Saskia Thornton is a woman who has spent her career breaking the barriers in male-dominated industries and achieving stellar success to boot.
The co-founder of Wellington-based e-motorcycle start-up FTN Motion, which has just completed a second over-subscribed capital raise, Thornton is used to not just meeting the glass ceiling, but smashing it too, regardless of the industry.
The Wellington born, Amsterdam-based entrepreneur created her first brand and product range at the age of just 22, establishing a line of DIY cheese kit products for a parent brew kit company wanting to attract more women into their market.
It sold out immediately and went on to launch in Australia, the UK and the US, giving Thornton a short, sharp introduction to the skills needed to quickly grow a team and build an international brand.
She later went on to lead the same company into the development of an electric all-in-one brewing system. An international success, it sold over 25,000 units in 30 countries in its first three years. After the company was bought out by a large multinational, Thornton says she was ready to go out on her own.
Now co-founder of FTN Motion, which is shaking up the e-motorbike space with their moped-class Streetdog, the 34-year-old has come to appreciate the unique lessons her early career as a woman in a male-dominated industry taught her.
“Going into business I never really knew anything about gender bias, so I didn’t let anything hold me back. I just worked the way that was natural to me and slowly carved out a way I do business, which ended up bringing a lot to the table”.
It was the sink or swim situations that she placed herself in from the very start that helped her develop her confidence. It also taught her the importance of speaking up and sharing what you think.
She says businesses, including FTN Motion, need a balance between male and female influences, but as a woman in a male-dominated industry, Thornton is able to bring a unique perspective to the table, something her team values highly. This perspective will continue to serve her well as FTN Motion sets its sights on the international market.
“I learnt from day one how important it is in New Zealand to start a business with international expansion in mind,” she says.
It is Thornton’s emphasis on sticking to your values and developing customer empathy that will guide the company in making key decisions as they expand.
“Knowing what your business stands for, as well as intimately knowing your customer right down to how they think, talk and feel, gives you such an advantage in business. If you know your business and customer that well, you’re in the best place to make the right business decisions”.
Looking ahead, Thornton is keen to encourage a new generation of women to explore what are traditionally perceived as male-led and male-dominated industries, just as she has.
“If I can demonstrate female leadership as well as encourage other women to love e-motorcycles and this industry as much as I do, I consider that a win-win”.
FTN Motion’s mission is to make the world’s most beautiful moped-class electric motorcycles while reducing congestion, commute times and pressure on the planet. Their Streetdog has seen huge demand, with the bike’s first release last year selling out in just days and the waiting list for the second release, coming this year, continuing to grow. The company has raised $1.6 million since launching in late 2020, with both raises oversubscribed.
For more information visit here.