Three Waikato businesswomen recognised at the 2022 Māori Women’s Development Incorporated 2022 business awards share their experiences from creating their business, to conquering adversity and why being Māori is their ‘super-power’.
Nichola Te Kiri – Creative Director & Founder NTKMADE LTD, Nichola, Tuhoe
For Nichola Te Kiri (46), honing a balance between business and creativity is at the core of NTKMADE.
She is the creative director and founder of the company alongside the adjoining fashion label, Nichola and the monthly subscription service for Te Ao Māori goods and services, Top Tēpu.
A local to Hamilton city and of Tuhoe affiliation, Te Kiri says being Māori and understanding a Te Ao Māori world view has without a doubt, influenced her business ideas and career direction.
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“I love being in business…not only am I doing it for the sake of my business, I am doing this for my whānau, my iwi and my community,” said Te Kiri.
At the awards she scooped up the Employment and Growth categories.
Te Kiri had always been career and goals driven since “many moons ago” she said but progressing her business has taken determination and resilience as she says there is sometimes a lack of awareness or acceptance of Te Ao Māori and a need to challenge colonial views.
“I feel that challenge from external environments, purely because I think some people have quite a colonial mindset, so they are really not willing or open towards Māori or change. Quite recently I’ve just seen a lot of resistance not only towards us and our business but also on a wider level in terms of being Māori.”
Te Kiri would be elated to see other Māori women pursue a business venture and says all it takes is utilising networking opportunities while also taking a chance.
Te Kiri has her third venture coming later this year which will offer a bespoke, high-end fashion label called KaistorStreet.
“Being Māori, I feel like it is my super-power, I feel that being Māori, sets us apart from the rest of the world,” she said.
Deborah Swann – Founder, Full Circle Appearance Medicine, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Koroki and Ngāti Toa
Hailing from Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Koroki and Ngāti Toa, Deborah Swann (56) has delved into the world of appearance medicine and cosmetics with her company Full Circle Appearance Medicine.
After spending over 30-years in nursing, she took a leap and established her own business with aspirations to connect with women and help them to build confidence.
Based in Cambridge, Full Circle Appearance Medicine, provides services such as skin treatments, muscle relaxant treatments and other appearance medications.
She says being a wahine Māori has been something she has gradually come to understand more as she’s got older.
Although she doesn’t have a full understanding of Te Ao Māori, the practices of caring for others and serving others has been at the centre of her career ambitions.
“I haven’t been brought up surrounded by the culture but…as I’ve got older I’ve really started to gain sense of the value of ‘us’ and not ‘me’ and I think I’m not thinking about me when I’m with someone.”
Swann was the recipient of the Tainui region, Business Woman award.
Having a background partnering with the Breast Cancer Foundation has also meant the connections she has formed with other wāhine have been among the most valuable parts of her career and continues to motivate her work.
Swann encourages other wāhine to pursue their business dreams and create their own futures like she did.
“What I love most about this is that I’m working with women…I’m in a situation where I am privileged really to hear their stories…it’s really special,” she said.
Helen Paul-Smith – Co-founder, ŌKU New Zealand, Tapuika, Ngai Te Rangi
Drawing nutrients and traditional healing properties from native plants, is the heart and soul of Helen Paul-Smith’s business ŌKŪ.
From teas to elixirs, balms or gifts, Paul-Smith (48) has a passion for rongoa Māori and Aotearoa’s natural environment.
Based in Tamahere, Paul-Smith and those behind ŌKŪ were took home the marketing and sales award.
She says being a wahine Māori inspires the vision behind her business and she feels more deeply connected with her whakapapa and her tupuna through working with native plants.
“My entire business is based upon kaupapa Māori principles as ŌKŪ is a company that makes health products from the native plants of Aotearoa,” said Paul-Smith.
“I wear a lot of different hats, so I can kind of do anything that the business requires from planting plants to harvesting, packaging and design.
“There are a huge range of jobs but two the things I enjoy the most are continuously learning about New Zealand native plants… and working with my team on the marketing aspect of the business…and creating the brand story.”
For Paul-Smith, it’s important to give back to the environment that provides for her business.
“We work with the plants, but we’re not just taking, we really wanted to have this cyclic kind of business idea where we need to grow more New Zealand natives, so we wanted to grow more New Zealand natives as well as help heal people.”
She said for wāhine Māori to be recognised through the awards was a sign of the hard work and persistence to prove people wrong and show success and potential.
She says standing alongside other wāhine Māori in business is what means the most and makes the recognition memorable.
“It was so inspiring,” she said.
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