Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Kiwi Immigrants Blog


How A Californian Girl Became New Zealand's Foodie Ambassador to the US
18 December 2015

BY KATHRYN OVERALL

Linda McWilliam is a fabulous Tauranga import from California who has made it her mission to help premium New Zealand artisan brands export to the United States. In this interview she talks about long-distance love, moving to the other side of the world in her 40's and the challenges and satisfaction of reinventing her high-flying corporate career in Tauranga. 

Linda, where did you grow up?
I grew up in Pomona California. I am a 3rd generation Californian which is quite rare. California used to be full of orange groves and that is what my great-grandfather was involved with. I graduated from Claremont High School and got my business degree from the University of La Verne in 1985.

Can you describe your carer in the United States?
I went into retail sales management for Laura Ashley after graduating. From 1989 to present I have been in account manager/sales director positions for various consumer product companies. I spent 14 years selling Barbie and Hot Wheels for Mattel Toys and it was probably there that I became so passionate about great brands!

What was your initial connection to New Zealand?
My first contact with New Zealand was oddly enough in LA. The group of friends I hung out with were Kiwi expats living in LA. I made my first trip to New Zealand with a friend from college in the early 1990’s and toured the North and South Island. We were fortunate to have local friends be our guides and show us around. I don’t think at that time I would have dreamt about living here.   That said, whenever I visit someplace I always think to myself  “could I live here?".  I did that during that trip and even then the answer was yes.

20 years later you fell in love with a Kiwi!  Tell us how that unfolded.
I met my husband at a friend’s wedding that I attended here in Tauranga of all places. We had a long distance relationship for nearly seven years - keeping Air New Zealand in business and both of us broke! When people use distance as an excuse for a relationship not working out - I say rubbish - what is meant to be is meant to be.

We were married in the October of 2010. I was the one to move country because my job was more transferable skills-wise then his. Lifestyle also played an important part in the decision as well. Redondo Beach is very nice but it is tough to beat The Mount!

What was it like for you to ‘start over’ in a new country in your 40's?
I was well into my 40’s when I moved to New Zealand. Moving to a different state in the US at that age would be difficult - moving to a different country at that age might be considered insane.

Leaving family and lifelong friends was in fact very difficult - there's no tiptoeing around that . But it has been well worth it and the bonus with my work is I get to visit home often and see family and friends. I still get to watch my friend's kids grow up which is a perk that I didn’t think I would get when I moved this far away.

I think career wise it was more difficult than personally and I think that is natural. When you leave your professional network and contacts of 20+ years and find yourself in a new country the challenging thing is finding exactly where you fit in. I think the advantage was moving to a place like Tauranga where entrepreneurship is embraced, encouraged and celebrated! 

How did you re-invent your career in a smaller city like Tauranga?
It just sort of happened. I wasn’t sure what I would do my first year in New Zealand.  The fabulous thing about Tauranga is within the community there is access to export, trade and business organizations.  I attended a lot of different seminars and groups at first to see what paths might open up and it became clear to me that starting my own company just might be the best path for me to take.

Can you tell us about the company you have created?
Early on I conceptualised what has now become PODSALESNZ - a company which proudly represents quality New Zealand made products to the United States.  I offer support in all all facets of export promotions such as product placement, accounts, liaising with buyers, bloggers, press and chefs.

 I also bring a complete understanding of the vast and varied America marketplace and where specific products would have the most chance of success.

While I was contemplating starting PODSALESNZ I fell in love with using Heilala Vanilla.  I approached Jennifer Boggiss and began working with them in a part time role to expand their presence in the US.  A year or so later I discovered Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter and began working with them.

It was then that PODSALESNZ became a reality. I spend a lot of time working with these brands and I am constantly on the look out for other awe inspiring products and companies.  I find the stories behind the products so rich and inviting and I find myself compelled to share their stories with just about anyone who will listen!

