Celebrating Services to Entrepreneurship with Peri Drysdale

01 October 2018 / Published in Business

“We used to sit round the kitchen table on the sheep  farm where I grew up, talking about New Zealand’s economy being based on primary product – wool being exported raw in bales and meat in full carcasesses.  It was a concern.

“When you’re in your 20’s, you think you can help solve all of your country’s problems, so I decided to add some value to New Zealand wool.”

Peri Drysdale started designing and producing high quality knitwear in 1981. Entrepreneurship by fire – she had to be taught how to knit by a neighbour, didn’t know the difference between an invoice and a statement and didn’t keep a copy of her first packing slips. 

But she had an idea and $200. She started with ten outworkers supplying local retailers. Within four years she had 500 outworkers and was exporting her products to Europe, North America, and Asia.

“We were good at what we did; we had to be, being so far away.  We were often told our service and delivery was a lot better than local suppliers.”

Whilst travelling the world exporting, Drysdale became worried by the environmental degradation she was witnessing. Concerned that there was no consideration of business or government impacts, Drysdale decided to create a sustainable lifestyle fashion brand that would model a new way of doing business and would demonstrate that style and quality could be achieved without pollution to water and air, or filling landfills.  From this idea, Untouched World was born.

Drysdale also wanted a brand that would give back and a project that could get stakeholders thinking about it is happening to the planet. The resulting Untouched World Foundation was launched in 2000, delivering ground-breaking leadership programmes for teens and young adults, focused on building sustainable futures.

The brand, the business and the Foundation quickly became noticed overseas and acknowledged as a global exemplar for sustainability by UNESCO. The Foundation became a founding partner of GAP (Global Action Programme) and in September signed an agreement with the Mahatma Ghandi Institute and UNESCO to expand the Untouched World leadership programmes beyond New Zealand.

Last week, Drysdale’s achievements were honoured at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 awards, where she received the Exceptional Services to Entrepreneurship award, presented by ASB. 

“I didn’t start with any great goals other than wanting to add value to New Zealand’s primary product. I wanted the business to make it to five years because very few start-ups made it to five years in those days.”

“I had landed on something that was right for the market, was in the right place at the right time, so I wasn’t struggling to get sales, I was struggling to meet demand.”

“Nowadays, I am still very focused on building the model of an ever more sustainable way of doing business, it is a journey that is never ‘done’. Untouched World has great energy and an almost endless potential for growth, I love it and the people involved.”

“I do get a real buzz, seeing and listening to the young adults coming out of the Untouched World Foundation programmes. Thinking about the phenomenal opportunity they’ve had and the changes they’ve gone through is hugely rewarding.”

“The business that we’re in is an all-consuming one, and there’s always plenty of issues to work through in this industry, but all of this just makes it worthwhile getting out of bed in the morning.”

Congratulations to Peri Drysdale for being awarded the Exceptional Services to Entrepreneurship at the 2018 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards.


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