In the past two years, Sarah Colcord (pictured) has worked tirelessly to bridge the digital divide in Aotearoa and empower small Kiwi businesses, and all from her bedroom in Manurewa.
As New Zealand went into lockdown with the rest of the world in 2020, many businesses were struggling to stay afloat.
In response to this, 25-year-old Sarah, who is of Samoan descent, founded NZ Made Products – now called Chooice.
The Facebook group was established to enable Kiwi businesses to sell their products online, and within four months it grew to become New Zealand’s largest Facebook group, with over half a million domestic and international members.
Sarah has since launched e-commerce partner site, Chooice.
Late last year, Sarah’s business nous and success was recognised at the online 2021 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA), where she collected the Business and Entrepreneurship prize, and a $10,000 grant from category sponsor Pacific Business Trust (PBT).
“Chooice is a bootstrapped start-up so every single dollar goes back into the business,” Sarah explains.
“The grant from PBT will keep the lights on a little longer and contribute to our goal of scaling up our operations so we can help thousands more small kiwi businesses be successful online.”
Born and raised in South Auckland, Sarah attended Weymouth Primary, Waimahia Intermediate and James Cook High School, and still resides in Manurewa, where she runs Chooice from her bedroom.
Serving the community has always been part of Sarah’s life, and prior to Chooice, she was an elected member of the Manurewa Local Board (elected to Auckland Council when she was 20 years old), as well as being chosen as the Youth Participation Lead at YouthLaw and a Project Manager for various youth engagement and development projects.
Chooice is also a way of giving back to Pacific Aotearoa, she says.
“I hope to support and empower our Pasifika people through the means of creating pathways for us to succeed in business and entrepreneurship and supporting programmes that enable us to transform our businesses through the adoption of digital tools (like e-commerce).
“I'm also passionate about supporting our young Pacific people to enter the tech sector and supporting organisations that are working to close the tech gap and bridge the digital divide in Aotearoa.”
Considering the short time that Chooice has been around, Sarah says she is grateful and humbled to receive the PMPYA award and acknowledgement from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), who run the initiative, and PBT.
“It has been a challenging last 12 months so to receive this acknowledgement is a boost for the team morale and reassurance that we're on the right path – and of course, mum, dad and all of my aiga are very proud.”
Sarah has great ambitions for Chooice and the business community in New Zealand.
“I want to do a whole lot more for the Kiwi businesses in Aotearoa, and grow Chooice into the biggest small business marketplace, making it easier for people to buy local, support small and ultimately make a big difference in the lives of everyday Kiwis running small businesses.”
To make this happen, Sarah is launching a crowdfunding campaign with PledgeMe.
“This will not only allow Chooice members to own a piece of the community they have helped build, but it will also allow us to raise the necessary capital to drive this company through its next phase of growth.
“Once we have raised the necessary funds, we will build an entirely new website that provides Kiwis with an amazing shopping experience and makes it super simple for thousands more Kiwi businesses to get online and sell with Chooice.”
Visit the MPP website for more information on the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards.