The good life of being your own boss
From the surfers and boats on the weekday waters in Taranaki you’d think no-one worked. But they’re not unemployed, they’re self-employed. Stephanie Ockhuysen reports.
While rocking his nineweek-old daughter Indi in his arms, Chad Niwa smiles and says you can’t beat being your own boss.
On a muggy Tuesday afternoon, the 27-year-old builder was able to pop home to look after the baby while his wife went to an appointment.
It’s something he never would have been able to do before he was self-employed. But Niwa is in good company in Taranaki.
The west coast province has a higher percentage of its workforce in self-employment than the rest of New Zealand.
Figures from Venture Taranaki, the region’s economic development agency, show 17.50 per cent of Taranaki’s workforce was self-employed in 2018. The average for the rest of New Zealand was 16.70 per cent.
Taranaki run free business start-up clinics in Ha¯wera, Stratford and New Plymouth to support people in progressing their ideas. Last year 201 people attended.
Perhaps the best evidence Taranaki workers are dictating their own hours are the dozens of surfers and boats out on the water on any given weekday. It’s often only slightly less busy than the weekend.
It’s a concept many people dream of: working for yourself and not for ‘The Man’; doing what you want, when you want.
There are many benefits too, such as being able to claim back GST on what could be deemed business expenses.
If you earn over $60,000 a year you can become GST registered and if you work from home for your business you can claim back a portion of your household expenses, such as rates, insurance, power and mortgage interest.
In 2018, the industry with the highest self-employed rate was Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing with
2,449 people, followed by construction with 1,613, and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services with 1,048.
Wendy Kerr, director at Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland, says more people want to work on their own terms. A survey Kerr completed by 300 women who left their jobs to become self-employed showed 68 per cent of them were earning less however, two thirds of that 68 per cent would never go back to traditional employment.
‘‘They love the freedom, the flexibility and the control that being selfemployed gave them. ‘‘People are going to have to get far more used to being selfemployed and selling themselves as their own brand and as their own business.’’
Kerr says self-employment spiked after the Global Financial Crisis in 2007 and
2008 when people had to find another way to earn an income.
Recently it has spiked due to the rise of the gig economy, where temporary and flexible jobs are commonplace and companies look to hire temporary contract workers in lieu of full-time employees. ‘‘That is just a way people are going to be employed from now on. That traditional route of working for a company for five to 10 years and then starting a business, I think that’s being truncated,’’ she says.
Niwa became his own boss three years ago and hustled to make a name for himself. He now is the boss of three other people too.
For him the money is better than when he was an employee, his days are flexible, and he and his family have the freedom to do more of what they want.
But it hasn’t been without its challenges; hard work and long hours are the norm. And his age also counted against him. Niwa was
24 when he went out on his own. ‘‘Finding people to give this young guy a go was a challenge.
‘‘At the time I was pretty determined not to get a loan to buy anything. I think my first job was a calf pen and the money I made from that I just slowly built up the tools.’’
There are parts of being selfemployed an apprenticeship won’t teach you such as tax, admin, and even writing an invoice, Niwa says.
‘‘Some days I kind of wish I was the apprentice boy again,’’ he laughs.
Surfing coach and photographer Daisy Day can relate.
After 18 years being selfemployed Day sometimes misses the structure of working for someone else.
But being your own boss means you’re a lot happier – and just a bit poorer, she says.
Day knows Fitzroy Beach like the back of her hand, it’s been her ‘office’ for many of those 18 years.
She operates out of New Plymouth Surfriders Club, which overlooks the beach, where she teaches kids, first timers, and tourists how to ride the waves.
Day is a staple in the Taranaki surfing community having taught it, co-owned a surf shop, and photographed the sport.
Photography, in fact, was her first taste of self-employment.
After leaving her job as chief
photographer at the Taranaki Daily News in 2002, she went out on her own doing freelance photography.
The most challenging part was wondering if she would get work.
‘‘I was in the management side of things. I started to get a bit bored and wanted to shoot more [photos] and I thought it was time to go out on my own.
‘‘It was really scary leaving the Daily News because I had so many opportunities and a great team of people to work with.’’
Soon her two loves of surfing and photography started to overlap.
‘‘I started to veer towards surf coaching. Coaching has taken over big time.’’
Apart from missing the structure, Day says going out on her own has been absolutely worth it.
‘‘It has taken me years to learn you can say no if you don’t want to do something. When you start up it’s yep, yep, yep, yep.
‘‘Just go for it, especially if you’re really passionate about what you do.’’
For Tane Morgan and Adrianna Greenhill that passion is coffee.
The 36 and 38-year-old couple started Proof and Stock two years ago out of the garage beside their New Plymouth home. As well as the shop, they now stock around 20 Taranaki businesses with their coffee.
‘‘Pretty crazy just out of a little old garage,’’ Greenhill says.
‘‘Our accountant was blown away. The first six months was hard but once we did the financials for the first year the accountant was like ‘wow hats off’ and he’s the one you want to impress,’’ Morgan adds.
It was Morgan’s idea initially, but both come from hospitality so it was a natural progression to start their own coffee roastery.
Morgan had Cafe Blues in Westown and Greenhill’s parents started Fenton St Art Collective in Stratford.
‘‘We wanted to learn how to roast our own coffee to have that point of difference and make it really obvious to the public what we do,’’ Greenhill says.
‘‘When we started we didn’t know our neighbours that well, now we know them by name, we know what their children do, we know which school they go to, how old they are, and their coffee order.’’
The decision came from wanting to dictate their own hours and have more time with their 5-year-old twins Indigo and Knox.
But ultimately, the pair say being your own boss takes up a lot of time because the buck stops with you.
The biggest challenge has been trying not to procrastinate and making sure things get done as soon as they arise.
‘‘Be prepared to put in a lot of hours. Have a lot of drive and be passionate about whatever you are putting your time into to,’’ Greenhill says.
Some days they wish they could clock off at 5pm, like the majority of the working world, because somedays they work 6am to 6pm, but the pair are extremely passionate about what they do.
‘‘It’s not heavy work but it’s constant and then you’ve got to switch it off,’’ Morgan says.
The couple say it’s been surprising how easy it has been to work so closely together.
‘‘We don’t argue in front of customers,’’ Morgan laughs.
‘‘If anything it’s taught us a lot of patience and understanding. We compliment each other really well with the business,’’ Greenhill adds.
Since becoming self-employed they have loved the collaborative nature they have developed with other small businesses in the region.
When they first started Escape Coffee Roasters on Liardet St gave them a quick lesson, they provide the coffee for one of Little Liberty Creamery’s ice cream flavours, and had a coffee stand at West End School’s gala day where they gave all of the profits back to the school.
‘‘We’ve had a wicked response from the local community and schools. Everybody inspires each other to go to the next level,’’ Morgan says.
Being self-employed has given builder Chad Niwa the flexibility he needs for his family. Daisy Day is one of the 17.5 per cent of Taranaki’s workforce who is self-employed.
Wendy Kerr, director at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland, says selfemployment is the way of the future.
Tane Morgan and Adrianna Greenhill started Proof and Stock coffee two years ago to dictate their hours and spend more time with 5-year-old twins Indigo and Knox.