Heilala Vanilla began as an aid project in 2002 in  Tonga and in 2015 they are celebrating their 10 year anniversary of their first harvest.  It is a family operated company and they grow, process and package a full range of 100% pure vanilla products ranging from beans, extract, paste, sugar and have most recently added coconut oil to their offerings of pure ingredients. Their products are used by some of the world’s finest chefs in their restaurants and their retail range can be found in fine stores worldwide in New Zealand Australia, Japan Denmark, Singapore, Brazil and the US. It has been a privilege to work with Jennifer Boggiss and the Heilala Vanilla team here in Tauranga.

Pics Peanut Butter is an extraordinary company out of Nelson New Zealand. Pic Picot is the man behind the idea that peanut butter can be healthy and taste great. He takes hioleic peanuts from Australia (the healthiest kind of peanut) and fresh roasts them on premise in Nelson. He then adds a touch of sea salt, squishes them and jars them within 45 minutes. This captures the freshest roasted flavor ever. You can tour their factory in Nelson and watch it all being made which is quite an adventure. Pic’s is taking the world by storm and is available in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, UK and the USA!

How does PODSALESNZ help to bring your two lives together?
I would like to think PODSALESNZ has two roles.

In New Zealand the role is to find extraordinary products and companies and assist in helping them get placement in the US market where success is most likely.

In the USA I want PODSALESNZ to be a trusted source where buyers and consumers alike come to see what is “new and cool and amazing” in New Zealand.  It allows me the opportunity to share a little bit of New Zealand with the USA. 

What has been helpful as you have gone on this business journey?
I think the business friendly climate of this area has helped a lot. I have been encouraged by like-minded people who have assisted me in every aspect of getting set up. I also have drawn inspiration from seeing things being done every day in this area by fearless businesses and business people.

It is inspiring to be a part of a community of independent businesses. My only regret is that I don’t have much time to be active in the organizations that are available to me and that is something I plan on changing in 2016.

 

What advice would you give to people who are thinking about transferring their corporate skills to Tauranga?
Don’t be discouraged by the appearance of corporate opportunities as I do believe not only will more corporations be drawn to this area because of lifestyle but it is an amazing incubator area for starting your own business if you have an idea. It is a very supportive, vibrant and success minded community. Tauranga is vibrant and central and you can easily work and base a national New Zealand or international company from this city.

How do you see Tauranga developing in the future?
Watch for great things to happen in Tauranga.  With the right planning and investments this is going to be one of the top places to be in New Zealand.  It enjoys a beautiful waterfront shopping area and the amazing potential to create a thriving downtown well planned shopping, dining and entertainment hub. I have seen areas similar to Tauranga in the US grow. Manhattan Beach, CA, for example has changed dramatically in the last 15 years and I see the very same thing happening in this area. It is very exciting to be able to watch it AND to be a part of it. That is why this is a perfect place for people of all business backgrounds to set up their base camp from Tauranga. It is a very dynamic place to be!


 

What do love about living in Tauranga?
I love walking the beach with my dog Bailey - nearly as much as she does!  When I moved here I immediately loved the Mount and the beautiful coastline. I felt connected to the Mount from the first time I walked up. The view from the top is breath-taking and there is a sense of peace there. I find I take pictures every time I walk around or go up the Mount sometimes of the very same things and I never tire of it. The day I don’t notice its beauty will be the day I will be disappointed with myself as it is truly a special place!  
 

How often do you travel to the US these days?
I travel to the US at least once a quarter but in actuality it can sometimes be even more frequent than that depending on shows or opportunities.

What do you miss about Tauranga when you are away?
EVERYTHING. I miss my husband but I have roped him into a couple of trade shows and that has been more than fun.  When I am travelling I miss my beach walks, the luxury of routine and activities with friends back home in Tauranga.

 

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!

1. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

2. Subscribe to our montly e-newsletter to receive stories just like this one about people who have already made the big move you are thinking of making. 

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz

 

 

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Contact Annie

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About Kathryn

About Kathryn

ABOUT KATHRYN

Kathryn Overall is the friendly voice behind the 'Wish You Were Working Here' stories and Facebook posts.  Each month she chats with returned Kiwi expats,  Auckland imports and New Zealand immigrants who have moved to Tauranga, collecting their stories and advice to share with you. 


CLICK HERE to read her own story of reluctant homecoming!

 

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