Go for it' light bulb moment spun web of on-line success

Poking around crime scenes as a forensic scientist was Rachel Warrender's initial ambition but a year into a bio-medical science degree the major clue she uncovered was that chemistry wasn't really her "thing".

On-line marketing has turned out to very much be her thing.

In five years she's taken Dubzz Digital Marketing, the company she launched at her Rotorua kitchen table, to a thriving enterprise with a staff of seven and a client base breasting the 200 mark.


In one of those "oh and by the way" throw-away lines let's add that Rachel's 30, making her yet another inspirational action woman to roll off our city's production line.

A Bachelor of Science (BSc) with a major in biology from Auckland University, a postgraduate diploma in business and administration, majoring in marketing from Massey, a Mauri Ora certificate in Maori culture and practices from Te Wananaga o Aotearoa, followed by a Beyond the Website certificate she studied extra-mutually for via her Auckland alma mater, make her one of those whose qualifications read like the alphabet.

We're not done yet. She was named the city's Emerging Young Person of the Year at last year's Rotoua Business Awards.

We don't discover this until the tail end of our conversation, the bit where we ask "is there anything you'd like to add?"

That she hadn't mentioned it earlier isn't because she's not proud of the honour, she's hugely so, but Rachel's no personal trumpet blower.

She'd rather the acknowledgement was an incentive to others in her age group to have the self-belief needed to stoke the fire under their own business ventures.

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Rachel takes issue with our suggestion she's an academic power house, countering it with an emphatic "no way, I just like learning things."

Her path to adult learning began at Wellington's Victoria University where she'd gone with that forensic scientist notion, and the discovery of her hatred (her word) for chemistry.

Transferring to Auckland she dropped bio-medical science in favour of her BSc. Along the way she made another self-diagnosis.

"I worked out I didn't like the lab work, I liked business, enrolled in a Masters in bio-science enterprise, it's the business side of science, things like drug marketing, patents."

With six months to fill before her Masters studies began she came home to be with her family, her father had recently contracted cancer.

"I needed to earn money, decided I'd take the first job offered me."

That job was handling Polynesian Spa's retail outlet's accounts.

Three months on managing director Martin Lobb offered her a place on the marketing team.

"I didn't know anything about marketing, Martin said it didn't matter, that he knew I'd be good at it."

Rachel was, delaying her university return by a year.

"I found I loved marketing, I finally felt 'this is it, this is what I want to do' and it gave me more family time."

With online marketing and social media in their infancies, Rachel was hooked, canning indefinitely her planned university return.

"I'd been at Poly Spa three-and-a-half years when I had this light bulb moment, that I could form my own company and just go for it."

It took a while to summon up the courage to tell her boss.

"Martin said he was disappointed to be losing me but that I'd be great. The next day he called me back into his office and gave me my first client, that was a great boost for my confidence."

The client was the Rotorua Golf Club, last month they marked five years of togetherness; 'Poly Spa' wasn't far behind in Dubzz' sign-up stakes.

The company name's a play on the world wide web's 'www' abbreviation, boosted coincidentally by Rachel's Girls' High 'Dubs' nickname.

"My original plan was to just do online marketing, helping people optimise their web sites, but lots of people wanted new sites, I conned my best friend into joining me, she knew how to build them."

Within two months the pair's workload had spilled over from the kitchen table, Rachel took on two more staff, moving into her master bedroom.

"One desk in each corner, our knees were pretty much touching."

A snowballing client list equated to more staff - Dubzz Digital acquired its present Ranolf St premises.

Tourism and hospitality enterprises make up the bulk of its clients. "They understand the international value of online marketing."

More recently the company's branched into client training, several aspirants in the recent council elections signed up; the 'comeback on a recount kid', Karen Hunt, included.

"It was Karen who gave me my first job, babysitting her kids."

Rachel refuses to allow work to become all-consuming, for her contributing to her community's a life-balance essential.

She's former secretary of Rotorua's Property Investors' Association and was 25 when she joined Rotary's Sunrise club; last year she was its youth director.

"Before I joined I had this idea Rotary was for older people, mostly men, but this club isn't like that at all. Rotary appealed to me because I wanted to give something back, Rotary gave me a scholarship to help with my studies."

She was one of six Sunrise female members to help build a school dormitory on the Fijian island of Taveuni in 2014.

"The workmen thought it was a big joke women coming to help, but by the time we left they were asking when we'd come back, we showed them girls can do anything."

Delving into her private life we find she has a long-time partner, Byron McRae "his connections go back to McRae's Hotel destroyed by the Tarawera eruption".

They met in her Polynesian Spa days, Byron was a life guard, he now manages the Toi Ohomai (former Waiariki Institute of Technology) hostel.

Of her future there's 'lots and lots' laid out.

"I want to do my MBA at some point, have kids one day, I'd like to do more governance roles, become involved in more organisations where I can add my skill sets.

"Am I ambitious? Of course I am."

Born: Rotorua, 1986.
Education: Kawaha Point Primary, Kaitao Intermediate, Girls' High, Victoria, Auckland, Massey Universities, Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
Family: Partner Byron McRae, mother Sue. "My dad passed away in September, he was my biggest fan," brother and sister.
Interests: Cooking, gardening "of the vege kind", renovating, reading (non fiction), former badminton player, "going for long walks with my dog Henry".
On Rotorua: "An amazing place full of interesting people."
Personal philosophy: "Keep learning and growing, there's always something to learn."