Friendship rekindled over coffee and business plans


Keely Skinner and Ardon England are the latest recipients of the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) startup program for their new ventures, Reflective Media and Ardon England Make-up and cosmetics. But they have more than business in common. We caught up with them both at Thrive Whanganui’s office to discuss their unique stories and friendship. The couple were familiar faces having been students the same year at Whanganui High School (class of 2009). Their paths after high school were different; Ardon left school early “It took leaving Whanganui to find me and accept me,” he says. Ardon recently lived in Auckland, working in the dance, boxing and makeup industry. Keely studied film and television in Wellington before traveling overseas for four years.

They had both recently returned to Whanganui when they met socially. Ardon learned that Keely started the BYOB (Be Your Own Boss) program with Thrive Whanganui. He joined a few months later and it was the trip together that really solidified their friendship. The couple met almost every morning for coffee, their favorite places being Article, Mischief Cafe and The Burrow, to work on their business plans. Sometimes they would just go for a walk and share what was going on in their life at the time. “Starting a business can be quite isolating,” says Keely, “there’s so much going into it that you feel like you can’t really share it fully with just anyone. “It was really beneficial to go through the process together,” Ardon acknowledges.

Starting a business as an individual entrepreneur was more than just writing a business plan, they really had to support each other. They talked about having to unlearn their social conditioning. “It was a huge journey of self-discovery, support and self-confidence,” says Keely.

Keely wants to work in the field of activism, she is particularly passionate about environmental sustainability and restoration projects. She is not confined to Whanganui and is more than happy to travel. Musings Media also does promotional and event work (like the Expo 22 Ad and Thrive Whanganui Intro videos), but its ideal client would be in environmental restoration.

Ardon says the support from MSD is just fantastic, he would have loved it in Auckland but there were also benefits to returning home. Ardon’s typical clients in Auckland were editorial, TV and events whereas here in Whanganui it’s mainly wedding and prom work. In Auckland, it would have taken him time to make a name for himself, whereas here he is already very well connected. Ardon says, “There is such interconnectedness and such an intimate relationship with our customers here because we are all in the same community network. The whole community is behind us ready to assume our services and support us. Ardon has struggled to find commercial real estate with owners based outside of Whanganui and perhaps unrelated to local values, but is currently renovating a space and is confident it will open soon. “It’s pretty laid back here, so things can take a little longer than usual,” laughs Ardon.

Ardon’s job is to improve people’s confidence. He works in make-up, cosmetics and scalp micropigmentation (SMP) of which there are very few practitioners in New Zealand. The SMP is a tool to improve people’s confidence and give them back a sense of power. It is used by men and women affected by hair loss and has the added benefit of being a long lasting but non-surgical cosmetic treatment. Ardon is currently the only one in the region to offer this service. “It’s quite a sensitive topic for people because it’s linked to a lot of things like self-esteem, feelings of power and confidence,” he says. Ardon acknowledges that members of the LGBTQI+ community are not always as visible in regional cities like Whanganui. It’s important for him to be the model he didn’t have. A successful and proud rainbow entrepreneur.

Keely mentioned that we live in the burnout generation: “We don’t have to be constantly hustling, it doesn’t have to be 9 to 5.” She says learning to be her own boss involved working around her well-being and energy levels, taking control of her health and taking care of herself. It’s a much more authentic way of working and his advice is to “work in something you’re really passionate about. People don’t know where to start, it’s such a leap from a normal “safe” job to being your own boss, that’s where MSD and Thrive’s BYOB program have been great. The BYOB program basically gives you permission to aspire to greater things, you’re allowed to enjoy your work, you’re allowed to do things differently. Keelys sees her business as its own entity and its own life and it excites her so much that she feels validated that she is doing the right thing.

You can follow their career paths here

Ardon England –
Ardon England Make-up and cosmetics



Instagram: @ardonengland_artistry

Email: [email protected]

Keely Skinner- Reflective Media


Vimeo Media Musings: www.vimeo/musingsmedia

Email: [email protected]

Keely and Ardon’s favorite cafes in Whanganui:

Article coffee

Mischief Cafe

The Burrow

About Thrive:

Thrive Whanganui provides kaupapa-focused enterprise capacity building services to help big ideas take off, grow and evolve. The team offers comprehensive services to help those who want to succeed in the world make a real difference through business.

© Scoop Media


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