Small business: Women entrepreneurs - Peri Drysdale

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Peri Drysdale. Photo / Supplied
Peri Drysdale. Photo / Supplied

Peri Drysdale, founder of Snowy Peak in 1981, with brands such as Untouched World and Merinomink and Snowi was recently invited into the Company of Women Hall of Fame along with other names such as Karen Walker and Sharon Hunter due to their disruptive abilities. She talks to Gill South.


What did you set out to build when you started out?

I had no big goals whatever. I was just interested in exercising the grey matter a little, making a contribution to the family, and in adding value to some of New Zealand's primary produce. In those days we were shipping our meat away by the carcass and wool by the bale and intuitively I knew that wasn't right for the New Zealand economy going forward. When you are 20 something you can do anything, can't you!

A little way into it I had the big lofty goal of staying in business for five years as the stats at that time said it was unlikely to happen, then gradually as I travelled and learned more about the issues of sustainability of the entire planet and its people I became committed to chart a way forward as a sustainable business that would have a net positive impact on the planet and its people.

What values does your business have?

Untouched World is about providing a platform for the human spirit to grow to its full potential. This platform is founded on a base of environmental sustainability and renewal

What drives you?

A belief in and love of business, our industry, and in the concept of business making a positive difference.

What other successful women have you brought along with you on your journey?

We have had and have so many stunning people in the business, and it's not all one sided. I have learned from everyone in some way or another.

My first ever sales manager, Ann Lockhart - is now CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in Queenstown. A beautiful human being of the best kind.

My first PA, Tui Crerar, now McBeth also a great person in every way. A television personality at that time, she went on to head up Work and Income, and then Workbridge.

I have had amazing young school leavers ending up in charge of sales across an eight year period. Our current production manager has been away off and back four times to have babies and has gone from a very junior role to head up knit production, and will go on much further.

I could go on and on.

What challenges have you had along the way?

Plenty! I knew nothing whatever about business when I started out 32 years ago, didn't know the different between an invoice and a statement, a debtor or a creditor. My second major export market was Japan, had no contacts, no language and being a woman CEO had a lot to overcome. However every downside has an upside and these challenges created opportunity too.

How much has work life balance been important?

In the early years it was huge for me. My children were under two and three years old when I started, and the business was to be very much second to the family. Initially I didn't ever travel at weekends though much later I travelled up to five months in a year.

Then my husband became ill and the business became the income earner for the family so the freedom to take up opportunities or not, as they fitted family needs was reduced. I remember not wanting that change at all. It had been nice to have the business as an optional part of life. However I soon got to grips with that change in mindset. I have always enjoyed every aspect of the business and our people so it doesn't ever really seem like work.

Tips

To young entrepreneurs thinking of going out and doing their own thing, it's something that comes from inside. What does the gut say, does it feel right or doesn't it? Are they the sort of person who loves a challenge, their energy goes up when faced with a challenge, or do they lose sleep and enjoyment of life. If it didn't work out, can you live with the consequences? If you believe you can do it, then do it. Don't listen to the naysayers. The world is full of great businesses that no one thought would fly.

Everyone thinks they can design a boardgame. There are some actually doing it and achieving some success here and overseas.
Tell us your stories - email me, Gill South here.

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