As a young Sara Fogarty watched her friends finish university and book flights to Europe for their OEs, she recalls thinking ‘I’m not going to do that, I’m going to do my own thing’. “I was quite stubborn at that age,” she says with a laugh.
It wasn’t until later, when she set off for a holiday through the UK and Europe with her then boyfriend, now husband, aged 31, that she “fell in love” with London and all the opportunities it has to offer.
“It’s big, but it’s not noisy like New York, it’s got its own beat and hum and is a little bit softer than some of the other big cities around the world,” Sara says. “I love that you can walk down the street and you get that sense of history, and that real sense of openness and changing scenery.”
Luckily, her next role, as sales and marketing manager for Man O’ War Vineyards, meant she was flying in and out of Europe and the UK three or four times a year, an experience that she says “really solidified” her feelings about London as a potential home.
It was on the tail end of one of these trips that Sara, who spent most of her childhood in Whakatane, and her husband Tim, a “proud South-Islander,” decided to take the plunge.
“I had literally just flown back in from London and went down to see him” she says. “I got off the plane and he asked, ‘do you want to move to London?’, and I replied, ‘yes please!’”
Six months later, Sara had packed her bags to make the move over to the other side of the world.
While Sara wanted to continue working within her beloved wine industry from abroad, she couldn’t continue her full job for Man O’ War from overseas. Not one to shy away from a challenge, she took the opportunity to set up her own company, T&S Cellars, which helped smaller New Zealand wineries expand their reach overseas by connecting them with resources, knowledge and people on the ground.
“I was very privileged to be able to represent New Zealand wines here,” she adds. “And I think having an authentic Kiwi voice always helps when you’re trying to sell something from home.”
A decade after her big move, Sara is settled with her husband and their son Jack in southwest London, where they are surrounded by an “incredible network” of what they call their “London family”.
While her love of wine remains, Sara has shifted into a different kind of role, working for New Zealand company Kea, as their UK and Europe regional director. The company connects Kiwis, or people who have a link to New Zealand, with other people associated with NZ businesses. The aim, Sara says, is to help further their networks, insights and knowledge on the ground.
“We have about half a million people that we reach on a monthly basis, across all the different platforms on which we engage with people,” Sara says. “It’s completely free to sign up, and it’s a great way to keep in touch with what’s happening at home, as well as the incredible stories of what Kiwis are doing around the world.”
One of the best things about the role is seeing the camaraderie between Kiwis, which Sara says typically ramps up a notch when you’re offshore. “Everyone’s in it together,” she says. “It’s been really lovely to see that across sectors.”
As well as fulfilling her in a work sense, Kea keeps Sara connected with her Kiwi roots. The first event she facilitated since starting in the role in December 2020 was in September of last year at New Zealand House, where Kea had 100 people come together and Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club lead the group in song.
“That will probably always stay with me. For so many of us, it was the first time we’d seen one another in a long time, and it was the first time we could be back together,” Sara says.
“To hear beautiful Te Reo spoken and sung as part of that experience was pretty magical.”
For now, London is home, Sara says, with her and Tim warding off any pangs of homesickness with a Kiwi Classics playlist and some New Zealand kai; Pic’s peanut butter and a BBQ - even in the middle of winter.
“They think we’re mad, all our English friends,” Sara laughs.