Laureates named in Waikato Hall of Fame

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A prominent Waikato business family which has established a global toy company and a former doyenne of the brewing scene were named Laureates of the Waikato Business Hall of Fame during the Westpac Waikato Business Awards on November 2.

Nick Mowbray, co-founder and co-CEO of toy company Zuru, accepted their award on behalf of the family, parents Harry and Linda, and siblings Andrew, Anna and Matt.

Zuru, which started in New Zealand, now employs more than 4000 staff across 18 offices, produces 400,000 toys a day and distributes to most major retailers in more than 120 countries.

Nick paid tribute to their parents, saying they instilled in their children a set of values and beliefs that made them believe they could achieve anything they set their minds to.

“This is where it all began for us so it’s a huge honour to be here tonight to be able to accept this award on behalf of the whole family,” he said.

“To mum and dad, obviously they are a huge reason for our success. We really were given a great sense of confidence from a young age that we could go and take on the world and win.”

He also referred to the calibre of students the company was able to hire from Waikato, saying in the last three months alone they had employed nearly 20 from Waikato University.

“I’m working with a number of universities through New Zealand, but it’s ended up that we’re hiring mostly students out of Waikato and it just seems they’re a better fit, they’re well rounded.

“It’s really neat to be able to connect back to Waikato as well in that way.”

Mary Jane Innes was given the honour posthumously in the year marking 125 years of Women’s Suffrage. The formidable one-time Hamilton business woman, who died in 1941, owned and developed Waikato Brewery in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as building up a soft drinks company trading as CL Innes and Company from 1900.

The soda bottling company later occupied the building where the Meteor now stands, and which business incubator Soda Inc drew its name from after setting up there in 2009 before shifting to Wintec House. The Innes 48 Hour Challenge is named after Mary.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Chris Simpson said: “We felt that it was more than appropriate to recognise the significant contribution that Mary Jane Innes and Zuru have played in establishing businesses that have not only been commercially successful, but also have equally recognised the importance of giving back to their community.”

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