【Alumni Story】From Kiwi infant to startup entrepreneur in China

From Kiwi infant to startup entrepreneur in China

By Tracie Barrett (China Daily


New Zealander Alex Worker has a lifelong relationship with China.

After his birth in Hong Kong, he was brought as a 12-day-old to Beijing, where his father, Carl Worker, was stationed as a young diplomat at the New Zealand Embassy.

"I think Dad took me up the Great Wall my first week or so," Alex says, laughing as he repeats a story his father often tells of changing his infant son's diaper while walking the Wall, to the amusement of local onlookers.

The family returned to Beijing from 1992 to 1994, when the head of the family served as deputy head of mission, and Alex and his brother attended school here for those two years.

The young New Zealand businessman returned to China's capital for the third time in September 2012, where his father was also on his third visit and now the New Zealand ambassador, and began a two-year MBA program at Tsinghua University, run in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Worker, 29, refers often to his country's brand as New Zealand Inc and says he is proud of what the New Zealand government, including his father, has achieved in its ties with China, "but now, it's up to our generation to develop the business-to-business relationship".

Personally, he is doing this on a small business level with Highground Brands, which evolved from a company he co-founded through Tsinghua University's X-Lab incubator.

Highground, of which he is agency director, is a marketing and distribution agency that links NZ food and beverage or agriculture companies with Chinese distributors, "to market, position, sell, negotiate, brand and really help tell their story".

"Instead of having to set up your company or invest a lot in personnel or infrastructure, you can rely on our people and our partners to do your legwork in a plug-and-play way."

On a more global level, Worker is returning to another familiar home in January, that of NZ dairy giant Fonterra, which he first joined on its graduate management program after postgraduate study at the University of Auckland's Business School, then worked for fulltime for 18 months. His new role will be as marketing and communications manager for the company's international farming ventures.

His father's appointment as ambassador to China ends that same month, but Worker sees that as a chance for him to open new doors.

"I'm going to miss my Dad, but it is an opportunity for me to really deliver on the opportunity I've been given," he says.



(China Daily 11/21/2014 page7)