New Zealand Books Quarterly Review

Boundless chronicle’s the journey of one of New Zealand’s most colourful and successful entrepreneurs, Greg Hopkinson (founder of pet store Animates). This memoir, while fascinating in its own right, should be of particular interest to budding entrepreneurs, whether of the more traditional commercial variety, or their more recent incarnation, social entrepreneurs. The author describes his unique business journey that is inextricably tied to his personal journey.

Boundless is Greg Hopkinson’s unstoppable, full-on, rip-roaring adventure story, beginning with the author stuck in an avalanche. However, Boundless is also a compelling tale that will resonate with anyone who has wrestled with that judgmental little voice in the head that constantly undermines self-confidence.

A book of two halves, in Part I of his memoir, Hopkinson explains how he pursued and eventually won a fortune, but failed to find happiness or peace. From a childhood full of great times with best mates on the West Coast, through a challenging family environment, Hopkinson eventually received his engineering degree from the University of Canterbury. He then tried his luck at gold mining, with limited success. A call out of the blue soon had him diving head-first into Russia as the Soviet Union was collapsing in the early 1990’s, rapidly transitioning to the wild west of raw, unregulated capitalism. Hopkinson spent several years travelling across Russia to sell and install New Zealand’s meat processing technology, many of his business meetings conducted in a vodka-induced haze.

Boundless doesn’t hold back, and what ensues is a real-life thriller. Hopkinson unflinchingly describes his misadventures with beautiful Russian women, smoking joints, taking Ecstasy, smuggling US dollars, chronic insomnia, infidelity, prostitutes, masturbation, sexual performance anxiety, and a failed marriage. Along the way, he must contend with envious locals trying to undermine his every move, while consuming enough vodka and caviar to bribe the entire Kremlin. Despite it all, Hopkinson gets the job done and makes a lot of money. Part I of Boundless is nothing short of the ultimate adventure story for grown-ups.

After Russia, Hopkinson retuned to New Zealand to start what became Animates, the very successful chain of pet stores. Despite his business success, Hopkinson describes his chronic unhappiness, a yearning for peace and love that continually evades him. When he joins an introductory class in meditation, that one hour becomes the major turning point in his life.

In Part II, Hopkinson describes his awakening and steady adoption of a whole new lifestyle that helps him control the demons in his head. He rejects his self-destructive ways to become a monk and teacher, helping others to achieve peace and happiness he says now finally enjoys.

Hopkinson’s style of writing is more fluid and relaxed in Part II and a calm infuses his words, replacing his rollicking style in Part I. He is a natural storyteller who makes good use of dialogue, putting the reader right into the story.

Hopkinson is an entrepreneur who confirms that New Zealand is a great country for creating, nurturing and growing companies that can make a difference in the world. He has also shown that putting a more human, and humane, face on business is good business. But Boundless is much more than a business book, it is fundamentally a good story.