Whāriki Business Network flourishes

“Our name Whāriki, a traditional woven mat, is a metaphor for how each individual within the network is woven together through whakapapa, friendships and ongoing relationships. As individuals we are strong but together we’re even stronger,”

Whāriki Business Network chair Heta Hudson.

A new Māori business network is seeing strong growth with businesses signing up to the platform each week.

Whāriki Business Network started as the brainchild of a small group of Māori business owners and professionals in 2016 seeking a dedicated group in Auckland.

Starting with networking meetings the group quickly grew and in 2020 became a fully-fledged entity.

Our name Whāriki, a traditional woven mat, is a metaphor for how each individual within the network is woven together through whakapapa, friendships and ongoing relationships. As individuals we are strong but together we’re even stronger,” explains Whāriki Business Network chair Heta Hudson.

Part of the growth of Whāriki has seen successful partnerships with some of New Zealand’s largest corporate organisations, including Facebook, Air New Zealand, Spark and Auckland Unlimited, to continue to offer support and assistance to Māori businesses. Whāriki already has a regular column in Air New Zealand’s Kia Ora magazine to showcase Māori businesses and has recently partnered with Facebook to deliver digital training programme Boost with Facebook to over 350 SME business owners across the country.

“The adoption of digital technologies has had a democratising impact by lowering barriers to entry for whanau to start a business utilising online and social media platforms. Whāriki believe that utilising these platforms and the ability to tell their own story is game changing for SMEs,” explains Heta.

“That kind of exposure is important. Although we often hear about the successes of large iwi corporations, we also need to recognise and celebrate the successes of our Māori SMEs. When Māori see other Māori running successful businesses we want them to say to themselves: ‘I could do that too’.”

He says there are certain things that make Māori businesses unique.

“More and more we are seeing businesses that are developing products and services that bring a strong cultural element.

“Often the business is a means to an end to enable a broader kaupapa or passion for the business owners.”

He points to the thriving Northland-based apparel and clothing business Taiao as an example, whose driving force is to promote and develop the understanding and use of te reo Māori.

Heta says the next phase for Whāriki will involve connecting people who want to start or grow their business to the right resources and expertise as well as continuing to showcase Maori businesses.

“Through building connections, businesses have enjoyed direct sales, collaboration and inspiration opportunities and we are finding more and more opportunities as to how we can assist from a capability building perspective. At the heart of what we do is building whakawhanaunga (relationships) so Māori can see that they can achieve whatever they want to achieve.”

Recently a new website – www.whariki.co.nz – has been launched. Heta says eventually the aim is for this to be an online hub for all things Māori business featuring stories, events and content aimed to inspire pakihi Māori.

Currently there are over 350 businesses listed on the directory and people can search by region or iwi to support whanau business owners.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2021

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