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Wāhine Māori Businesses Build Digital Footprint To Survive And Thrive

Māori women in business are getting a helping hand to grow their online presence so they can strengthen their business resilience through the pandemic uncertainty.

Te Rōpū Pakihi, the Māori business network for the Kāpiti Coast and Horowhenua region, is running the initiative. Supported by a $200,000 Te Puni Kōkiri investment, it is working with five other Māori business networks in the Te Tai Hauāuru region stretching from Nelson to New Plymouth and over to Ohakune.

Fittingly, it is consultancy firm Amatiatia in Ōtaki run by five wāhine directors that is leading the charge in supporting fellow Māori women through the business networks.

Amatiatia Director Horiana MacGregor says the firm’s core business is providing governance and executive support for Māori organisations, including offering operational capacity both physically and virtually for Te Rōpū Pakihi and other groups around the country.

Through the Māori business network, Amatiatia works with local mentors to support whānau businesses. This includes figuring out what the gaps are within their business models, providing one on one business coaching and running regular business clinics to support them.

“One of the big things is getting them on Hokohoko Māori Mall website (www.hokohoko.maori.nz) which was created after the lockdown uncovered that many businesses didn’t have a digital presence. It’s an ecommerce platform and the costs were covered for six months to keep our businesses alive. The beauty is each vendor promotes Hokohoko, so everyone benefits from increased traffic to the platform.”

“Many of our small businesses can’t afford their own website so they really appreciate being online with Hokohoko. We launched with 23 businesses and this doubled in the first three months. We also connect businesses so they can learn from each other’s experiences and how they overcame the struggles they face,” she says.

One of those grateful businesses is Kanikani Kids, which is the only New Zealand business making complete and contemporary kapahaka uniforms and Māori resources. This includes piupiu, poi, dresses, korowai, dolls costumes, headbands, sashes, jewellery, taiaha, kete, and kono.

Owner Leigh Rau says her business really got off the ground through the original support Te Rōpū Pakihi business coach Daphne Luke offered, and it was good timing when she got back in touch.

“Getting onboard with the Hokohoko website highlighted how we can better utilise being online to promote Kanikani Kids products, such as national days overseas. It was always in the ‘too hard basket’ but Covid highlighted the need to look at other avenues and what skills I needed to carry the business through,” she says.

Leigh started Kanikani Kids when her daughter Aroha was two and now she’s 18, but the vision of outfitting kapa haka kids with well-made, affordable gear is the same.

“We custom make to school colours across the country using washable polycotton that literally lasts for years.”

“It is a great feeling seeing the kids up on stage and the look on their faces seeing the pride they are carrying in their culture being acknowledged – it’s incredibly rewarding,” she says.

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