If you've been on location with us for photo shoots or adventures, chances are we've pulled out one of our STOKEDNZ Towelies for a quick change. They're an extremely handy piece of kit to have for adventuring. Inspired by her own adventures, we sat down with owner and founder, Debra Brockelsby to share a bit more of her story.
Debra, or Debs as she's know to friends, has one of those incredibly infectious giggles. Her energy for life lights up the people around her. Commonly heard saying 'mate' the more drawn out 'maaaaate', Debs is a practical, hardworking farming daughter who has applied all her skills she's learnt so far into creating her own business and recreating her life. And she's still in her 20's.
Born and bred on a farm in the Waikato, she grew up with her parents, two sisters and extended family nearby. Knowing that she's always been passionate about sport and numbers, Debs went to study at the University of Waikato doing a Sport and Leisure degree. After she finished studying in 2013 she decided it was time to pack up her snowboard and head to Canada.
Her one way ticket landed her in Revelstoke, BC and spent her time snowboarding while working nights at a Denny's restaurants just so she could ride all day. That summer she brought a truck so her and friends could run mountain bike shuttles all day long. Talk about living her dream.
As Debs has told us, if her visa hadn't run out she would probably still be there. But sometimes that's life. After riding bikes and mucking around for a summer she decided she needed to adult and applied to do her Masters at Waikato University. During the first semester an internship position working for Cycling New Zealand with their Junior World Championship Team came up. This lead to a four month internship with High Performance Sport NZ. This became a full time position and Debs discontinued her Masters programme. Employed as a Performance Analyst she worked mainly alongside the track cycling team, but also did data analysis with the other cycling disciplines too. The job was pretty taxing with long days and travel (not always as glamorous as it sounds).
In September 2015 Debs was riding bikes with friends and miss-landed, coming off her bike and hitting her head hard. Not thinking too much about it, she stopped riding for the day and carried on like normal. But she wasn't well and by Monday she was in at the doctors who, unfortunately, sent her home. It was the doctor at her work who picked up that things weren't right and a week later she had an MRI which confirmed a bruise on her brain resulting in what's know as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Her recovery from this accident took over a year. It meant not being able to work full time, cross roads because she had lost depth perception, no screens and lots of hard work doing the brain exercises her doctors had prescribed (like colouring books). During her recovery she worked with Occupational Therapists, Neurologists, Neurological Psychologists and a Neurological Physiotherapist. It took over a year for her to return to Cycling NZ full time.
The biggest thing of all that she learnt through this recovery process was that life is short and it can change in the blink of an eye. What's important to Debs is spending your time doing something that truly ignites your inner fire everyday. This is when her company STOKEDNZ was born. A complete pivot from the work she was doing.
At the end of 2017, Debs left Cycling NZ to pursue her dream of business ownership. And later this year, STOKEDNZ will turn 2! How epic is that? Debs loves to read, learn and grow as a business owner. She spends lots of time working with mentors, listening to podcasts, reading and learning from other inspiring people.
We asked her about some of the people that inspire her. She told us about her parents. They taught her to be kind to everyone, always; that we are all human and just trying to do our best. That if you work hard and prepared to go after something you can - and even if it doesn't work out, she knows these two rad humans always have her back.
Her partner Gary has always played a big part in supporting Deb in her dreams. After leaving Northern Ireland with a backpack and not whole lot of a plan, Gary has built himself up in New Zealand in a niche industry. He's know as Mr STOKEDNZ and Debs knows he is her biggest supporter and is always grateful for his unwavering trust in her and her ability. Together they live in a tiny house, completely off the grid overlooking Lake Rotorua. Together they ride bikes, go on adventures and generally live the life they had imagined for themselves.
She is a big believer in creating your own life, whatever that looks like. Her message to you on a billboard would be "You have the power to change stuff". It's a quote from Daniel Flynn who is the author of Chapter One from the company Thankyou. They are a social enterprise that exist to "empower humanity to choose a world without poverty".
Debs lives by the motto "Life is Short, Share the Stoke". Be grateful for what you have and where possible share the stoke / give back to others. It will make you 100% happier.
We couldn't agree more.