Globetrotting former journalist Emma Hart’s come a long way since covering the Ben Smart/Olivia Hope murder trial on TV every night. PHILIP CHANDLER charts her move to Europe and then back again to run cutting-edge stem cell therapy company headquartered in Queenstown’s Glenda Drive
A former TV journalist who made it big in broadcast media training in Europe is striving to be even more influential in her new Queenstown-based career.
Since 2018, Emma Hart’s been general manager of ReGen Cellular – a stem cell therapy company treating osteoarthritis and sports injuries.
She’s overseen huge growth and is out to spread the word that using people’s own cells to treat them is the way of the future.
“My skill is telling good stories and getting them into the bloodstream of people,” she says.
Wellington-raised Hart started storytelling when, after leaving school, she went on an AFS exchange to Malaysia where she had to follow strict Muslim customs.
In the pre-internet age, she sent letters to her father about her experiences, some of which he got published as short stories.
These became a meal ticket for her to get accepted into journalism school without a degree, aged only 19.
After first working in print – initially, for a Kawerau community paper – she became a TV One reporter and made her name covering the story of missing persons Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, through to a High Court murder trial, over the course of two years.
In ’99 she ditched New Zealand to live in London.
After initially struggling for work she joined Edelman, the world’s largest PR company.
She was on the verge of quitting when she convinced her bosses to let her start Europe’s first media training and broadcast division.
Her job was training CEOs to talk in front of the camera, then pitching stories featuring them to TV networks.
In a “baptism by fire”, she managed crisis broadcast relations in London for United States broker Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 staff in New York’s Twin Towers attacks in 2001.
Hart later set up her own European-based training company, HP Media, which she runs till this day.
“Building up HP Media took all of my 30s and so much blood, sweat and tears to get rolling,” she’s told Stuff.
In 2012, she relocated back to Wellington to nurse her dying father.
Between numerous trips back to Europe, she set up a successful business there, selling Scandinavian furniture she imported.
On one trip back, in 2016, she arrived, jetlagged, and found a phone alert for a crib in Kingston.
Having first been there just three months earlier, to stay with a friend, she decided, sight unseen and against her lawyer’s advice, to buy it as a holiday home.
A little later, through another friend, she met Queenstowner Marcelle Noble, who’d started ReGen Cellular in 2015, and began doing project work for her before joining full-time.
“I have worked internationally for high-profile CEOs, global banks, sportspeople and boy bands.
“It’s the right time to give back and be a part of a future-facing industry that’s going to change forever the way we treat the body.
“We are leading-edge here in NZ, and we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible – that’s beyond exciting.”
Hart says the business, which catapulted to “the next level” when it was revealed ex-All Black Owen Franks had stem cell treatment instead of surgery for a damaged shoulder, tripled in patients over the past 12 months and doubled turnover.
Before borders closed, patients were coming from as far away as Amsterdam and Iraq.
Queenstown, the company’s HQ, also has a lab, while patients are treated at an Auckland private hospital.
“I knew I could help this company get to where I knew it could be, plus I’m a justice person – the same reason I became a journalist.
“I see ReGen as a small company achieving big results for everyday Kiwis in indescribable daily pain.”
Hart, who’s had stem cell treatment herself for her shoulders, made the news in March, announcing the company had Covid-19 rapid-testing kits available.
The government banned their distribution, but Hart’s convinced they’ll have their place for “the next pandemic”.
Meantime, she couldn’t be happier in Queenstown, flitting between homes in Kingston and Kelvin Heights and her office in Glenda Drive, while also building a fishing lodge at Garston exclusively for women.
“I have lived all over the world and we have it all here – international talent, an appetite for breathing life into ideas and the tenacity to become world-beating.”