Originally from Sweden, Sofia Ambler moved to Auckland in 2013 with her husband John to buy Heletranz, a helicopter charter business. She recently took over the New Zealand chapter of The Luxury Network, the world’s leading luxury affinity marketing group and she’s a big believer in the power of mentoring.
“Ladies, let the ladder down...and haul the others up behind you,” are the closing words of Diane Foreman’s book, ‘In the Arena’. In the book Foreman shares some of the lessons she’s learned on the way to creating a globally successful business empire, lessons that inspired Sofia Ambler to work harder and smarter on her businesses.
“Reading Diane’s book was a wakeup call for me,” she says. “I already knew I needed to do a lot of the things she talked about, but I hadn't actioned them.
“After reading ‘In the Arena’ I promised to stop making excuses. More importantly, it made me think I can do this.”
Foreman’s book motivated Ambler to apply for EY’s global leadership programme, Entrepreneurial Winning Women (EWW). Foreman is a patron of the programme that works with a select group of high-potential female entrepreneurs to help accelerate the growth of their business.
Ambler attended a two-day boot camp where some of the speakers and mentors included Theresa Gattung (Telecom and My Food Bag), Roanne Parker (Hire-A-Hubby), Anne Norman (Pascoes and Farmers), and Foreman.
“One of the main takeaways from the programme was to work on your business, not in it,” says Ambler.
“You need to trust your team to do their jobs so you can focus on the long term strategy. It was so helpful to get advice from an outside voice when you live and breathe your business, especially when you’re a husband and wife team like me and John.”
The couple met while Sofia was working in the financial services industry in Hong Kong and John was a pilot with Cathay Pacific. After marriage and three children together, they wanted a lifestyle change and a move back to John’s native New Zealand. They jumped at the opportunity to buy Heletranz, a helicopter charter business on Auckland’s North Shore. Or at least John did.
“I thought Heletranz was going to be his thing,” admits Sofia. “I thought I might get into private banking or something, but it didn't turn out like that.
“John was still working for Cathay Pacific when we moved here. I had to find a house by myself, get the kids settled in school and learn all about aviation in New Zealand.
“It took me a good year to figure out what our company was doing and what we needed to do.”
Life of luxury
Sofia and John decided to focus on the charter business and high end tourism. Since they bought the business they’ve gone from two helicopters to seven, and Sofia’s client facing skills have been instrumental in that growth.
She works closely with inbound tour operators and concierges in the hotels while brand collaborations have also been really important to the business.
“I saw the value of collaborating with other brands rather than spending all of our marketing budget on advertising or PR,” says Sofia. “That’s how I got involved with The Luxury Network.”
The Luxury Network operates in 28 countries and gives companies exposure to pre-qualified, high net-worth clients.
“I saw how the luxury market was growing in New Zealand,” says Ambler. “The number of wealthy New Zealanders worth more than $50 million grew by nearly 20% last year and I saw an opportunity to do something in that space.”
The EWW programme has opened up another network to Ambler, a network of successful and inspiring businesswomen.
“Mentoring is really important,” she says. “I love Diane Foreman’s advice to leave the ladder down. Some successful women can be quite ‘bitchy’ for want of a better word.
“They think they need to be hard to succeed, but softer values have their place in business as well.”