Thaka Mandiwona hopes to breathe new life into the Oamaru Farmers’ Market.
Mrs Mandiwona is the new manager of the market. She started in the role last month, replacing Maree Cadogan, who resigned from the position in November last year.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Mrs Mandiwona lived in South Africa for 10 years before moving to Oamaru last year with her husband and three sons, aged 14, 10 and 2.
They decided to move after some family friends raved about the North Otago town, and her husband, Joakimu, secured a job in IT at the Waitaki District Council. They are celebrating their one-year anniversary of living in Oamaru today.
When they made the big move to New Zealand, Mrs Mandiwona did not know where to start or what to expect, but she had been welcomed by the community.
“Oamaru deserves its award as the most welcoming place in New Zealand.”
She wanted to emulate that warmth and welcoming spirit at the market, making it a place for people to meet.
She hoped by introducing morning activities, such as aerobics, and making the most of holidays such as Valentine’s Day, the market would become more social.
Mrs Mandiwona wanted to put her masters degree in business administration, marketing degree and digital marketing certificate to use, and saw her new role as an opportunity to engage directly with the community, rather than from behind the keyboard.
She also wanted the market to be a more inclusive space for young people and planned to introduce an internship for teens to learn about the administrative side of running a market, or what it took to run a small business.
Like many businesses in the area, the market had struggled with a drop in tourist numbers.
Mrs Mandiwona’s long-term vision was to connect market vendors with local businesses, and encourage more collaboration.
The market would celebrate Valentine’s Day on Sunday with discounts, hampers, flowers and a prize draw.