Diana Harrington's words of wisdom inspire St Peter's School students
Students sat attentively listening to a powerful but honest account of one of New Zealand's most successful business women.
Diana Harrington, formerly known as Diana Foreman, was named 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business in 2016.
She was invited to speak by St Peter's School's Year 12 business group to students at a special lunchtime meeting at the school recently.
Harrington has grown successful businesses in health, property and award-winning ice creams such as NZ Naturals.
She built globally successful Emerald Foods which she sold in 2015. Her accolades include making the top 11 in Forbes' 2014 Asia's Power Businesswoman List.
Harrington's grandson Luke, who attends St Peter's, introduced her to the meeting.
Harrington went on to explain how she hated school and left when she was 15.
She worked as a doctor's receptionist and a waitress until she had her two children.
Some hard times followed, living as a solo mum, and she looked at new avenues to make a living.
"While my story involves marriage to a wealthy man, who encouraged me to use the proceeds of the sale of his business to start something of my own, it could have gone one of two ways," she said.
Inspired by dairy products, she decided to manufacture and sell ice cream. She took over an old ice cream factory in Auckland where the business grew.
But it wasn't "just ice cream" Harrington pointed out to the students, "it was a concept and a brand".
"Somewhere in the world every eight seconds, someone is buying a NZ Natural ice cream," she said.
Although she did not like school, Harrington drew upon her experience and talked of the importance of education. She also pointed out the value of working as an entrepeneur.
"Someone who is a professional can only sell time, but an entrepreneur with a product, will have an income for life."
There had been mistakes made along the way to success. She admitted buying into another business simply because she liked its product.
"I loved a $300 pair of slippers [but] I soon realised not everyone was able to afford them, but they were comfy," she laughed.
Harrington told the students she was keen to see more women at the top of business in New Zealand.