We could never in a million years imagine that our steel-toes would be a hit in New Zealand. Well, on one fateful day, Ana received a call from an enthusiastic entrepreneur Jacqueline Griffin who wanted to bring Xenas to the edge of the world. After months of preparation, we're excited to announce that Jacqueline officially launched Xena Oceania. Here's her story.
Tell us a little bit about Jacqueline!
I grew up in the small rural community of Warkworth, New Zealand, surrounded by nature. While there was plenty of beach running, sailing the Hauraki Gulf, and driving on dirt roads, like most local teenagers, I couldn’t wait to move to the big city. So I left to study at the Victoria University in Wellington.
An extrovert with a flair for the creative, I majored in Marketing and was getting ready to enter the workforce when a chance conversation with a dorm mate changed everything. She asked me to join her in Human Resources. Thinking that the discipline was similar to Event Management, I was convinced. After graduating, I relocated to Melbourne to work for Shell Australia.
Aided by an uncanny ability to mediate between warring parties, no double a hangover from being the eldest of three scrappy siblings, I ended up being quite good in my new role. Unlike other disciples, the world of Human Resource afforded me immediate access to all departments and levels. This exposure gave me a satellite view of the company, allowing me to help guide the ship and set direction.
I spent three years traveling between refineries, processing plants, and the head office at Shell (realizing along the way how limited women’s safety apparel was). Eventually, I returned to New Zealand working for some of New Zealand’s largest Dairy, Construction, Port and Timber organizations, even spending time abroad in England. During this same time my husband and I welcomed our son William, and daughters Julia & Gabriella.
There is much to love about the corporate world, but after 10 years of climbing the ladder, I suddenly looked up and realized that my work-life balance was off. It was time to reprioritize and so, my husband and I made the decision to relocate our family to a quieter town of Hastings in the Hawkes Bay.
Big life changes are scary at first, but with the right attitude it is incredible how quickly you adapt and thrive. Since the move down country, I have had the opportunity to start two successful businesses that contributed to the wider community in the field of training and wellbeing.
Why did you decide to bring Xenas to New Zealand?
In many ways, I have been on a collision course with Xena Workwear my entire career. I am 5’ 4”, with tiny, size 6 feet. Finding suitable steel caps was almost impossible, and the existing options were uncomfortable and unprofessional.
Much like Ana, working in operational environments meant I regularly went from meeting room to manufacturing floor to perform my job. Each time I had to stop and change from my office shoes into bulky work boots that never fit right. It was also quite embarrassing having to hold up members of the board for a wardrobe change.
I discussed this issue at length with other professional women and realized that the problem wasn’t unique to me. Everyone I spoke to reported similar challenges, so I started looking into designing my own range of safety shoes, when I discovered Xena Workwear. I knew in an instant that I needed to be part of their journey and reached out to Ana that very evening.
Tell us about the launch process?
My journey involved unexpected turns, setbacks and delays. It would have taken a heart of stone not to feel discouraged by the length of time it took to launch – however, throughout it all some inner sense told me to keep going.
There may be a misconception that businesses can launch overnight, which completely downplays the amount of sheer determination, grit and perseverance that goes on behind the scenes.
Hearing the feedback from women - some of whom tell me these shoes are life changing, makes all of the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile. It is a testament to my belief in the product and the wider message of Xena.
Can you share a few fun facts about New Zealand?
New Zealanders are widely regarded as a friendly bunch. My Danish sister-in-law was shocked that most people you pass on the street will say hello whether they know you or not. I also love that when two New Zealander’s meet abroad we instantly begin dissecting ways in which we might be connected to one another. Once a link is established we are bonded, possibly until death or the bar tab parts us.
We celebrate New Year in June. Matariki marks the start of the Māori New Year. Signified by the Matariki cluster of stars reappearing in our night sky, this is a time to reflect on the past year, celebrate the present and plan for the year ahead. This year, on June 24, will be the first time Matariki is recognized as an official holiday in New Zealand. Matariki has different names around the world like Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, Makali’I, and Subaru.
New Zealand has always been a pioneer when it comes to gender equality. We were the first country to allow women to vote! Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, became the world’s youngest female head of government in 2017 at the age of 37.
We sing our National Anthem first in Te Reo then in English. Because we are in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas falls in Summer. Many New Zealander’s celebrate Christmas at the beach. Unlike our closest neighbor, Australia, New Zealand has no snakes or dangerous wild animals.
What industries are active in New Zealand?
Agriculture, Construction, and Tourism are some of our largest industries. Considering how far away from the rest of the world New Zealand is, distance hasn’t hindered our ability to export goods. In particular, we are the world’s largest exporter for dairy and sheep meat. Our construction industry is thriving, boosted by steady growth in Auckland, and projects in Canterbury. Finally, because so many people want to see for themselves how awesome New Zealand is, our tourism industry is strong.
Some of our early customers are from Fletcher Building, Fletcher Living, Steel & Tube, Rockit Apple, Fonterra, and Wurth. We have had a huge amount of interest and I can’t wait to get out to meet with clients in the coming months.
What world do you want your daughters to live in?
Like most parents, I want the best for my children. While there is a lot to love about the world we live in, we still have mountains to climb to achieve equality, tolerance, and freedom.
My greatest wish is for my children to live in a world that’s humble and brave enough to change.