My Net Worth is our new regular feature on the lives and motivations of our top businesspeople, in their own words. 

Angela Buglass grew up on dairy farms in the Bay of Plenty. Her first job after university was at Procter & Gamble as a data technology manager, before she progressed into sales. From age 25, she lived in London, working for L'Oréal, hair-care company Charles Worthington and Estée Lauder. On her return to New Zealand she led skincare brand Trilogy, navigating it through a takeover by Chinese conglomerate CITIC Capital. She is now chief executive of Antipodes Water.

I did a bachelor of management studies at Waikato University, which was the only four-year business and marketing degree. There were a lot of consumer insights, and many of the case studies were on Procter & Gamble, which was then seen as the greatest marketer of all time, and they were recruiting, so I went to work for them.

Even as a marketer I find myself more prone to opening a spreadsheet and analysing the numbers to support a business case, rather than the beautiful stuff.

What helped me was going from New Zealand, in a city where you do know people, to London, where you have to get by on your own merits. Every opportunity is there – but you have to drive yourself to get it. I remember working with a girl at L’Oréal in London who had a degree from Oxford, and I was like, “Oxford, that’s one of those fancy universities.” It was all so exciting and motivating. I stayed 15 years.

I went from a marketing-director role into my first CEO role [Trilogy] and I naively didn’t realise quite how big that would be, and that’s possibly a good thing. In that NZX environment you’ve got the external stakeholders as one customer, if you like, then the team, the board... If I hadn’t had the experience from overseas, I wouldn’t have been so flexible. My team and I used to say we were flying the plane at the same time as we were building it. We were learning and growing fast.

The sale of Trilogy was the most stressful time of my career. It went on for a year and it was a real roller-coaster – it was going well, then not so well. It’s a lot of due diligence and the buying company really looks underneath the hood.

Even for the smartest of people it can be a lot to take in, and you’ve got a responsibility to look 100 percent confident with where you are going as well.

When we did the final part of the CITIC deal, I was lucky enough to be able to buy a nice piece of art and that was something I’d never done before. It was a too-big-for-the-car piece by New Zealand artist Martin Basher.

Angela Buglass in her university days

It felt really good to just buy myself something. That felt really grown up, and it was a real sense of achievement to get an investment piece. But it’s only been the one so far.

The hardest thing with Antipodes Water is that people think we are going to run out of water when we export it overseas, but New Zealand sends $40 million worth, whereas Fiji sends across $126 million. There is really a sense of “We’re ripping off New Zealand”, but we’re never going to drink it all! I’d love to see the industry take control of the narrative on that.
With covid-19, if you were able to not panic at the beginning, then you are better off. I have met people from businesses where they made immediate decisions about staff and reducing pay and they’ve said they regretted that. They felt there were other options but they didn’t know about them because they were panicking.

I’m trying not to splurge in the current environment – we all have to consider what the next 90 days are going to be like; there have been job losses in my industry. My naughty splurge, though, is shoes. They make me artificially happy. Kathryn Wilson’s been doing $100 shoes lately and that never happens, but you have to be careful in the current environment because when can you wear them?

As told to Victoria Young