CEO of Zuru Toys, 2020 Wonder Woman in Manufacturing (WIT Licensing and Entertainment), and mother of three Anna Mowbray on capitalising on our Covid-free status and the challenges ahead.
Q: How would you describe 2020 for your business?
A: 2020 was a roller coaster. Business-wise we had a record year, which I'm especially proud of given the repercussions and disruptions due to Covid. We treated Covid as both a threat and an opportunity, which is a credit to our hardworking team.
We managed to pivot early and assist in securing PPE gear, later creating a range called Bactive, supplying governments and retailers with sanitiser and wipes.
Q: How do you think the Government has handled the Covid-19 crisis?
A: I admire the way the New Zealand government also took fast and hard action early on to tackle the crisis. They implemented a host of financial measures to support businesses and New Zealanders against its impact and help to reset.
Q: What are two key things the Government should do for economic recovery?
A: Provide money directly to people and small businesses that need it most in industries directly hit. Money provided to those in the most difficult financial circumstances always circulates straight back into the economy.
And secondly, look at ways to open borders for our highest GDP sectors like, for example, education. How can we win here at high school and university level to capitalise on our Covid-free status?
And/or investment opportunities, allowing potential investors entrance for research and review of business propositions which will induce a flow of offshore funds to come into New Zealand allowing for growth acceleration.
Q: How is your business planning to tackle 2021?
A: We never take the foot of the pedal! We have great new products and motivated staff. We continue to hire the best talent we can find in both New Zealand and China, helping our business grow from strength to strength.
We will be continuing to diversify and grow into new areas, with our ZURU Edge consumer goods, things like nappies, collagen creamers and shampoo, among others.
Q: What will be the major challenges and/or opportunities for your industry?
A: The shift from bricks and mortar retail to e-commerce is a big challenge for us as our customer base has traditionally been shops and department stores.
Sustainability is another huge focus. Customers are demanding more sustainably sourced and manufactured products, and we have been responding to this aggressively. For example, Bunch O Balloons is now 100% recyclable and a many of our toys are being made from recycled plastics.
Q: What was the most interesting non-Covid story of 2020?
A: Our 5 Surprise Mini Brands product has become an absolute Tik Tok sensation, garnering one billion TikTok organic views this year and evolving into a brand with so much hype and enthusiasm behind it that has literally been selling one capsule every three seconds globally!
Q: What are your predictions for 2021?
A: Some Covid relief finally when the vaccines get rolled out. Travel kicking off again, and of course New Zealand winning the America's Cup!
Q: What's the worst mistake you've made in business?
I think we have really taken the opportunity to learn from every misstep, so it's hard to pin-point any fundamental mistakes. Of course we have made loads of small tactical mistakes along the way - many of our products didn't get the traction we may have expected, especially when we were young, learning the ropes early on. But we won't make the same mistake twice, we are constantly learning and evolving.
Q: What would you rate as your greatest success in business?
A; Building the people in the team here at ZURU for over 15 years now. We have some of the hardest working and most competent and loyal people I know. It really is a constellation of talent and I couldn't be prouder seeing them flourish.
Q: Where are you holidaying this summer?
A: We will be chilling out (as much as possible with five kids and a dog running around!); spending time by the pool and a lot of beach time in the Coromandel. You really can't beat a Kiwi Summer. It will just be good to have some quality time with the people I love most after a crazy year!