Business pioneers recognised for transforming industries + changing NZ

Business pioneers recognised for transforming industries + changing NZ

Three entrepreneurs, responsible for transforming their industries and in doing so changing NZ, have been honoured for their contributions. Collectively, these laureates have created hundreds of jobs and contributed many millions of dollars to the economy.

Hall of Fame

The ‘NZ Hall of Fame for Women Entrepreneurs’ has announced its 2015 laureates; (pictured above from left) telecommunications pioneer Annette Presley, media entrepreneur Julie Christie and Birthcare & Labtests founder Dr Lee Mathias.

Co.OfWomen (Company of Women) instigated the Hall of Fame in 2012 to formally recognise women who have achieved success at such a consistently high standard it reaches the international benchmark for induction into a Hall of Fame.

“Annette, Lee and Julie’s entrepreneurial skills and successes would stack up against the best internationally.  They are truly world class”, says Co.OfWomen Founder, Tara Lorigan.


In 1988 at the age of 24, Annette Presley was earning $300,000 a year as the head of her own IT Recruitment Company.  She has remained at the forefront of the telecommunications industry ever since, co-founding the third largest telco in Australia before returning home to do the same in NZ. In April, Annette and her business partner sold the company that launched pioneering brands Slingshot, CallPlus & Orcon for $250 million – NBR estimate her share at $90 million dollars making Annette Presley one of the most successful and wealthy women in NZ.  The Philanthropist is active in many charities in NZ including Shine and Sensible Sentencing Trust, she also participates in the teenage girls school programme, ‘Have a Dream’.

Hall of Fame Chief Judge, Tara Lorigan said, “Annette undoubtedly represents the quintessential kiwi battler.  She has fought very publicly for a competitive environment and fought a long and at times acrimonious battle with incumbents in the industry.  She has demonstrated enormous determination in the face of formidable opposition.  The combination of her fighting spirit and resilience resulted in a change to the whole industry and a big win for kiwis”.


At the age of 27, Julie Christie discovered that her common touch was key to producing high rating television and her future commercial success.  Though Julie is most well known for being the trailblazer of ‘unscripted TV’ in NZ – the innovation that made her company so valuable was the development of programme formats and intellectual property for the international market.

Julie sold Touchdown in 2007 and stepped down from programme-making three years ago to concentrate on governance and other projects in hospitality and the New South Wales master franchise for leading workplace drug-testing company, The Drug Detection Agency.

Julie is a director of TV3 parent company, MediaWorks, is on several boards and the Flag Consideration Panel which will present four alternate flags for public vote, later this year. Hall of Fame Chief Judge, Tara Lorigan said, “Julie has had an enduring passion to create models that would ensure the sustainability of NZ television.  She has been significantly and unjustifiably maligned in the public domain.  However, those who know her hold her in very high esteem for her robust character, commercial flair and genuine commitment to making a difference.”


In 1995, Dr Lee Mathias founded Birthcare and a new baby-friendly, breast-feeding-focused revolution in childbirth began.  A decade later, Lee led another major transformation in the health sector when she co-founded Labtests and won the $850 million contract for the Northern Region.  For the last seven years her entrepreneurial focus has been on Pictor – founded by, Dr Sarita Kumble – it is rolling out state-of-art diagnostics in 3rd world nations and impoverished economies.  India was first and Indonesia has just been completed.  Lee is also the Chair of UNITEC, Counties Manukau DHB, the Health Promotion Agency, deputy chair of Auckland DHB and she has several other directorships.

“Lee is a feminist who has done the hard yards” said Tara.  “She comes from an era when women couldn’t get a business loan from a bank.  Lee is both public servant and entrepreneur as-needs-must for the domain in which she has committed to making a significant difference.  She is a woman of wisdom, grace and diverse commercial prowess.”


The Hall of Fame Induction is an annual event that aims to increase interest in and visibility of women in business. “Women entrepreneurs face different discrimination than the glass ceiling of their corporate counterparts… they deal with what we call ‘pink poppy syndrome”.

“In stark contrast to our most successful male entrepreneurs – our most successful female entrepreneurs are largely unknown and their achievements are largely ignored.  The high profile pink poppies often get their tops lopped off”.

“Our inductees this year are testament to this; Dr Lee Mathias has a very low profile despite starting two transformational health businesses and exporting the model to India and Indonesia – a combined population of almost 2 billion.

At the other end of the scale, Julie Christie attracts a lot of media coverage but most of it is negative.  Over the last ten years, Julie has been systemically maligned, criticised, blamed and trolled.

“There has been no noticeable improvement in the treatment of women entrepreneurs in the last four years.  Social media and digital technology is exposing unfairness and challenging stereotypes at pace, however, we won’t wait for and can’t depend on that to tell our stories, we are investing heavily in the development of channels that will ensure it happens”, says Tara Lorigan.


Previous entrepreneurs inducted into the NZ Hall of Fame for Women Entrepreneurs include; Colyn Devereux-Kay, Anita Finnigan, Sharon Hunter, Anne Norman, Naomi Ballantyne, Linda Jenkinson, Ranjna Patel (QSM), Dame Trelise Cooper and Diane Foreman (ONZM).


Every year the Hall of Fame selection panel is charged with choosing inductees who have contributed much more than bottom line profit.

On top of achieving significant success with their business, their work must have also had a tangible impact on the industry; they must have also supported female entrepreneurial success and applied some of their profits and/or resources for the good of others.

“The criteria reflects the Co.OfWomen’s fundamental values – not only are our inductees exceptional entrepreneurs, they are also role models who provide inspirational and explicit examples of success – and our country is a better place because of them”, says Tara Lorigan


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