In February 2011, Ihaka Rongonui watched many of Christchurch’s buildings reduced to rubble as a magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocked the New Zealand city.
He witnessed his family and friends forced to leave Christchurch en masse as they found their homes destroyed, schools and shops closed and the most basic of services unavailable to the residents of the ravaged city.
The earthquake’s epicentre was just 10km outside of the central business district of Christchurch and followed a 2010 earthquake which had done its best to rattle the foundations of the many of the CBD’s buildings.
It was from this uncertain grounding that Ihaka realised an opportunity to help re-build Christchurch while providing much-needed work for many throughout the country.
He founded Turbo Staff, a recruitment agency focused on sourcing staff for the construction sector, threw himself into the reconstruction effort and last year was named EY’s New Zealand’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Encouraged to enter EY’s (Ernst & Young) Young Entrepreneur of the Year by two of their senior managers, Ihaka said he was pleasantly surprised to be named the winner, especially in a field of such accomplished and impressive candidates.
And while he is more than happy to have such a title to his name, Ihaka insists he finds more satisfaction in the work he does than the titles and awards he may pick up along the way.