Business Innovation Forum

5 June 2012

Just over a year ago, Kimberley Attwell was running his fledgling business from his backyard garage. Now, he's shifted into a small factory in Ngauranga, employs seven people and is turning over $1.6 million.

Kimberley Attwell's hobby has made him a millionaire

Kimberley Attwell's hobby has made him a millionaire

His business - the design and manufacture of vertical take-off unmanned aircraft systems - is growing so fast he's now advertising for more staff.

It all started as a hobby for the Zimbabwe-born Wellingtonian. Mr Attwell's passion for flying remote-controlled helicopters at the local park has turned into a global business where he exports to 34 countries.

His company, PhotoHigher, specialises in designing and making flying gadgets that allow photos and video to be shot from the air.

Customers include filmmakers in Bollywood, Hollywood and Japan. He initially took aerial shots for real-estate to fund his hobby.

"It was then I realised I could make money from it, but the real-estate agents were too tight so I started looking overseas for customers."

Mr Attwell is one of many innovative Wellington business leaders who will be meeting some of the world's best entrepreneurial brains at next week's BIG (Business Innovation Growth) II forum.

Wellington City Council is hosting the forum at the Michael Fowler Centre on Monday (11 June), in conjunction with the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) World Conference, which is in turn hosted by Massey University. About 400 international and national business leaders are expected to attend from 10 - 13 June.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says innovation is a central plank in the Wellington Towards 2040: Smart Capital strategic vision and is an extraordinary opportunity for our region's business leaders to interact with some of the world's most inspirational entrepreneurs.

Thanks to a Grow Wellington initiative, about 60 delegates from the conference have made themselves available for a fast-moving series of five-minute, one-on-one conversations with business leaders from the Wellington region.

The Council's Economy Portfolio Leader, Councillor Jo Coughlan, says Wellington's future economic performance will depend heavily on innovation and is a crucial component of the Council's Economic Development Strategy and goal to attract 10,000 jobs.