At 25, Kate Macdonald grew her business Davaar & Co from a small cottage in The Key, near Te Anau. She says having a mentor and a genuine passion for the wool industry kept her going despite early reviews of her product.
Even as a fifth-generation farmer, Kate Macdonald still felt a sense of intimidation when trying to start her business, Da’vaar & Co, as a young woman.
The 25-year-old produces jerseys using cross-bred wool from the family farm in Da’vaar resort, around 30km from Te Anau, which is then washed, spun, dyed and knitted in New Zealand .
Entering the business world as a woman at such a young age, she found it difficult to be taken seriously in the male-dominated industry.
“A lot of people I’ve spoken to have been told ‘cross wool is going to be pretty irritating, I don’t think you should do that’, and it’s pretty disheartening for a young business girl to be told that,” she said.
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“Being a woman, it’s a rather masculine industry, the wool industry. And when I was talking to people, and they were saying it wouldn’t work… I don’t know if they honestly thought it wouldn’t sell, because we obviously focus on merino, or because I was a woman. Maybe a bit of both. »
Determined to be involved in a “renaissance” of wool as a sustainably produced product, Macdonald persevered in discussions with buyers, launching Da’avar and Co in February this year.
She’s been going all out since, reaching key markets in Wellington and Christchurch with her basic knowledge of social media and marketing.
Growing up in the digital age, Macdonald felt the advantage of his generation was being able to fully embrace the market and understand the social conscience behind the purchases of his peers.
“A lot of our sales are done directly through Instagram, which is interesting. We are so lucky as a younger generation that we know how to use all of this, and sometimes I feel sorry for older people who don’t know how to use this,” she said.
“It really is an amazing product, and I’m incredibly passionate about it, and I think that’s one of the great things, people can tell if you’re genuine or not these days, and I’m incredibly passionate.”
Choosing to produce her product in New Zealand had been a difficult decision for Macdonald, especially as a young person with no capital behind her.
At one point, she considered having her produce made in India, before realizing the potential market opportunities available by telling the story of her fifth-generation family farm using only New Zealand growers.
“Nowadays, when people buy a product, they’re not just buying a product, they’re buying the whole story. I think it’s important to recognize that.
Young people were increasingly realizing they could run businesses from anywhere in the world and were embracing that, Macdonald said, using the example of his products which are taking off in Wellington because of their sustainability value of his small family home in rural Southland.
The hardest part? Manage everything herself.
“I’m lucky to have my family, I have my father who is a great mentor. I think that’s a key thing, having a mentor that you can come back to,” she said.
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