Chamber Voice: Why our team had a good 2021

Like many organisations, it’s been a crazy ride for the Chamber team as we’ve worked through the uncertainty of COVID-19 times in 2021.

But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom – in fact, our team have had a great year both personally and professionally, and one of the biggest positives has been working closely with our members and the business community over the past 12 months.

We asked our team to reflect on some of their highlights and look forward to the new year.

Anne Pankhurst, Events & Sponsorship Manager

What did you enjoy most about 2021?

One of the things I enjoyed was travelling to Blenheim to share a friend’s birthday and enjoying all that Blenheim has to offer. We have been steered into seeing our own country and it’s a cracka. There is some very cool and interesting places and things to do. Always good for a wakeup call to remind ourselves just how wonderful this country is.

Another achievement that I feel proud about is holding the Business Awards, recognising all the time and energy the entrants put into entering, the investment and support from our sponsors, the huge commitment that the judges give to business support in the region and to the team here at the Chamber, who supported me supporting business success here in the Bay.  It was a fly by the seat of your pants event, but we did it and it sounds like loads of entrants went on to have a fun time.

what are you looking forward to in 2022?

I am really looking forward to 2022. It’s actually really exciting to fly by the seat of your pants and achieve under what could be trying and challenging times. We all need to be flexible and adaptable, and learn just what that means.

To quote a colleague, we are in history making times, and I want to be able to play a positive part in that, to make the best of this time, and to feel that I adapted to the new BAU – and not making any new year’s resolutions that I never keep nor even begin to try to achieve. Bring on 2022.

Lani Wreaks, Member Liaison

What did you enjoy most about 2021?

Like many will have found, 2021 was a generally tough year, but it’s also had some epic bucket list moments too like hiking mountain summits for sunrise, attending an Eagles concert (even if it was the tribute band), moving back to the Bay, and completing my bachelor’s degree (to name a few).

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

I know it sounds boring, but I’m SO excited to sink my teeth into my next chapter being work! I am a massive kinaesthetic (learn by doing) person, and after three years of full-time tertiary study, this is a moment I have been dreaming about. I am ready to learn new things, meet new people, and make more memories! A trip across the ditch for a long-await reunion with my best friend would be nice too.

Laura Boucher, Marketing & Communications Manager

What did you enjoy most about 2021?

This year was the year to try new things that I wouldn’t normally do – COVID-19 really threw my routine out the window, and so I kinda said stuff it and rolled with whatever opportunities came my way! So, I did my first-ever corporate boxing match with TGA Box, I starred in a play for the first time (pictured), I entered and won my division in a regional singing comp, explored new places in my backyard (and plenty of old faves too) and, for the first time ever, took things a bit slower than normal. It was nice to have a change of pace. I also got asked to be maid of honour for my best friend’s wedding in 2023, which was such a lovely surprise and an absolutely honour.

Work wise, I really enjoyed attending two of the Chamber’s flagship events for the first time: The BWN Speaker Series and the Business Awards. Last year I was too sick to attend the awards (not COVID-19, just a terrible timed flu) and that has been a painful running joke for the last 12 months.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

More events! I can’t wait to go back to live music and concerts, as well as perform in a few more musicals and plays too. Oh, and do another fight night (and hopefully take out a win too!)

On a work note, I’m also looking forward to launching the Chamber’s new brand early 2022 – we’ve been doing some cool work behind the scenes to better tell our stories, and we’re excited to share this with the business community.

Matt Cowley, CEO

What did you enjoy most about 2021?

Thanks for lockdown, I’ve realised I have hidden slow cooker talents. Growing rose bushes despite having no idea what I’m doing. Realising that no matter how much or little I play, my golf never gets any better.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

The same things I’ve said every year without achieving it: Better work life balance. But I think I can unplugging some more, especially to the 24-hr news cycle. Being able to reunite with overseas-based friends and family when MIQ finishes.

Roz Irwin, Growth Advisor

What did you enjoy most about 2021?

On a work front, it was being swamped with enquiries from businesses seeking support on how to navigate and manage business growth and utilising the Regional Business Partnership (RBP) Programme for this help. It was nice as a regional RBP Growth Advisor to be able to connect businesses with the right provider and training so they can upskill and implement their new skillsets into their businesses. What great challenges for a business to have, fast business growth, and what a great reward for a RBP Growth Advisor, to be able to make a difference and help them with this growth! The challenge for us has been to keep up with the demand, and work harder and smarter.

We moved into new offices at the Chamber, and it is more modern, fit for purpose and has a real good look and feel about it. I love my job, my workplace and my work colleagues.

On a personal front, my twins are growing up fast and I will be shelling out for two additional cars before I know it! 2021 has seen a few curve balls come at us, but we have grown, built resilience and strengthened as the small and united family that we are.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

Looking forward to seeing businesses in the Bay of Plenty continue to thrive and flourish throughout 2022, and being able to personally add value through the RBP. Until then, I will be closing my laptop on December 23 and will be enjoying a three-week break filled with sun, sand and surf in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and will then mix it up with a few vineyards visits in the Hawke’s Bay.

Sarah Lowry, Business Support

What did you enjoy most about 2021?

2021 saw the advent of our family’s South Island Adventure! A two-week round road trip from Tauranga to Milford Sound with adventures involving seals, dolphins, gondolas and castles in between. Seizing the opportunity to experience the ‘real’ New Zealand minus international tourists, we paid heed to our Lonely Planet guide to Te Waipounamu. Regarding Lake Tekapo the book advised, “Come early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the peace-shattering crowds” – we arrived mid-morning to find ourselves in the company of three others. Priceless.

Another highlight of 2021 was, of course, joining the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce. COVID-19 turned many, including myself, unexpectedly into contractors. Though I’ve only been here a short time, I am really enjoying supporting businesses through SEBA and Business Mentors. With a background in non-profit, ECE and events I am finding exposure to the business world and our talented, experienced and generous Business Mentors both refreshing and exciting. A sincere “thank you” to Derek Roser and all our Business Mentors who made a difference in 2021.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

In 2022, I will have no children at Primary School! I am also looking forward to the emergence of exciting new businesses in the Bay, and hearing about the tangible impact Derek and our Business Mentors have on a mentee’s business.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce offices will be closed from December 23 through to January 10. For all non-urgent enquiries, you can email the team on

What does the future hold? Business planning for 2022
Member Profile: Saylor Mae

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