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Home » Leading with purpose: Entrepreneur Anna Mowbray on building a globally successful toy company

Leading with purpose: Entrepreneur Anna Mowbray on building a globally successful toy company

by News Desk

As part of a special feature for IWD, in partnership with YPO, Women’s Agenda is profiling leaders of impact across business. Here, New Zealand entrepreneur, Anna Mowbray lets us into her leadership journey and why purpose is at the heart of her business.

Recently launched, Mowbray is also featured in our eMagazine with snapshots of 50 impressive leaders building a more inclusive, sustainable and equal world.

eMagazine cover

Building a globally successful toy company takes innovation, purpose and the ability to stay a child at heart, says entrepreneur Anna Mowbray.

Since founding ZURU in 2006 with her two brothers,the company has become the 6th largest toy company in the world, making well in excess of over $1 billion USDin revenue.

Mowbray describes how ZURU was initially founded off the back of a concept that her older brother developed in school– a model hot air balloon that was transformed into a commercialisable toy.

“In many ways, this first product organically propelled us into the toy category,” says Mowbray.

“The buzz and vigour of the innovation cycle and being children at heart kept us there.”

Family played a big role in her path to entrepreneurship as she adds that her father really encouraged her and her siblings’ entrepreneurial spirits.

“He liberated us to not be afraid to take risks and to step into this unique path with confidence, to own our futures.”

Mowbray certainly took this encouragement to heart, having lived and built out ZURU’s core operations in China for over 15 years. She’s now returned to New Zealand where she’s diverging focus as her zest for creating impact is as big as ever.

“I’m exceptionally driven and have very high expectations upon the team when it comes to deliverables and level of execution,” says Mowbray. “I push the comfort zone, yet am the first to put a hand out and help the team up if they fall short.”

Mowbray has been named the 2020 Wonder Woman in Manufacturing by Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment and NZ Entrepreneur of the Year.

Anna Mowbray, New Zealand entrepreneur and businessperson

Along her entrepreneurial journey, she’s learned to grow and evolve saying failure is simply not in her dialogue.

“You don’t fail, you learn, you grow, you morph and you get better.”

Mowbray led ZURU to diversify into FMCG developing brands across a range of categories like Diapers, Pet Food and Haircare.

One project she’s particularly excited about right now is called ZEIL, a brand launching this May that will disrupt a space in the recruiting journey that Mowbray says has yet to be “tackled innovatively”.

Among all the innovative work being done, Mowbray is crystal clear that creating a positive impact on the world is always top priority.

“For me, first and foremost all businesses should create a positive impact, and that should be clearly defined in their mission,” says Mowbray.

At her toy company, that positive impact is happening through ZURU’s mission to “reimagine play, everywhere, everyday”.

Mowbray says this means “unlocking the ability to bring a smile and toy play to every corner of the globe, consistently”, which is driven further through charitable impacts into communities.

One of Anna’s passion projects for ZURU focuses on toys for children in need, such as children living in poverty, and providing educational support for single mothers in an effort to give hope to future generations.

At ZEIL the misson is to become the world’s most loved recruiting brand by creating a purpose-driven organisation. Mowbray says “the numbers speak for themselves” and that organisations who lead by their purpose see better growth, global expansion and employee engagement.

“Setting an organisation up for success means really knowing who you are and what drives you, your purpose,” she says.

Her leadership style as a CEO entails helping her team find this purpose as she says one of her key goals is “to allow for an environment where all members leave the organisation as not just better at their job, but better people, friends, partners and parents.”

“A successful leader in my eyes must be positive, visionary, passionate, self aware and a great communicator,” she adds.

And for the next generation of women ready to step into their entrepreneurial journey and lead with purpose, Mowbray has some insightful advice: “Dream big and make it a reality”.

“Don’t let your fears, your commitments or anyone else’s mindset get in the way of following your dreams.”

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