Liz Hughes of Blue Bamboo on Solopreneur Life in Beautiful Tauranga
In 2014, Liz Hughes felt ready to leave Auckland, but not ready to leave her Auckland job.
Determined to move home to the Bay of Plenty, she found a way to have her cake and eat it too. Liz told her managers at Vodafone that she wanted to move to Tauranga, and they agreed that she could continue her project management role remotely.
The move went really well. However, four years later, Liz was ready for a new challenge. She took a leap of faith and launched her own digital marketing company, Blue Bamboo – joining the groundswell of solopreneurs in Tauranga. Business is going well, and Liz has enjoyed the increasing vibrancy of this beautiful city that has grown and changed around her over the last five years.
This is her story.
Liz, can you give us a snapshot of your career history?
I grew up in Rotorua and moved to Wellington for university. After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in marketing and commercial law, I wasn’t 100% clear on the path I wanted to take. I decided to join a large corporate so I would the opportunity to try out a variety of roles. I landed a job with Telecom (now Spark) and worked my way up in numerous sales and marketing roles. Eventually, I landed a project management role at Vodafone, which had a strong focus on branding, customer experience, communications, and planning. I discovered that I really enjoyed the science behind marketing – finding out what makes shoppers tick, as well as the planning side of things.
What prompted your move to Tauranga in 2014?
Tauranga has always felt like home. I wanted to be closer to family and lifelong friends and to be closer to Bay of Plenty beaches and forests. I was very lucky to be able to take the fantastic job I had in Auckland and do it remotely from Tauranga.
What was it like to work for Vodafone remotely from Tauranga?
Five years ago, remote working wasn’t as common as it is today. Video calling and screen sharing technology have come a long way since then, which makes it even easier to fulfill any role from any location. Being based away from my team and managers meant it was on me to be focused at all times and to often work things out on my own. The arrangement was based on a high level of trust. I tried to go the extra mile with everything as my way of saying thanks for being given the freedom to live where I wanted to.
What made you decide to start your own company?
After ten years at Vodafone, I needed a new challenge. I wanted to do something that leveraged my existing skills, allowed for personal growth, and also allowed me to continue working independently so I could enjoy the best the Bay has to offer. Setting up my own business, Blue Bamboo, took a huge leap of faith, but I haven’t looked back. Entering the world of digital marketing was a natural transition for me. I really enjoy the way the online environment is always changing, which drives the need for me to be learning all the time.
What services does your company Blue Bamboo offer?
Blue Bamboo is an SEO company that helps local businesses and agencies turn online searchers into purchasers. I find it really exciting using search engine optimization to take a website from low rankings to page one on Google. My clients benefit from being more visible online, and because they feature as an organic listing in search engine results, they get a better return for their investment. Not only do they get long-term results, but they’re also not paying every time someone clicks on their name.
Good SEO isn’t easy, but by managing each website like a project, I’m able to improve website performance in an organized way, whilst keeping things simple for my clients. It feels really good helping local businesses market themselves across Tauranga, New Zealand, and even the world.
What has Tauranga been like as a place to start your own company?
It’s been great. When I’ve reached out to other digital marketing agencies, there’s been a real sense of community and willingness to share information with each other. Likewise, clients seem more willing to work with local agencies like mine. There are loads of options for networking and making connections. It’s just about putting yourself out there. Tauranga is full of friendly people who are happy to have a conversation.
I see you were the lead marketer for TedX Tauranga this year. What was that like?
I stumbled across the advertisement on Facebook. I’d seen countless TED Talks but had no idea that Tauranga ran a local event until then. I jumped at the chance to be involved. I volunteered my marketing services in the lead-up to the sell-out 2019 event and got to meet a great group of people who are all passionate about Tauranga and the sharing of new ideas.
What’s your take on the solopreneur/freelancer scene in Tauranga?
There are quite a few of us around and many of the resumes are very impressive. Tauranga has seen an influx of highly talented people move here and set up shop. If you ask me, Tauranga is a hotspot if you’re looking for a boutique marketing agency that doesn’t charge out big city fees.
What changes have you seen in Tauranga over the last five years?
I’ve noticed an exciting vibe developing across Tauranga. From an impressive range of cafés and restaurants to interesting events to new companies setting up shop here. I love that I live in a busy city with a laid-back feel.
What do you do for fun or to relax here?
I live in Mount Maunganui and I love the lifestyle. I enjoy walking the dogs (Charlie and Marley), going for a stroll on the beach, walking around the Mount, people watching along Maunganui Rd, fishing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. When wandering around downtown at the Mount, I get a good vibe from the people around me, which is a great pick-me-up as well. I head over to Rotorua on a regular basis for work and play and sometimes head up the coast for a day trip. There’s so much to do all within one hour of Tauranga.
What has moving to Tauranga meant:
For your career? I’m able to do what I love while enjoying a fantastic work-life balance.
For your wellbeing? I can walk to the beach or Pilot Bay from my home in under five minutes. It’s a great escape that gives me a quick reset so I can focus better on solving a problem for a client.
For your relationships? Being closer to family and lifelong friends was a top priority and it’s been a valuable part of the move.
Gets You Thinking Doesn’t It?
No one can tell you when you’re ready for a change of lifestyle…but when you are, we’d love to have you in Tauranga! Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou