Can you tell me about your background?
My background is in broadcasting, public relations, marketing and business management. I left my last job in 2004 due to ill health. Once word got out I had multiple sclerosis no one wanted to risk taking me on.
So in 2008 I went back to the University of Auckland to do Honours in English Literature and then a Master of Creative Writing the following year.
I graduated with a novel called Bend with the Wind, but when I looked around for a publisher I found the industry was in a massive process of change and no one was prepared to take on a new writer.
In 2010 I joined Massey University's ecentre and began exploring setting up my own publishing business. My idea was to work with aspiring writers to help them develop their writing skills until it was of a quality we could publish. I was 58 when I started setting up the business.
How has that business developed since?
The Story Mint is a global writing community that encourages writers to aim for excellence. We've published some books, but like a lot of publishers I've found it's very expensive and it led to the decision not to make publishing a focus.
Instead I did some research that I hoped would help writers enhance their skills.
I researched more than 400 pieces of award winning or bestselling writing. Then I created an Excel spreadsheet based on my findings and sent it to Massey University's Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences.
They did the mathematical analysis that formed the basis of the algorithm that sits behind an online tool I developed called the Style Guide, where writers can submit their writing and get feedback on the style with suggestions for improvement.
How is the Style Guide being used?
It's designed for the creative writing market so the majority of the pieces of writing in the database belong to that genre. But we've since discovered the principles of the Style Guide work for non-fiction as well.
We're now working on an app for early readers, after discovering that 45 percent of students at eight years old still don't have a grasp of the 600 words they need to know to fully participate in the next levels of their education.
What's the biggest challenge you've encountered as an entrepreneur?
Discovering my original business idea didn't have legs. Although we have a very active and enthusiastic writing community it's not returning sufficient income to make the business viable. I've had to revisit my business model, which has meant taking what we had and seeing if it worked in other environments.
The only really unique part of the business was, and is, the Style Guide so we began exploring other applications. There are applications in every environment where people have to write something - corporates, education and where people are learning English as a Second Language.
How about any other challenges?
Never in all my life have I felt such contradicting emotions from elation to despair; from amazement at what technology can do to frustration that others can't see what I see; from overflowing optimism to absolute pessimism.
As one friend of mine says, entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. There's one thing that keeps me going and that's people's belief in what I'm doing. And my own belief that what I'm doing will make a difference to a lot of people's lives.
There's also my own fear that I might not be on the right path, and the terrible self-doubt that sneaks up on me at unexpected moments - usually when I'm tired. But people like my husband, mentors and other entrepreneurs who know exactly what I mean are fabulous at making sure those moments are rare.
What else has helped you overcome those kinds of challenges?
It comes down to attitude. In my case I have no choice, so I have to make this work and that means never allowing the barriers to overwhelm or conquer me and to constantly believe that while there may be a bit of a setback there are always alternative ways to approach a problem.
Surrounding myself with really smart people has been critical. Steve Corbett, CEO at the ecentre, always approaches things calmly and I find that really helpful.
How do you think being older has helped you as an entrepreneur?
There are occasions when my younger self wouldn't have had the skills to deal with problems the way I do today. I know that setbacks are only temporary, whereas my younger self would have seen them as the end of the world.
I don't care what people think of me the way I used to, and I've built an internal alarm system that goes off when I'm around people who aren't to be trusted.
I've also done so much with my life I know I can do anything I set my mind to - so long as that doesn't involve maths! And the biggest thing of all - I know that hard work is always the precursor to success.
Nothing of lasting value comes to anyone who hasn't also put in the hard work. And to really succeed as an entrepreneur I have to believe in myself and in the project.