Former Olympian and Black Sticks captain, BOMA co-founder
Physical Education, teaching, 1995
Olympian to Entrepreneur.
From attending the Olympics not once but thrice, working her way up to a trans-Tasman leadership role at Lion New Zealand and founding a successful online marketing business, Anna Lawrence is a true champion achiever. Passionate about sport, business and family she believes options are essential for even the most dedicated young athletes. “You could have a career-ending injury at 20 or retire at 29. Even if you're training full-time, make time to network or study. Give yourself space to shape what your future might be.”
Let's start at the beginning – what did you take at UC?
Coming out of school, I was a massive sports fan and I loved kids. I decided to go to UC because I felt it would be good to get an undergraduate degree and see where it took me. So I got a Phys Ed teaching degree plus a Bachelor of Education majoring in geography.
You were also playing hockey at a national level – how did you manage training and study?
The people at UC supported my goals and dreams, and gave me the flexibility I needed to make an education work alongside my training. Christchurch is a great place for sport because everything’s so accessible. You can train on the flat or run in the Port Hills. It was a lot to juggle but I'm very glad now that I got my degree. I knew I needed something to fall back on.
How did your hockey career come about?
I loved sport from school days. I focussed on hockey because it meant I could run all day and hit the ball really hard! In my first year out of high school I was playing for the NZ women’s Blacksticks team. That year we made the World Cup which was my first big tournament. I also went to the Olympics three times – playing in Barcelona ‘92, Sydney 2000 and leading the athlete support services in Athens 2004.
Wow, what was it like going to the Olympics?
It was amazing. The Olympics is the pinnacle of your childhood dreams. When we competed in Sydney they played our game live on TV back in New Zealand. There were a million people watching and they even stopped the 6pm news to show it! That was something that had never happened for either hockey or women’s sport before. Being amongst all the other New Zealand athletes was amazing. It's not just you, the hockey player, you’re part of a much wider force united by a shared passion for sport. It's a very unique thing.
What did you do after your hockey career?
I worked and studied while playing hockey, and afterwards I went up to Auckland to work in sports marketing and sponsorship. It was a great mix. I really enjoyed commercial component, managing negotiations and contracts, as well as the sales component which is basically selling the opportunity to be involved in the sport.
Where did that opportunity lead?
I ended up becoming the national sponsorship manager for Lion New Zealand, doing everything from music festivals to rugby league. Then I was offered the same role in the Australian market, which was an awesome opportunity and a real step up. I went on to become the communications and sponsorship director which entailed overseeing the whole communications strategy for the portfolio of Lion brands.
And now you have your own marketing start-up?
Yes, I came back to New Zealand a few years ago and started building a marketing software business with a friend of mine. It’s called Boma and its about helping small businesses navigate digital marketing. It's been an amazing experience. We’re up to 15 people now. We've been incredibly fortunate to form a partnership with Xero which has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to grow our client list.
What would you like to achieve with Boma?
One great thing we're doing with Boma is effectively democratising digital marketing for small businesses. Right now so many small businesses are too stretched to prioritise their marketing – or they're plain scared of it! Boma is about helping them to understand the “why” and provide an affordable tool they can use to grow and nurture their business.
How’s the work-life balance equation with your start-up in the mix?
It's a challenge! I try to always put my kids, family and relationships first and everything else after that. Some days I wish I'd taken a more cruisy job. Even just looking after kids is a job in itself and any parent out there knows that. But I do love being part of a start-up. At the end of the day it comes back to being mindful. You have to constantly remind yourself to recalibrate and take stock of what’s important.
Any advice from your own experience for young people with sporting aspirations?
If you want to succeed on the world stage, you have to be prepared to sacrifice a lot. You have to be incredibly disciplined and resilient, and able to take the knocks. But my main advice would be to do something outside of sport that will set you up for the future. You could have a career-ending injury at age 20, or you retire at 29 and have to start again. Even if you're training full-time, make time every week to network or study. Give yourself space to shape what your future might be.