Start-Up Wins Prestigious Business Award

  • Crafty Canners 2

Annie and Paul Ottaway used to say they never won anything and then their 18-month old business, Crafty Canners, scooped the Best Emerging Business award in the West Auckland regional finals of this year’s Westpac Business Awards. 

“It was a massive surprise to win the award and really made us feel we’re on the right track,” says Annie, who with her husband Paul, runs New Zealand’s only Mobile Canning company that targets the craft beer market. 

Unitec was not only a sponsor of the Westpac Business Awards but Unitec marketing lecturer, Denisa Hebblethwaite, worked with the Ottaways as a mentor in the application process.

“Denisa was excellent and really helped us with our submission as she knew the right words to tell our story,” says Annie.

Businesses who are nominated for one of the eight categories in the Awards are given the opportunity to access mentors who can help them to think through and develop their application.  As a long-time sponsor of the awards, Unitec has also been matching up its business lecturers with applicants for many years.    Denisa was one of four Unitec business lecturers involved this year along with Ngaire Molyneux, Katheren Leitner and Kenneth Newlands.

Crafty Canners was a perfect match for Denisa, who is passionate about supporting small businesses start-ups and had inside knowledge of the craft beer market courtesy of the family business Black Sands Brewing Company, based in West Auckland.  She is also a previous winner of the awards and so knew the ropes. 

“My role is to coach a company through the application process for the awards.   I can steer applicants around what to include and what to exclude as I have a good idea of what the judges are looking for,” says Denisa.

“I knew Annie and Paul had a strong idea – it’s a first and craft beer is a growing market in New Zealand that’s all about innovation although it’s very competitive.”

Denisa has been one of the mentors for the Westpac Business Awards for the last couple of years and mentored McDonalds in West Auckland to success in the Employer of the Year category last year.

She has been a lecturer in marketing at Unitec for 11 years after leaving the corporate world of Unilever and Danone behind her.  But that real world corporate experience, and her other life as a small business owner, drives her commitment to keeping herself and her students connected with what’s happening in industry.  

Denisa’s involvement in mentoring for the Westpac Business Awards also enables her to build her little black book of business contacts who might be able take on a student for the 10-week industry based learning component of the Bachelor of Business degree.  

Denisa says: “Our students need real world issues and problems to work on and they need opportunities to test their newly developing skills and be inspired to set up their own award-winning and successful enterprises.” 


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