Spring Boarding to Success – An Interview with Emily Tasker, CEO Flatpak NZ

Emily Tasker’s journey to becoming the CEO of Flatpak NZ at the ripe old age of 20 began in high school when she discovered the Young Enterprise Scheme.

Emily Tasker

Emily Tasker, CEO Flatpak NZ

She had already been inspired by a wonderful economics teacher and was quickly falling in love with the idea of creating her own business. She still gets excited when thinking about the very first Young Enterprise Scheme event she attended.

“I can still remember attending E-Day with our group of four classmates and just buzzing as we spread ideas about. Mentors came and visited our group and we were challenged to think about what problems we wanted to solve,” says Emily.

Ultimately, the group left without a solid idea in place but with a very strong motivation to find a problem that needed solving. It wasn’t long before a teacher arrived at school upset after losing tools off his quad bike which were later picked up by the combine harvester, breaking the piece of machinery. Once her team started investigating, a light bulb moment occurred. No quad bike storage existed that were large enough to transport farm tools in the required safety position located at the back of the bike. They had a clear starting point and Flatpak NZ was born.

From that point onwards, the Young Enterprise Scheme helped the team to write business plans, build brands, and give presentations. They presented in front of PGG Wrightson, sold stock at the Canterbury A&P show, and secured their own manufacturer.

The next step in Emily’s journey was when she joined the Venture Up programme towards the end of 2014.

“During Venture Up we took the time to speak with 150 farmers around New Zealand. We got to understand the daily problems they faced, how they operated their farm, and the way they interacted with those around them. We engaged with new mentors, suppliers, manufactures and other businesses. I believe it was the way in which we learnt to approach and interact with other people that really enabled us to propel Flatpak further forward,” says Emily.

Learning on the Job

Flatpak with dog

The product in action

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Flatpak NZ. Emily is the first to admit that that there have been continuous roadblocks, mistakes and learning curves but says that ‘there’s no point being on the journey, if you’re not going to learn along the way.’

She loves finding ways to solve problems and excels at creating last minute alternatives when ‘something goes haywire’! She’s also learnt how important it is to step back and take time to solve a problem and that it’s okay to say ‘I’ve made a mistake and I don’t know to how solve it.’

Give It a Go

She has some advice to offer for other young people who are contemplating getting involved in youth enterprise:

  • Don’t be afraid to follow your gut.
  • Strong business relationships are built on mutual trust. Be human, do your homework, give them plenty of reasons to put their trust in you, follow through on your promises, take the time to listen, and find ways in which you can give back.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions.
  • Create time for yourself. If you fill up all your time with projects and tasks, you leave no time to experiment, think freely, or reset.
  • Treat every experience as an opportunity to learn something new.

Grasp the Opportunities, Rise Above the Challenges

Emily has some firm ideas on the greatest opportunities and challenges facing young people today. First of all, she’d like to see young people being engaged earlier on. So rather than university students choosing their career path based on high school subjects, she suggests that they should be encouraged and enabled to get involved in the real world:

“If they are able to experience more things and contribute actively, then they are more likely to have a greater understanding of where they want to head and what they are truly passionate about,” she says.

She would also like to see a mind-shift in the way that employers view young people. Young people are able to focus a new lens on standard operations and come with a different way of approaching problems and coming up with solutions.

“Instead of seeing someone who is inexperienced and without a degree, our leaders need to start hiring people based on their potential. Yes, they have a lot to learn but both parties bring value to the table and both are needed in order to move our country forwards.”

Interestingly, when Emily discusses the current reality of young people in employment, her comments correlate nicely with the recent Foundation for Young Australians report, The New Work Mindset.

“The way and time in which people work is also moving. Now it is much more common for people to have several jobs within a year. And while this appears to be a hard concept to grasp for some people who have been in the same job for the majority of their life, I find it really exciting. It allows people to follow their gut and work in areas they are passionate about. For firms, they are getting people who are highly engaged because they are doing what they love.”

Encouraging Young People to Achieve Their Dreams

Emily also has some ideas on encouraging young people to realise their potential.

“Recently I was having a discussion with several entrepreneurs who highlighted that one of the most valuable things their mentors give them is their positivity and encouragement that they can achieve their dreams. We need to trust our youth to define their own way and encourage their endeavours. Yes they will make mistakes (we all do) and no their ride won’t be linear (but whose is?) but they will have a greater opportunity to learn and they will be way more engaged if they are encouraged to follow their heart,” she says.

With a positive attitude, business know-how, and a strong work ethic, Emily Tasker looks set to continue her enterprising journey. We’re looking forward to seeing what else she achieves in the coming years!