Three Waitaki businesses make elite finals

Team effort . . . Design Federation staff ( from left) Lesley Taylor and Sam Slee, along with Business South Waitaki navigator Rebecca Finlay, Design Federation director Annabel Berry and Topflite general manager Greg Webster. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Three Waitaki businesses have been announced as finalists in next month’s The Grand Business South Awards.

Topflite, Design Federation and Whistle & Pop have all been selected to proceed to the finals, which recognise Otago’s top businesses in a variety of categories.

Pet food producer Topflite had been named in Business Excellence — Primary Industries, interior design store Design Federation in Business Excellence — Retail, and accessories label Whistle & Pop in Brand Strategy and Planning.

All businesses nominated in August’s Waitaki Business Awards had been encouraged to enter in the Otago awards, but had to hand their own applications in.

Design Federation director Annabel Berry described the application process as ‘‘amazing’’ but ‘‘intense’’.

‘‘We had to fill out a huge application form. It was quite an extensive review of your business.

‘‘It was actually really good for me, because I had the opportunity to actually . . . sit back and go, ‘wow’, look what we’ve done and where we’re heading.’’

Entrants were then interviewed.

This was Topflite’s second time as a finalist. It also made the cut in the last awards, held in 2019.

General manager Greg Webster said while the company had not changed its approach to the awards process, he felt it was more prepared this year.

‘‘We’d just done a strategy reset at the start of this year, so it was quite easy to talk to that side of it, because it all lined up with some new things that we were doing, so that made it easier.’’

The period covered was the past 12 months to the latest financial year.

Since 2019, the company had released Topflite Hound, its range of freeze-dried meat dog treats, and this was one of the things he was quizzed on.

‘‘More focus on R&D and innovation is something we are pushing forward with . . .so we talked about that a fair bit.’’

Bex Hayman, the brains behind Waitaki Valley-based Whistle & Pop, said she was ‘‘really shocked’’ and ‘‘honoured’’ when she heard she had made the finals.

‘‘It really gives me satisfaction that all the hard work is paying off.

‘‘To be in the category Planning and Strategy was a little challenge for myself and Whistle & Pop, something I wanted to tick off and make sure we are pushing in the right directions,’’ Mrs Hayman said.

‘‘I have been learning as I go, and have some amazing mentors that help keep me on track to being more strategic and plan, as having three little children and a small business can get a little hectic.’’

Mrs Berry said because her business was in its 10th year, entering the awards was agreat opportunity to review what the team had achieved.

‘‘Just to show that we’re up there amongst the other businesses in the region, which has been such a surprise for us, and we’re really thrilled to get to the finalist stage.’’

She had a ‘‘soft spot for Covid’’, which forced her to learn how to connect with customers in a different way.

‘‘We have really put a lot of effort into our social media, our marketing and our online, which has paid dividends.’’

Both Mrs Berry and Mr Webster said the recognition was great for their teams.

‘‘It is really great for the team to know the work they’re doing, results are getting back,’’ Mr Webster said.

‘‘You know, they’re up there in terms of the level of what they’re doing. It’s really good for them to see that.’’

Business South Waitaki navigator Rebecca Finlay said it was a strong showing of entries from the district, and she hoped this year’s event would encourage more local businesses to enter next time.

Being a finalist provided businesses with ‘‘a profile wider than Oamaru’’, Mrs Berry said.

‘‘It’s great for local business pride, just great for the region really. We’re showing we’re punching above our weight.’’

The finals are in Dunedin on November 18.