Incoming entré CEO Hannah Port is no stranger to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Last year Hannah received a UC summer scholarship to help her launch a New Zealand clothing label website aimed at promoting women’s rural wear. With support from UC’s student entrepreneur hub, UC Innovators, Hannah launched Hawthorn Country Design in 2014. The clothing website offers quality English-style country attire and accessories to customers worldwide.
Backing up the skills acquired in her International Business degree, Hannah learned how to start, operate and market a business with an international supply chain. Hannah, who grew up on and lives on a farm, said that to ensure their quality, her products had been carefully selected and designed with raw materials such as cashmere sourced from inner Mongolia, Ethiopian lamb leather and mulberry silk.
“I have spent my whole life between the farm and Christchurch and, as time has gone on, I have noticed that there are very few transitional casual options, particularly for women,” she said.
“New Zealand rural women’s wear is effectively a smaller version of the male counterparts. They are not overly feminine in shape or colour and therefore many rural women do not feel feminine on a daily basis, nor do they feel like they can wear farm clothes into town to meet friends.
“However, in England, rural wear for men and women is considerably more stylised and is acceptable in multiple situations. Men and women are being seen wearing Barbour quilted jackets and Hunter boots from on the farm to jobs in the city. There are even feature articles in UK magazines about bankers choosing to adopt the stylised rural look.”
Hannah said her original plan was to import the English brands but, after realising many of their garments were made in China, she decided to find a short-run supplier in China to make the garments for Hawthorn.
“The summer scholarship was amazing because it allowed me to spend all summer working on this venture. Mum and I went to a buying fair in Hong Kong,” she said. “The products are very much multi-seasonal, which is fantastic for life in New Zealand, where we all know the weather is not always as the season dictates.”
Hannah says UC Centre for Entrepreneurship Director, Dr Rachel Wright, was a great co-ordinator who gave her help and advice throughout the scholarship programme.
“Dr Wright set up various meetings to discuss business with established business owners and also introduced me to my mentor for the programme, Dr Nigel Johnson,” she said. “He was supportive and helped hone my ideas, particularly as I moved from wanting to import, to establishing my own brand. He is an expert in textiles and so we had many fascinating conversations about silk and cashmere fibres.”
Hannah is one of a string of student entrepreneurs at UC who are expanding their ideas and growing them into commercial ventures.
This summer she is situated at the Centre of Entrepreneurship gathering sponsorship for entré for 2016 before heading to Wellington in the New Year for an internship at the BNZ Wholesale Markets division.
In 2016, as entré CEO, Hannah will be leading other students to develop their business ideas. Entré is a student-run, not-for profit company which aims to foster entrepreneurial spirit in tertiary institutions across Canterbury. In 2016, the emphasis will be to inspire Canterbury tertiary students to be as creative and innovative as possible and to use the practical skills that entré helps them to develop to become the best entrepreneurs or employees that they can be.
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