Estelle Taylor grew up on a sheep farm in the North Canterbury town of Amberley with her parents and sister. As a child, she was inspired by the women of ‘McLeod’s Daughters’ and even wanted to own her own farm or her own business. “I even tried to start my own dog washing business when I was 10,” she quipped.

After high school, Taylor went on to study a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in international business (focusing on Chinese), management and strategy, and entrepreneurship at the University of Canterbury. “I gained a scholarship to study in China for a month at a partner University in Xiasha and spent time in Shanghai visiting New Zealand Businesses such as Zespri, Fonterra, and Tetra Pak.”

After her study, she was lucky enough to be part of the 2017 Countdown Graduate Programme which she credits as helping to excel her career. “It exposed me to all parts of the business and created a great base. Growing up on a sheep farm came in handy as I understood the nature of farming and fresh products,” said Taylor. "I got to spend a year seeing the entire business from Buy, Sell and Move departments. Getting a true understanding of everyone’s roles and learning how complex supermarkets can be following a can of baked beans through the supply chain.”

After her graduate programme, she applied for her current position as an Assistant Category Manager in the produce department. She notes the diversity of the role as the main reason for what initially attracted her to this career path. “I wanted the perfect mix of business and agriculture/horticulture. I liked the idea of a job that meant I could be outside as well as interacting with people on a daily basis. I also wanted it to be in an industry I’m passionate about, and I’m grateful to be in the produce buying team at Countdown.”

However, her role doesn’t come without its challenges, and when considering produce, the weather usually has the biggest impact. “Produce is successful when it’s fresh which means it has to be fast and it is an ongoing and ever-changing supply. It relies so heavily on the weather, and that can change your plans just like that.” Being positive and outgoing has helped Taylor to connect with people in all areas of her industry. As a result, she was recently given the opportunity to represent Countdown in a national TV ad. “That was one of the coolest, unique experiences I’ve had. I felt excited and proud to have been a part of sharing the grower fresh message.

Taylor hopes to continue on this career trajectory and become a category manager in produce. She names her dad as her inspiration behind her work ethic and hopes to make him proud. “He was so intelligent, entrepreneurial, driven and caring and I want to be just like him. He constantly encouraged my sister and I to think outside the box, to work for someone else like it was your own business and he also made sure that we knew that women can do anything.”