Regional | Māori Business

Room for Māori in future digital space, business owner says

Te Miringa Parkes founded Ūkaipō, a business producing bio-degradable containers for placentas.

Now she's looking to diversify and has her eye on technology in China to help her develop an indigenous birthing app.

The process of burying the placenta after the birth of a child is sacred to many Māori, and Parkes says it shows the beauty of tikanga.

“As I grew up with Mum, she’d talk about it. So I always knew about the planting of the whenua, and this idea she had to create some kind of product that made the process more beautiful than it was. Her experience was that it would go in an ice cream container or a bucket, or a plastic bag - something that did not honour our tradition of planting the whenua and all that the whenua gives to both pēpē and mum during the pregnancy.”

Parkes, along with 10 other small business owners across Aotearoa, is heading to Hong Kong, China at the beginning of next month, as a part of a technology study tour across Southern Asia.

Parkes says it is an opportunity to gather the knowledge of many tech-savvy companies across Asia to push the future of Ūkaipō forward.

Indigenous mātauranga technology

“We are currently working on our indigenous birthing app, so that is the reason for wanting to head over to Asia for Ūkaipō.  It is to learn about what ways they are utilising technology for their indigenous mātauranga, and how I can adopt some of the technologies into our own mātauranga,” Parkes says.

The Whanganui native has been doing this work for the past two years, and last year placed second in the 100k challenge, a challenge that takes Auckland University students small businesses and sees who will thrive in the industry. She was amazed at the result of her small Māori business.

“I think a success for me in that was believing that our Māori products actually have a lot of value, and our traditional Māori practices have a lot of value and they can be commercialised in a safe and protected way,” Parkes says.

The study tour team will be flying to Asia on May 6, with the trip beginning in Hong Kong and finishing in Southern Asia, visiting many tech giants along the way. For Parkes the idea of seeing Māori lead in the new digital age is what is driving her on this tour.

“For me, the future of Ūkaipō is really about creating accessible resources, taonga, people, places and spaces where we can connect to our māoritanga. I just think the future is, digital so why can’t we take up space as well.”