Hannah Duder spends every 4th of July as a day of celebration and reflection. But she's not an expat American marking Independence Day – for her, it's a date on which she challenges herself to ensure she's living her best life, as her high school friend Jess Brown would have wanted.
"The 4th of July is the date she passed away," says Hannah softly. "It's a reminder that life is precious. She said to me, 'Make sure you're doing what you want to be doing with your life. Do what makes you happy.' We hear that all the time, but when it comes from a friend who's your age – we were 23 – you take it on as a responsibility."
At the time, Hannah, now 28, was studying for a law degree and a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Canterbury, majoring in taxation and accounting, and hoping for a six-figure job as either an accountant or a lawyer. Money was her driving force.
She'd already been through the emotional trauma of the Christchurch earthquakes – her mother Wendy's home was destroyed and she was forced to bunk on a friend's couch while working with the Student Volunteer Army.
Then when Jess was diagnosed with cancer in her jaw, Hannah and a tight-knit group of girlfriends supported her through her treatment, later celebrating her recovery at Jess' wedding in Noosa. But on her first anniversary, Jess found out her cancer had not only returned, but had spread through her body too. Within a year, she passed away.
"She was the friend who'd be honest with you," says Hannah. "She was like a kick up the bum. Not one of us didn't change something drastic about our lives – be it a job, partner or where we lived. It really shook us up and made us live life."
When Hannah finished uni and was offered a high-rolling finance role, she realised that "basing your path on just the pay cheque is never going to result in happiness". She explains: "When you're only driven by profit, you don't care about anything or anyone."
Instead of taking the gig, Hannah started the sustainable clothing enterprise Little Yellow Bird and then another friend, Bonnie Howland, asked if Hannah would help take over Indigo & Iris, a fledgling mascara company that wanted to donate half its profits to the Fred Hollows Foundation to restore sight to people in the Pacific Islands.
Together, they sought investors and crowdfunding to buy their first 10,000 mascaras from an Italian supplier and, as the brand became more popular, the pair expanded the range to include four vegan lipsticks, with half the profits going to help women into the workforce via Dress for Success.
"We will forever think about what impact it's going to have," says Hannah. "We don't just look at the bottom line. The difference between a sustainable social enterprise and something like selling bracelets for charity is that people will probably only ever buy one bracelet.
"We don't want our mascara to just be someone's good deed for the day. We need people to want to buy our mascara because it's so good that they want to wear it. To be a sustainable business, you still need to make money."
Hannah's go-getting attitude made her an obvious choice to feature in the new book Her Way, full of stories of Kiwi women "doing business with heart". Author and business coach Jacqui Thomas admires Hannah for learning the traditional nuts and bolts of business before recreating a new set of rules. She says, "It's so inspiring to see this new generation of women showing that it's absolutely possible to do good and still do well."
Hannah is proud she doesn't follow in other people's footsteps – that she challenges processes and traditions. "If something doesn't work, I'll just create a solution. I've been told by lots of people throughout my life, 'This is just how it's done,' and it frustrates me when people don't think new solutions or ideas are possible."
Laughing as she recalls that their brand name was misspelt as "Ingigo" on the first 10,000 mascaras sold, Hannah adds, "I'd prefer to try new ways and fail, then learn from that, rather than just do what everyone else has done."
While the entrepreneur is aware you can't do everything, she still tries to. Her weekends are busy in her role as a wedding celebrant or being in the outdoors with her partner Cam Lee, a drummer in the New Zealand Army Band, and their dog Milo.
"I always think about what Jess taught me," she smiles. "If I get to a point in five years' time where Indigo & Iris is no longer bringing me joy, I'll hopefully be strong enough to make the decision to move on."