really exciting times," he says. "The other 27-year-olds were in the back rooms making tea, but because there were only six of us, we were representing New Zealand in key discussions."

Among other things, Robertson got involved in the Aids programme in Uganda, which was effective because they got the head of the church on board. "A real success story."

None of this went unnoticed in Wellington. Marian Hobbs, then Minister for the Environment and Broadcasting and bogged in the living allowances scandal, needed help to stay out of the headlines. "And in May 2001 I clattered into the Beehive."

He worked on genetic modification and the restructuring of TVNZ to include the Charter. Again there were triumphs. "The World Summit in South Africa on Sustainable Development yielded some extremely good things. We passed important rules around sustainable fisheries that are now filtering their way through the WTO."

Then, just after the 2002 election, Robertson was asked to join the heart of Beehive strategy. He was 33, driven by passionate belief and desperate, in his five-day cricket kind of way, to make a difference.

Does he ever find the slowness and politics of the place frustrating? He smiles and quotes Jim Anderton: "One day in this job is worth 100 in Opposition."

And yes, one day he wants to cross from the back room to the front line and stand for Parliament himself.

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