Sharee Harper is the General Manager of Swazi, a clothing brand focused on clothing for New Zealand outdoors and workforce, whilst being a single mother of two teenagers. She believes that “women today can have everything.” – so of course we want to share her story with you! She’s given some great tips and tricks, that will hopefully inspire you to also find something you love doing and to truly believe in yourself (her words – man do we love them!).
Sharee is open about the fact that when she was at high school, she had no clue about what her future might be. So as she didn’t know what she would like to do after that, she left early. Of course, her parents had something to say about that and after a while!
Her parents suggested she could work at a sewing factory with her cousin. Sharee gave it a go, and began her time there with the awesome mind-set that she wanted to give and be her absolute best at what she was doing. What an empowered way to kick off a new job!
Once she achieved her machinist qualification and had some experience under her belt, Sharee took on a new challenge, mixed it up and moved to a role at Swazi. While now, Swazi** is a thriving company with a strong team, back then, the company consisted of three or four employees and as it started to grow, Sharee got the opportunity to take on more challenging positions and new projects. Scary as it is jumping into these new territories and taking on more, she said yes, braved the unknown and took that awesome mind-set with her.
These opportunities included the chance to run production, a step into making samples and design, as well as developing and putting new systems in place.
Over time, Sharee became the longest serving employee and is now the General Manager, and still has an incredible passion for Swazi. For a young lady who wasn’t sure what the future held, jumping into a ‘job’, she uncovered a real passion and a tonne of capability - all it took was confidence to say yes to opportunities, even when terrifying, and that awesome mind-set to do her best.
We asked Sharee about some of the highlights in her career – here’s a couple to note: (continued below)
** We’re also super impressed with Swazi’s commitment to Kiwi products – their ‘About Us’ section states “We’d get an ‘I LOVE MILEY’ tattoo before we’d manufacture in China!” – ka pai!
A few of Sharee's career highlights:
She successfully implemented the accounting system at Swazi – a crazy big task with lots of unknowns, that turned out to be greatly rewarding and added a tonne of new skills to her CV
Mentoring young woman is something Sharee really enjoys, and has a great story about one young lady who successfully achieved her sample machinist qualification – awesome achievement and Sharee loved supporting her to do so.
Helping and providing new challenges to young people is close to her heart. Sharee really connects with this as she too was once a young aspiring person that was presented challenges, which then led to growth and opportunities, and helped her develop into the person she is now.
And, how amazing is this - Sharee set up a training school with NCEA for people that are unemployed, making it possible for them to learn unit standards and gain a qualification. Sharee is not only the founder of this program, but also mentors everyone that partakes in it. Wow! Talk about empowering a whole tonne of people!
In her personal life, Sharee has a fair few accomplishments under her belt too: running is a passion and she’s completed three marathons as well as two successful coast-to-coast participations. Let’s be specific – the Coast to Coast is gruelling! It’s a multisport competition held annually, and is run from the West Coast to the East Coast of the South Island, where competitors run, cycle and kayak, over a total of 243 kilometres. That’s two hundred and forty three, amazing effort Sharee!
No doubt her passion for the outdoors fuels the spark for her work at Swazi and for the intense training needed for the Coast to Coast. In fact, “Going back to nature.” Is Sharee’s tip for dealing with a stressful situation, day or week.
Also Impressive is Sharee’s successful DIY project – she constructed her own fence. Amazing what can be achieved with a commitment to learning, trial and error and some grit! She’s dead right when she says “everyone can do everything.” and that “Women need to believe in themselves more and they can do it.” – that confidence to give it a go is HUGE!
This is a topic close to her heart, and one that she continuously teaches to her children as well, she encourages them to stay open-minded about all the options out there, and to get out there and really explore what they might want to do. Her favourite quote, one that her kids already know well, is “life isn’t fair, it is what you make it.”. Hear, hear!
In the future, Sharee would like to see more of integrating family life into work life, by having more flexible hours or making it more accessible for children to be brought to work. It’s the challenge of managing commitments inside the home and outside of it, that would benefit everyone if more options were available.
She’s also very specific in encouraging everyone to invest time and effort into building communication skills. These are an important part of day-to-day life – you need these skills when building friendships, at work, developing your projects of passion, studying and playing sport, so yeah, in every part of your life! Communication skills are something that she wishes she had developed and improved earlier on.
With all that said though, most importantly, Sharee really encourages everyone to: “Believe in yourself [and] be kind to the world.” and “If you have days when you doubt yourself, spend time with people that love you”. Pragmatic advice that we know, yet often struggle to do. It really is important to be kind to yourself.
“Believe in yourself [and] be kind to the world.” - Sharee Harper
Interview completed by Kat - Summer 2017/2018
Watch this space! There's a tonne of content being moulded for you which will make it's way here in the coming months so be sure to flick us a LIKE on Facebook to keep up with the latest and greatest.
If you are a cool chick with a great story, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to send us deets of other amazing ladies you know too, and we will reach out.