Katrina Gaston, a Landscape Architect from our Beca Design Practice got the opportunity of a lifetime when she participated in the NZ-first, highly competitive, circular economy Xlabs programme.
Adding to the excitement from the already high-pressure environment, at the end of week two the country went into lockdown due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Katrina and her team had to take their new-found connections, teamwork and collaboration in even more unexpected directions, and prepare the pitch to investors virtually!
Here she talks about her experience, and how Beca’s core values of enjoyment, tenacity, care and partnership helped her through this fun, challenging and innovative journey.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about the Xlabs circular economy programme, and how you got involved?
The programme was a NZ-first which brought together businesses from around Auckland who share a vision to become circular and help design a more sustainable future. It was incredibly exciting to embark on this journey and experience the passion and creativity of the teams involved.
In an opportunity that came about through the Beca New Ventures Accelerator, I was seconded to join the Crunch and Flourish team, a tech company who are pioneering a solution called The Packaging Star™ to help grocery shoppers make better informed purchasing decisions.
2. What was your initial reaction on getting selected to represent Beca?
Career changing! Working in such an innovative environment has left me wanting more! It has been a rollercoaster, with moments ranging from self-doubt to extreme pride. I am looking forward to bringing an entrepreneurial mind set into my every day and push for more sustainable and circular outcomes for my clients.
3. What has been your most memorable experience?
My most memorable experience was the opening night to launch the XLabs, where I realised how significant this journey was and how much potential there is in the circular economy. During the opening, I learnt a significant amount and built professional relationships that I think will be invaluable in the future.
4. How would you say you’ve experienced Beca’s core values of enjoyment, tenacity, care and partnership on this Xlabs adventure?
We had our fair share of challenges working in an extremely high-pressure environment, and I think Beca’s values of tenacity and partnership really came to the front. In the midst of the pandemic, we had to move to working remotely and collaborating digitally. It was a real challenge to maintain the momentum, but it was fun all the same! We knew we had something special and we really wanted to represent that in the best way possible. It was this passion that kept us going!
5. What are you most proud of?
Despite the pandemic, our team at Crunch and Flourish continued to work hard and quickly pulled together by using digital innovation and collaboration tools to create a presentation ‘pitch’ that I am really proud of! There were 40 people signed into our Zoom pitch, including people from some amazing best-in-class brands who we hope to be our first adopters.
6. What advice would you give to someone presented with a similar opportunity to get involved in an innovative project or initiative like the XLabs programme?
Go into it with an open mind and don't underestimate your knowledge and capabilities. With my core discipline being landscape architecture, I was uncertain how I was going take my design skills and apply it to a digital space.
Throughout the journey, I built confidence and realised how diverse my design skills were. I quickly found I was able to inform the Crunch and Flourish startup brand and identity of their product, create a visual narrative as a pitch tool and effectively prototype the Packaging Star solution on potential client’s products.
Also, remember the fact that you are not in this alone, and there is a lot of support out there to help you through or provide advice when you might feel stuck. The New Ventures Accelerator, Beca’s specialist innovation team, were instrumental and hugely supportive of me embarking on my secondment into the start-up world.