Recently I attended an amazing collaborative event for women in business organised by the equally amazing Louisa McClure. The night was aptly called Follow Your Arrow and featured four New Zealand women - Mandy Duncan (Noah and Bowie), Tesh Randall (Raglan Coconut Yogurt), Sara Orme (Girl Undiscovered) and Jordan Rondel (The Caker). These women are at the top of their game in their businesses and all of them are proudly and confidently doing it their way. To say that they were amazing, delightful and heartwarming is an understatement. Their honesty and commitment to supporting fellow women in business shone through. It was a truly inspiring and empowering night with a lot of advice and many laughs.
I was, at 44 years old, one of the older ones present (when did that happen?). But what struck me was how amazing the young women were who were in attendance. I could not help but look around the room and realise that this bunch of entrepreneurs, innovators and dreamers are our future and damn that filled me with such happiness and confidence. We are in good hands.
In the days that followed the event, I kept coming back to one thing - authenticity. It was a value that all of the speakers talked about, it drove their businesses and underpinned their direction - their arrow. Up until that night, I had not put into words that value for my own business but that is what drove me and has kept me following the direction I knew I needed to go in. It is definitely not the easy option but it is the only option!
The value of authenticity made me reflect on a conversation I had earlier the same day - I had been asked if I was interested in being part of a group who do fake reviews on each other's sites to push up visibility and ratings. It took me all of a nanosecond to say no. Things may take me longer (and that is okay by me) but if I cannot put hand on heart and know I did things right then I am not interested. It’s simple. Being authentic and truthful is important. It is up there with that other value - kindness.
Authenticity even guides what I have written so far - I have broken every search engine optimisation rule by not including any keywords especially in the first paragraph! But SEO and being genuine do not always mix - and to do otherwise would be treating you, the reader, with contempt. People know what authenticity looks like - they search for it when they choose who they follow on social media. They want a real experience. Not the made up ‘perfect’ imagery because that is unrelatable and unobtainable. Those images are the very opposite of authenticity. Thanks to social media the world we live in now has greater transparency than ever before.
What does authenticity look like in business? Sustainable Business Network (SBN) held a conference last year including 'expert insight for success in an age that demands honesty and transparency in business’. They discussed their learnings including how now more than ever both customers and employees want to know the good being done by businesses. Social and environmental responsibility matters. SBN outlined how to communicate in the age of authenticity; identifying your purpose is paramount - essentially figuring out why your business matters; tell inspiring stories - share your values that guide your business from the inside out and share them; don’t be full of BS - walk the talk and do it with integrity; every step matters - small steps count; measure your progress - collect meaningful data and look for ways to keep improving; prove it - for example a life cycle analysis to look at how your business impacts across the supply chain and finally, make a fuss - stand up for your values! You can read the full article here.
How do we show that we put this all into practice? Boxsmith is a very young business but we have some fundamental guiding principles that we adhere to. It doesn’t make life always easy - in fact sometimes the opposite but I believe it makes us great. I am proud of what and how we do what we do! We only work with NZ businesses that are ethical - if the products are not kind to humans (from sourcing to using), animals or the environment we won’t stock it. We have a strong social conscious and we are glad we do. We do not want to do business if it is going to put someone or something at harm. Further to that we also believe in giving back. It was easy to decide on Make A Wish NZ as the organisation to donate a percentage of our sales to so 5% of each gift box (up to a maximum of $5 per box) is donated to them.
And to finish where we started - Boxsmith are following their arrow! We know where it is pointed and that is firmly with our family. They give us the direction and the drive to succeed. And we also know that if we succeed then the New Zealand businesses we work with also succeed and most importantly we can contribute to helping Kiwi kids, with life-threatening illnesses, dreams become a reality. Pretty special.
If you want to know why we support Make A Wish click here to read our story.