Indigenous | Business

Māori, Pasifika startups win funding boost in Tāmaki Makaurau

(l-r) Paul Whatuira, Kayla Gordine, Harmony Huntington, Qiane Matata-Sipu, Trina Tamati (judge) and Te Pae Herenga Acting Director, Brad Norman

Four startup Māori and Pasifika businesses have received financial grants from Toi-Te-Huta Entrepreneurial Fund, set up by Pae Rangi, the first Indigenous Social Enterprise Forum held in Tāmaki Makaurau last month.

These businesses range from wellness experience providers to a multi-media company amplifying indigenous female voices and stories. The formal presentation at Te Whānau o Waipareira in Henderson recognised Harmony Huntington (Aria Collections), Paul Whatuira (Internal Strength) Qiane Matata-Sipu (Qiane&Co / Nuku for Women) and Kayla Gordine (Āwhina Wellness).

The recipients will use the grants to consolidate and build their businesses including funding new employees and design and launch of an app. The four businesses received grants ranging from $5000 to $90,000 but all asked organisers to keep the amount undisclosed.

PaeRangi organisers see their events and fund as the horizon of a new movement to connect, innovate and transform the Māori business space.

Former Kiwi rugby league star, Whatuira said he was overwhelmed to be included in the group. His Internal Strength organisation draws on his own personal experience with mental health handling the pressures of high-level sport while also “secretly fighting for his life”. He, alongside his wife Lania and a number of speakers and ambassadors including teammates Ruben Wiki and Shontayne Hape help corporate leaders, government agencies and individuals discover ‘their birthright to self-confidence and wellbeing.”

Shark Tank-style format

“I am extremely grateful and honoured. We try to inspire and empower our people to live the best lives that they can. This beautiful support will help us grow and evolve. Today marks a massive uplift of our program to be able to service our people who need support, who need inspiration and guidance into Māori hauora”.

Seventeen businesses applied for the Toi-te-Huta grant. It is expected more grants will be awarded in the future.

Te Pae Herenga o Tāmaki Whānau Ora Collective hosted Pae Rangi and acting director Brad Norman said the grants signified their intentions for local indigenous businesses.

“To stand up and present their ideas to our judges at Pae Rangi in a Shark Tank-style format was impressive. These four Toi-Te-Huta Grant recipients are a clear indication of the outstanding business innovation and entrepreneurship that exists within Tāmaki Makaurau. We tautoko their journey and look forward to presenting more of these grants in the coming years. This is about igniting economic development for our Māori and Pasifika people”.

Bespoke support packages

Huntington created the Aria Collections business in 2020 with the goal of becoming a ‘world-leading provider of inclusive, functional and stylish athleisure clothing in the world’ to encourage wāhine to step outside of their comfort zone and get active. She agrees there is a place for Pae Rangi in the coming years.

“The Pae Rangi forum is a one-of-a-kind for our indigenous businesses to learn from others the importance of our Māoritanga and how it can be implemented in different ways across our businesses to always have that point of difference when we look beyond Aotearoa. Taking the key lessons and support garnered from forums like Pae Rangi are instrumental tools for indigenous businesses to not only grow our brands but also our communities as well.”

Alongside the financial grants, which the recipients have asked to remain private, each recipient will also be provided a bespoke wraparound support package including targeted advice and mentoring and opportunities to network and forge relationships with other indigenous businesses.

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