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Resilience and adapting to change

Resilience and adapting to change

I was recently invited to speak about my business journey and discuss the topic of 'resilience and adapting to change'. I feel like anyone who is in business has a plethora of stories to tell around moments of resilience and how it's shaped them as business owners and their business journey.

I love this succinct definition of resilience:

'Advancing despite adversity'.

It's that attitude of pushing forward even when the odds may be stacked against you, or when you may be limited by resource or capability, or you're not sure what the outcome might be.

I can recall some key memorable moments in business where my resilience as a business owner have been tested and built. 

1. Moving countries with a family and business during a pandemic

This wasn't for the faint hearted but we survived, and live to tell the tale. My partner, son and I had been living in Melbourne Australia for 8 years prior to our move to New Zealand. Our son was born and raised in Melbourne and we'd established a solid life, careers, relationships and MISS MAIA. But when the pandemic hit, like many others, that work and life balance became very muddy.

The commute to the office and work separation had stopped for me, and working remotely from home, while home schooling, became the norm. My partners mahi (work) was classed as 'essential' so he was out of the home during the week and sometimes on the weekends. As primary carer to our son I had to figure out how to juggle an 8 hour work day remotely from home, while homeschooling a 'preppie' (first year at Primary/Elementary School) while Victoria/Melbourne implemented the longest and harshest lockdown and pandemic protocols across Australia.

I remember quite vividly having a minute break between Zoom meetings, looking over at my son and realising that he'd been sitting and watching TV for three hours. My attempt at home schooling him (because he was too young to self-direct his learning) had been abandoned and the demands of the day job had taken priority. This had actually been our reality for many days before this moment of realisation and it was in that moment that I thought, this isn't sustainable.

I loved my job (which was relatively new position at a company I enjoyed working for) but I loved my whānau (family) more, and so my partner and I hatched a plan for moving back to NZ. A huge consideration was ensuring that MISS MAIA could still operate in NZ. I undertook lots of research to ensure I could source materials, supplies and maintain the supplier relationships that I'd established in Australia. Then there was understanding the formal structures of starting a business in NZ and what had changed since we last lived in NZ.

From the research phase I was satisfied that MISS MAIA would not only work in NZ, but had the potential to thrive. So dismantling 8 years of accumulated 'stuff' began and figuring out the logistics of packing up our house/life and also the business, began...during a pandemic and strict lockdown!! We gave ourselves three months to prepare for the move back to NZ and returned to NZ in September 2020. Our whānau in NZ also gave us reassurance in our decision to move home, my sister offering space in her accounting business for me to set up and hit the ground running with MISS MAIA and my mum providing a safe place for us to live while we found our feet.

The lessons in resilience from this experience were:

  • making hard decisions, fast;
  • overcoming ambiguous situations; and
  • handling financial risk and uncertainty.

What gave us the impetus to push through these moments of adversity was our goal to prioritise our whānau wellbeing. By putting our whānau wellbeing first, we all built resilience through the experience. As a business owner I now have the skills and unique experience of running a business in both Australia and New Zealand, which I'm super grateful for.

2. Going all in with MISS MAIA

Another (ongoing) example of resilience and adapting to change has been making the decision to go full-time in MISS MAIA. To move from hobbyist to business owner. I talk about this journey in another blog post which reflects on the first year of going full-time in MISS MAIA.

The shift from side-hustle to main-hustle has required a mindset shift, loads of mental and emotional resilience and a solid strategy. One of the biggest areas to guide me in this journey of business is, self-belief. It's also trusting in my experience and skills, acknowledging my role as a leader and recognising that I have an amazing network and community of people to call on when/if I need it.

Building financial resilience for MISS MAIA is an ongoing educational exercise to build capability for me as a business owner. It's my responsibility as a business owner to understand the numbers and financials in my business, even though this isn't my area of expertise. MISS MAIA has been built from the ground up, with some initial investment from personal savings, determination and lots of passion. I'm proud of this, but I'm also realistic about making a living to support my whānau, therefore, I'm accountable for doing something about my blind spots.

The lessons in resilience from this experience were:

  • building confidence and capability, one decision/action at a time;
  • focus on my strengths; and
  • outsource and invest in the skills of others.

What has kept me motivated to push through moments of personal doubt is my vision to prove that against all odds, creative businesses can succeed and thrive in Aotearoa (NZ). It's a slow game and it can get exhausting breaking down perceptions along the way, but I'm so blessed to be growing relationships and networks with other Māori and Pacific creatives so collectively we can show up, share our creativity and thrive in this world together.

3. Creativity in a pandemic

As a creative business, creativity is our lifeblood! It's a key resource needed in our business and for the products we create. So when NZ businesses had to scramble to make sense of the new traffic light COVID-19 alert system, navigate lockdowns, vaccination mandates and gathering restrictions, it was harder to find mental space for creativity. 

As a business owner it became a relentless period of reactive communications to customers to manage expectations about delivery and accessibility of our products because of the various government pandemic responses and changes. We had summer events cancelled - our busiest period of the year - and had to think of ways to weather this stormy patch.

Our greatest strength during this time was that MISS MAIA had a strong digital and operational base, so our systems were well established and enabled us to focus on our social media presence and our MISS MAIA community, to remind people we were here! In Whakatāne we have the type of community that staunchly supports local and local retail initiatives through EPIC kicked in. We adapted to event cancellations by holding Pop-up Shops at our office in Whakatāne during the month of December and in the lead up to Christmas.

The lessons in resilience from this experience were:

  • adaptability, or the willingness to adapt and create your own opportunities
  • connecting with our community to build trust, loyalty and remind our community we are here
  • dedicating and carving out time and space for creativity.

What has helped me to overcome feelings of creative guilt or disruptions to creativity are dedicating time for creative activities. Also acknowledging that these activities don't always have to be in regards to designing new products for MISS MAIA. All creative activity enriches the work I do for MISS MAIA so making sure I'm fuelling that creative fire. For me it's a great antidote to overwhelm, which means better decision-making in my business.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading! If you have any resilience stories to share please add your stories below, or if you think this post might be of value to others, please share xxx


Melanie Witana

What an amazing write up. Such a great read. I’m very privileged to have read what you’ve shared in your blog ehoa. Very grateful to see the Ahikā and the Mauri you have in sharing your experiences with others. Such a Taonga and words of wisdom that can possibly be used in a Pukapuka maybe😊


Great read! Love hearing about your journey xo

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