Connecting on the rural business journey

Helping each other succeed is all part of being a member of the Dairy Women’s Network Pukekohe Business Group. Sheryl Haitana reports.

The Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) Pukekohe Business Group is an example of farmers and rural professionals connecting on their personal development and business journeys.

DWN trustee Mark Heer says the strength of the Business Groups is women are creating connections, relationships and trust to help each other on their personal and business journeys.

“From my observation of the business groups, they all have that magic moment when the group comes together. There is good sharing within the group and that trust builds and there comes a point where something just clicks.”

Mark says he has been in the privileged position to be invited to join the Pukekohe group which has been running for almost two years.

The Pukekohe group is diverse, ranging from dairy farmers to rural bankers and consultants. They meet 10 times a year to discuss a range of topics of interest, from climate change to personal wellbeing.

Each member of the group has an opportunity to share their story and their business and personal goals. The group regularly checks in with each other on their progress. “There is a nice element of accountability to ourselves and our group to stay true to ourselves,” Mark says.


Karaka dairy farmer Sally Guy says being part of
the DWN Pukekohe Business Group has helped
her gain confidence running an onfarm daycare.

Karaka dairy farmer Sally Guy says being part of the DWN Pukekohe Business Group has helped build her confidence and knowledge of her business.

Sally and her husband Chris milk 200 cows and have just opened a daycare on the farm.

Coming from a farming background, often farmers don’t have that business background and have to develop those skills that are common in the corporate world, she says.

Being able to pick the brains of the rural professionals in their Pukekohe group is a great way to pick up those skills as well as to get a different perspective on her business.

“I think it’s a real positive having a diverse group, people wear different hats and have different experiences.”

People with a corporate background get to learn how farmers are operating and doing things on the ground, and the farmers get a more corporate insight.

“We get to learn more about things that are really common in the corporate world.”

The members of the group have built a really close connection where they can share their personal goals and personal business details, Sally says.

“You come into a space where you can be vulnerable. You get to discuss what’s going on with you and your business, what’s keeping you up at night, and you get constructive feedback.”

The group helps come up with solutions or offers ideas of where to go next, and most importantly keeps each other on track.

“We check in with each other and follow up again and again. Whereas with personal development you might have takeaways but there is no followup.”

The business group has been exceptional for her personal development, Sally says.

“I walked in the door not knowing anything about governance and I’ve now set up a board and I am applying to be an associate on a board.”

IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning is also a member of the group and says it offers a fantastic opportunity for personal development.

“It’s an opportunity to get that cup filled back up again each month. When we get together we really focus on us as individuals and how we engage with people and how we grow our leadership skills.”

The honesty and friendship that has developed allows everyone to share in a safe space, which offers the chance for genuine feedback and mentoring, she said.

“The Business Groups are a great avenue for women to help each other so everyone can be the best they can be.”

DWN Business Groups offers the next phase for DWN members who have been involved in regional events and want to take the next step, Mark says.

The groups are designed to focus on broadening people’s development around leadership and business. They offer more insight than just cows and grass, into the wider industry and can be targeted on areas of interest to the individual group.

Each group is diverse and contains women at different stages of their farming journey, creating a range of perspectives and insight.The groups provide a valuable experience for members, and conversations are focused on the topics that are relevant to them.

“Each group will find its own path,” he says.

DWN Business Groups have been established in Rotorua, Putaruru, Canterbury, Gore, Northland and Pukekohe.

If you are interested in joining an existing group or starting a new Business Group get in touch with DWN.