A custom-made surfboard may have helped attract low-cost carrier AirAsia X to Auckland Airport. Malaysian-based AirAsia X started daily services on Thursday when airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood revealed the unusual gift to the airline's charismatic founder Tony Fernandes about five years ago. "We had an inkling that he might be keen on surfing and got him one made as a permanent reminder of his time in New Zealand," Littlewood said. "We were keen to get a low-cost long-haul carrier at the time when Air Asia X was starting to look around the world and growing fast." Littlewood said it was all part of the long game airports play to woo airlines. "We didn't get it that time but the ground work we put in probably helped."


EY kicked off this year's Entrepreneur of the Year competition on Thursday with a glitzy event at the Auckland Art Gallery. Last year's Social Entrepreneur of the Year, fashion designer Annah Stretton, offered up her top three tips for budding business people as well as some anecdotes into her own work rehabilitating female prisoners with R.A.W. (reclaim another woman). It turned out Stretton has embraced raw in more ways than one, revealing she is now on a raw food diet, eating only uncooked and unprocessed foods. Asked about her favourite drink, she confessed it might have been a Villa Maria Rose but as the diet was alcohol-free she'd have to go with coconut water. Her top tips were connectivity, breathing (as in take a breath, sometimes you need to sleep on an idea) and dream big.


The New Zealand finals for Microsoft's 2016 Imagine Cup took place last week with home-cooking app Clove taking out the top prize. The innovative online platform designed by three University of Auckland students - Hayley Yu, Edwin Tsang and Duoyi Xu, connects home chefs with consumers to provide them healthy, home-cooked meals. The Dragon's Den-style judging panel included well-known leaders from New Zealand's tech and innovation community - Michelle Dickinson, co-founder of OMGTech; Michael Brick, legal counsel and corporate affairs director for Microsoft NZ; Mark Gilbert, US Ambassador to New Zealand; and Greg Davidson, CEO of Datacom. Clove took home $5000 and the opportunity to compete in the Asia-Pacific regional round of the global Imagine Cup competition. Microsoft's director of developer experience Nigel Parker said: "The Microsoft Student Accelerator is about inspiring young people into careers in IT by creating pathways to real life work experiences." In the past year, Microsoft NZ has trained more than 2000 tertiary students, and placed 43 groups with 33 companies, as well as training 350 high school students in workshops at their schools.


Contemporary tailors Crane Brothers have opened the doors to the art of shoemaking, hosting artisan Keitaro Takano of Japanese bespoke shoemakers Clematis and his apprentice Chiemi Chiba at the Crane Brothers High St store last week. Guests were invited to view the exhibition of a selection of Clematis' shoes as well as shoe making and shoe-shining demonstrations. Keitaro hand-makes, sews and welts around 60 pairs of shoes a year. Keitaro's designs include elaborate and distinct features such as sweeping curves of stitches, leaf-shaped inserts in the soles and unique patterns.


The event offered guests a chance to experience the bespoke footwear service, as well as a range of Clematis' products and services. "Bespoke footwear is a great investment and a well-made pair of shoes will last you a lifetime," said Murray Crane of Crane Brothers. "For us, it's another facet to our exciting custom offer and allows us to offer a complete head-to-toe made to measure experience."

Best of the Best

Category winners from the Westpac Auckland Business Awards North, South, West and Central gathered at The Langham on Thursday to find out who had won the coveted Best of the Best Awards. The black-tie evening culminated with Nauhria Precast, manufacturer and supplier of precast concrete components, taking out the supreme award. General manager Rakesh Nauhria gave the most touching speech of the night, thanking his family for all their support and his father, who was also in the business and who attended the awards. Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett emceed.

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