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Business South Waitaki business navigator Rebecca Finlay. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Waitaki’s new business navigator, Rebecca Finlay, wants to pull local businesses together to be ‘‘more than the sum of their individual parts’’.

Mrs Finlay began her job on Monday, having been appointed to the Business South role at the end of last year.

Business South is a new entity, created from a merger between the Otago Chamber of Commerce and the Otago Southland Employers’ Association.

Business experience and engagement director Kate Cooper said the organisation’s tagline was ‘‘connect, navigate and empower’’, and Mrs Finlay’s role was to do that in the Waitaki community, and find out how Business South could support local businesses.

Mrs Finlay, who grew up in London, but has lived at Papakaio since 2009, said she wanted to ‘‘enhance’’ what was special about the Waitaki district and the businesses within it.

‘‘Helping them take their businesses to the next level, by offering bespoke support, and opportunities to meaningfully connect with each other,’’ she said.

‘‘So we’ve got, maybe, clusters of businesses that are able to be more than the sum of their individual parts.’’

Mrs Finlay will be based out of The Business Hive in Oamaru, which was itself an illustration of what local businesses were capable of, she said.

She had a degree in economics and geography from Edinburgh University, and had completed her masters in environmental ethics and values.

She worked in public relations in London before meeting husband Ed Finlay, and eventually moving to New Zealand. The couple have three children, Florence (12), Margot
(7), and Wilbur (6).

As a co-director of Flag Farms Ltd, and being involved in the business side of running the dairy farm, she understood some of the concerns business owners had.

Mrs Finlay is involved in several volunteer roles and has been one of the main drivers behind the Papakaio 8-Hour Mountain Bike Challenge since its inception in 2019.

In her first days in the new role, she said she would be discovering more about Business South and getting to know what services were available for Waitaki businesses.

She also wanted to connect with current members, ensure they were getting full value out of their membership, and see what other services could be offered, as well as reaching out to other non-member businesses.

Business South workforce and business development director Grant Harrex said there were 92 Waitaki-based Business South members, but about 2000 registered businesses in the district.

‘‘The thing that’s exciting about Waitaki isit’s actually quite a vibrant community, and the rural community pumps a lot into the economy and stimulates the rest, and that, I guess, allows the other sectors to start flourishing as well,’’ Mr Harrex said.

Being in business was challenging for a variety of reasons, and sometimes it was difficult for business owners to know where to turn for help, he said.

‘‘There’s lots of solutions out there, but that’s why the title of this role is the navigator role, to help point people in the right direction.

‘‘As part of that, there’s a lot of current off-the-shelf solutions that can be offered, but over time we can start creating things that are quite unique and tailored to the region.’’

What secured Mrs Finlay the role was her ‘‘passion and enthusiasm for trying to make her mark’’, Mr Harrex said.

‘‘But also do something special within the community. That’s what was really significant and that was what stood out.’’

Mrs Finlay saw it as a privilege and an opportunity to support businesses as much as possible, and try to remove some of the ‘‘headaches’’ around running a business.

‘‘Then they can really concentrate on the essence of the product or service they want to offer,’’ she said.

Business owners wanting to contact Mrs Finlay can email her at rebecca.finlay@businesssouth.org.nz.