Entrepreneurship in Queenstown
April 1 2019 by Ting Zhang
When it comes to making a living in Queenstown, many who don’t fit neatly in the tourism or hospitality sectors seek out their own sustainable income opportunities by starting their own companies or offering their skills in freelance/gig arrangements. In line with the growing trend worldwide, entrepreneurism and the gig/freelance economy are important driving forces to innovation and the retention of residents and talent in the Queenstown Lakes region.
As anyone who has met an artist/programmer/ski instructor knows, the culture in the Queenstown Lakes district encourages defining your own multi-hyphenate work title. However, there has been a troubling trend of race-to-the-bottom pricing and barter systems when it comes to asking for remuneration. Asking for the worth of products or work provided can be especially challenging for women business owners and freelance entrepreneurs. Despite improvements over time, the New Zealand gender wage gap is still more than 9% (which essentially means women work 32 days for free every year), this inequality trickles over to the freelance space, where studies show women contractors charge lower rates, are more likely to get paid late, and are 4.5 times less likely to be earning over 6 figures than their male counterparts.
These figures simply quantify the conscious and unconscious bias that negatively affect working women everyday. In addition, Queenstown’s rural location means there are less resources available to help prevent and rectify gender inequalities, making it even more crucial for women to feel empowered to ask for their worth and allies to support them. Regardless of gender, the resistance to placing a monetary value on work provided is bad for both sides of the working relationship. Whether it’s goods and service businesses being asked to prove themselves before charging, or creatives being offered “exposure” versus pay for their artistic or written works, all sides lose when this is the norm.
For customers and clients, undervaluing the entrepreneur community means there’ll be no sustainable access to talent that’s hard to come by in our limited and often transient population. For entrepreneurs themselves, not asking for a liveable price/wage means they cannot continue to offer the skills, services and goods to the community long term. Both mean Queenstown loses out on new ideas, innovation, and quality of life for locals and visitors alike. If we all understand and value the work we do and receive, encourage transparency around fair pricing, and collaborate amongst each other, rather than compete with a race to the bottom, it can raise the tide for all. In Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk ‘The Art of Asking’, she encourages everyone to “give and receive fearlessly” and to “ask, without shame.” I can’t think of a better way to help grow and retain Queenstown’s community of doers, thinkers, makers, and healers, and enrich this amazing place we get to call home.
Ting Zhang is a social entrepreneur helping organisations that do good make bigger impacts