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Inside Manzana, Tāmaki Makaurau’s space for women entrepreneurs

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27 May 2022

Manzana is a new creative space and community supporting women entrepreneurs who are driven to change the world. Founded by University of Auckland alumnae Dil Khosa and Ché Zara Blomfield, the co-working space on Auckland City’s High Street offers workshops, events, and networking opportunities all designed to empower and support women entrepreneurs striving to improve the way we connect with each other and our environment. 

Dil was shocked to learn that it will apparently take another 136 years to close the gender gap. She says, “We are certainly not going to wait around, so we’re working to do our bit in progressing gender equity. We also found many gaps in our local ecosystem for supporting women entrepreneurs, which we are working to help solve.” 

Similar spaces around the world have shown that creating thriving communities of women entrepreneurs and investors alike is an effective means of growing and maintaining the participation of women in entrepreneurship, and the founders see Manzana as playing an important role in facilitating diversity and inclusion in New Zealand’s start-up ecosystem. “Most service spaces, both physical and digital, are not designed with women in mind,” says Ché. “Women, and those who identify as gender-diverse, especially those from minority backgrounds, are still marginalised, sidelined, exploited. Manzana, and other spaces like ours, create safe and inclusive environments that lead to more balanced start-up ecosystems.”

They began by reaching out to Auckland City Council who have supported the initiative by providing a location and used the power of community to run a successful PledgeMe campaign for the fit-out. This allowed them to launch the space with a set of women solopreneurs and tech entrepreneurs in February 2022. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” says Ché. “My advice is to learn from doing and ask for help! Ask professionals, ask friends, and ask anyone who may be able to support whether that be through donating time, money, or materials. People are generally willing to help, so keep asking. There are also so many options for funding out there that people can tap into, so we’ve compiled a list.”

 

 

Like most ventures, Dil and Ché consider everything with Manzana to be a work in progress. They launched with a paid membership program offering different tiers of their offerings, and have since simplified their system in response to member feedback. “Our membership programme was probably too ambitious,” says Dil. “With Ché working closely with our community, she has been able to listen carefully to their needs and we have been able to identify gaps in our offering. By experimenting with different models, we are able to test the best ways to serve this community and get closer to community-market fit.” 

Dil’s passion for innovation and entrepreneurship was ignited in 2009 when she participated in Velocity (then, Spark), the University of Auckland’s student-led entrepreneurship development programme run with the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She says, “I learned a lot of valuable skills through the programme – for example, it’s one of my earliest memories of learning to pitch! But I most enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and be inspired by like-minded people which kickstarted my journey into entrepreneurship.

“My first love was always about bringing science and technology into the world, but I realised that while the mechanics of doing this are set in place and thriving, often the positive impact of innovation and entrepreneurship are missing. For example, we could be creating the best SaaS product ever, but are we considering how much it is contributing to environmental damage? Is the team diverse enough to serve all populations? When making decisions, is your AI taking into account biases such as race and gender? These are all under-addressed spaces in entrepreneurship, and making entrepreneurship more inclusive has become my pathway.”

Dil and Ché’s words of advice for young entrepreneurs are the same: “Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s totally misunderstood. Fail early, learn from them, and move on to the next thing. The world is ours, so let’s make it the one we want to live in!”

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

social media

27 May 2022

Manzana is a new creative space and community supporting women entrepreneurs who are driven to change the world. Founded by University of Auckland alumnae Dil Khosa and Ché Zara Blomfield, the co-working space on Auckland City’s High Street offers workshops, events, and networking opportunities all designed to empower and support women entrepreneurs striving to improve the way we connect with each other and our environment. 

Dil was shocked to learn that it will apparently take another 136 years to close the gender gap. She says, “We are certainly not going to wait around, so we’re working to do our bit in progressing gender equity. We also found many gaps in our local ecosystem for supporting women entrepreneurs, which we are working to help solve.” 

Similar spaces around the world have shown that creating thriving communities of women entrepreneurs and investors alike is an effective means of growing and maintaining the participation of women in entrepreneurship, and the founders see Manzana as playing an important role in facilitating diversity and inclusion in New Zealand’s start-up ecosystem. “Most service spaces, both physical and digital, are not designed with women in mind,” says Ché. “Women, and those who identify as gender-diverse, especially those from minority backgrounds, are still marginalised, sidelined, exploited. Manzana, and other spaces like ours, create safe and inclusive environments that lead to more balanced start-up ecosystems.”

They began by reaching out to Auckland City Council who have supported the initiative by providing a location and used the power of community to run a successful PledgeMe campaign for the fit-out. This allowed them to launch the space with a set of women solopreneurs and tech entrepreneurs in February 2022. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” says Ché. “My advice is to learn from doing and ask for help! Ask professionals, ask friends, and ask anyone who may be able to support whether that be through donating time, money, or materials. People are generally willing to help, so keep asking. There are also so many options for funding out there that people can tap into, so we’ve compiled a list.”

 

 

Like most ventures, Dil and Ché consider everything with Manzana to be a work in progress. They launched with a paid membership program offering different tiers of their offerings, and have since simplified their system in response to member feedback. “Our membership programme was probably too ambitious,” says Dil. “With Ché working closely with our community, she has been able to listen carefully to their needs and we have been able to identify gaps in our offering. By experimenting with different models, we are able to test the best ways to serve this community and get closer to community-market fit.” 

Dil’s passion for innovation and entrepreneurship was ignited in 2009 when she participated in Velocity (then, Spark), the University of Auckland’s student-led entrepreneurship development programme run with the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She says, “I learned a lot of valuable skills through the programme – for example, it’s one of my earliest memories of learning to pitch! But I most enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and be inspired by like-minded people which kickstarted my journey into entrepreneurship.

“My first love was always about bringing science and technology into the world, but I realised that while the mechanics of doing this are set in place and thriving, often the positive impact of innovation and entrepreneurship are missing. For example, we could be creating the best SaaS product ever, but are we considering how much it is contributing to environmental damage? Is the team diverse enough to serve all populations? When making decisions, is your AI taking into account biases such as race and gender? These are all under-addressed spaces in entrepreneurship, and making entrepreneurship more inclusive has become my pathway.”

Dil and Ché’s words of advice for young entrepreneurs are the same: “Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s totally misunderstood. Fail early, learn from them, and move on to the next thing. The world is ours, so let’s make it the one we want to live in!”


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