“I can’t live without good friends, contact with family, amazing travel experiences and great food always”.
Instagrammer, blogger and PA to the stars, Annmaree Bancroft has a CV that many of us would envy. Combining her passion and love of photography, food and travel she boasts a staggering number of followers on Instagram and is the guru behind the NZBWN social media team but where did this all start?
Annmaree grew up in Auckland in the Eastern suburbs, and first travelled at the age of 12 to a wedding in Texas, via LA. She describes being “mesmerised” by the USA and a subsequent trip to Japan further cemented her love of travel.
Whilst completing a Hotel industry certification at Manukau Institute of Technology her curiosity regarding travel and different cultures grew. Her first ever job as a secretary at an English language school fed this fascination, where she was responsible for organising a variety of afternoon activities for foreign students.
Being a homebody at heart, Annmaree had always been reluctant to relocate, but when her boyfriend announced he wanted to move to London she was given the push she needed. Unfortunately, the relationship broke up after a year and a half and she admits that she felt very “lonely” but didn’t want to come home whilst she “hated” London. Sleeping on friends’ floors and sofas, Annmaree was determined to make memories before she considered returning to NZ.
During this time, Annmaree’s babysitting role took a permanent twist, and she decided to transition from working as a secretary to nannying, opening up a world of opportunities for her. Whilst nannying she also assisted with PA duties, which she really enjoyed and wanted to pursue, but after contacting a few agencies she was told she did not have enough experience to work as a private PA. However, luck was on her side as her old boss had celebrity connections and she ended up landing a PA role with Mariella Frostrup, a well-known UK based journalist and television presenter.
During her time with Mariella, Annmaree recalls many a surreal moment – sourcing a birthday robe for Mick Jagger, having Damien Hirst waiting in the lounge for dinner, attending shooting weekends with European royalty (and even the dog of the late Alexander McQueen), travelling to George Clooney’s Italian villa and hanging out there with Emily Blunt and Uma Thurman – all whilst trying to remain professional and composed. After a chance meeting at Mariella’s daughter’s school, Annmaree then went on to work as a Private/Business PA for Australian restaurateur Bill Granger of Granger & Co and was lucky enough to share many a family meal made by the man himself, as well as indulging her passion for photography by observing his cookbook photoshoots.
Annmaree has also worked for Dame Julia Peyton-Jones, former Director of the Serpentine Gallery. After one particularly frenetic week, Annmaree recalls using a bit of kiwi ingenuity to deal with her never ending to do list. Having been requested to source a suitcase for an upcoming trip on a super yacht, Annmaree decided to offer her own instead. Needless to say the suitcase had a great time with the likes of Kate Moss and other A-listers!
Looking to expand her skills, Annmaree then made the foray into freelance social media consulting, working with a variety of clients from food, to fitness, to fashion. She continues to this day to act as Peter Gordon’s social media consultant, who despite his success she describes as very funny, laidback and down to earth, and someone she feels fortunate to know and work with.
In May 2015, after many of Annmaree’s friends returned home, she felt the need to reconnect with other kiwis. After Googling, she discovered NZBWN and attended a monthly meet up. Not knowing quite what to expect and feeling quite trepidatious, Annmaree was elated to feel an instant connection and the familiarity and comfort of talking to other kiwi girls. Looking to grow her social media contacts, Annmaree found herself talking to Bronwen Horton who suggested she might like to run the NZBWN social media team.
Annmaree decided to accept this challenge, and immediately went on a recruitment drive to grow a volunteer team. The team soon grew along with NZBWN’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.
Noticing that NZBWN members were frequently asking for job advice, or offering their services to other members, Annmaree was inspired by an old school pin board to create the Kiwi Exchange, a two weekly newsletter that allows members to share things they need or want. After setting it up, Annmaree handed it over to a team of NZBWN volunteers to run.
Over the last three years Annmaree’s team has changed as members come and go, with a few original volunteers still involved! She feels the team all bring a range of perspectives to the posts that they share promoting NZ businesses and individuals, thus satisfying the needs of a diverse membership base. Whilst many posts are scheduled two weeks to a month in advance via a web-based programme, there is a degree of flexibility required to accommodate breaking news or a last-minute event. The team are continually looking for ways to improve such as using new social media platforms, revising the Facebook page to address the program’s changing algorithms, and new ways of sharing stories.
Annmaree’s passion for social media has also extended to her own personal blog, Donuts and Detours which is devoted to food and travel. As her site evolved, Annmaree taught herself how to edit and take good photos to compliment her posts, which resulted in her being approached by PR and companies with paid opportunities to market a range of products from chocolates to fashion.
Although, the blogging world changed overnight with the advent of Instagram, Annmaree wholeheartedly embraced this new media by creating and sharing her beautifully crafted photos. Her followers now number over 4,000 and she has travelled 29 different countries and sampled some of the best brunch spots across the UK (her London favourites include Flotsam and Jetsam, The Providores and Tapa Room, and Milk Teeth to name a few). She describes her trip of a lifetime to India as “mindblowing” and an “assault on the senses”, for which no amount of Youtube videos can prepare you for the constant selfie requests from locals or reality of cows wandering the streets!
The next chapter in Annmaree’s story is yet to be written, but one can be certain that it will be filled with a pinch of adventure and a good helping of laughter.