Cilla Hegarty and Cate Grace: Women of Influence

New Zealand Tax Refunds founder Cilla Hegarty
New Zealand Tax Refunds founder Cilla Hegarty

A Christchurch mentor and her mentoree will run side by side as Women of Influence Awards finalists in the business entrepreneur category.

The founder of New Zealand Tax Refunds (NZTR), Cilla Hegarty, used to be a mentor for Leap Fitness and Motivation founder Cate Grace.

Now they are both finalists in Westpac and Fairfax Media's second year of the Women of Influence Awards.

Leap Fitness and Motivation founder Cate Grace
Leap Fitness and Motivation founder Cate Grace

Grace said Hegarty was an inspirational woman.

"I am excited to be a finalist side by side with her. We have two different businesses but we both worked in a post-quake environment really well."

Hegarty was delighted to be a finalist.

"I am also extremely proud of Cate and thrilled that she is a finalist. She works incredibly hard under some trying circumstances and is always so cheerful and fun."

A motivational speaker and personal trainer, Grace was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 30.

She was told exercise would help, but after playing competitive sports and travelling the world, resistance band work or hydrotherapy did not appeal.

So Grace filled that gap herself. Still working fulltime for the Ministry of Social Development as a youth co-ordinator, she formed Leap in February 2010 and studied, qualifying as a personal trainer, and working part-time in her business. The quakes helped Grace realise her dream job was to help people "leap off their couch".

She went full-time at Leap on September 2010. The business offers clients one-on-one rehabilitation classes, fitness classes and events.

Her latest venture, website, offers health coaching online and through a mobile app.

"We've been able to touch a lot more people, and it's accessible, it's affordable.

"It helps mums and sick people and we can continue growing without me having to do physical, face-to-face work all the time."

The new venture, along with with hiring contractors to run fitness classes, contributed to an annual growth of 30 per cent for the year to June.

Her former mentor Hegarty started her online business in 2008 with the aim of setting up a simple online process ordinary people could use to recover money owed them by Inland Revenue.

At the time there were no online tax return mechanisms for personal tax.

NZTR is now the largest tax refund company, with over 38 competitors in the market.

Hegarty developed the idea while running her accounting practice and doing tax refunds for clients' children.

The refund is paid to NZ Tax Refunds by the IRD and then paid out to the client, less the firm's fee, the same day, by bank transfer or cheque.

That idea and the process she set up won Hegarty multiple awards.

The Press