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.

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page -

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.

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