Pasifika business people at the heart of new business initiative

By Sapeer Mayron ,

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Vilitau,  Ngahere Communities.

Vilitau, Ngahere Communities. (Photo: Supplied)

A great business idea needs a great business plan. And an office.

That’s what Manawa Udy, from Te Arawa, Tainui and Mataatua, and her business partner figured out when they launched their creative business in South Auckland, New Zealand.

They quickly learned that offices come in whole floors, and there is no way a startup business can afford that. There were no co-working spaces available to them either.

So the idea of Ngahere Communities was born: a shared space which could be a community as well, for Maori and Pasifika entrepreneurs to lift their ideas off the ground.

Ms. Udy, now the Managing Director of Ngahere said she wants South Auckland to thrive in spite of negative stereotypes about the area.

“It’s not that that defines us but the reality is Maori and Pacific people are struggling, or are way over represented in a lot of negative statistics,” she said.

New to the Ngahere team is Repeka Vilitau, who was raised in Otara but hails from Lauli’i and Fusi Saoluafata. 

Growing up in Otara and spending her professional life in South Auckland exposed her to the realities of poverty and inequality faced by Maori and Pasifika families. 

Establishing a co-working space in South Auckland targeting the success of Maori and Pasifika people means creating a different business culture, said Ms. Udy.

“The main way we are going to do that is by creating and leading an environment that is led by Maori and Pacific values and ways of doing things.”

“That is really important and sets us apart from other co-working spaces.”

The Maori and Pacific way of doing things for Ngahere is to act like pioneers.

Ms. Udy said the group feels as if they are building a va’a from scratch to step out into the unknown.

“Looking back at the way our ancestors used what they had… we feel a similar sense of excitement, nervousness, resourcefulness and courage.”

Ms. Vilitau said there is a great need for a working space with pacific culture at the center.

Manawa Udy Repeka
Manawa Udy Repeka

There are too many entrepreneurs of Maori and Pacific background working out of their homes and struggling to get a foot in the door of their market or business field.

“Our people are real creative, they are pioneers but they need someone to back them and they need people to believe in them. 

“People want this, and having accessibility to it and the backing of people who can help them achieve is what we want,” she said.

Ngahere Communities, based in their new office space called Te Haa o Manukau will be a space where Maori and Pacific businesspeople can feel comfortable to be themselves.

“You can talk the way you talk, and feel the way you feel, put people first in your business and not be told that’s the wrong way to approach things,” Ms. Udy said.

Ms. Vilitau said the famous Pasifika and Maori hospitality will be an important part of the culture.

“We want to create an environment where people feel the hospitality of being welcomed in a place,” she said.

“We want people to look forward to coming to work and being part of this community.”

Ms. Vilitau said her Samoan parents taught her to work hard and believe in herself and her dreams.

“Our people are capable of doing things,” she said.

“I want encourage our people that the world is what they say, it’s our oyster, you just have to take the opportunities that present themselves and go with it.”

But believing in yourself comes with hard work too.

“That’s how mum and dad brought us up, you have to work hard for what you want to achieve, you have to go out there and learn.”

Ngahere (which means forest ecosystem) Communities are currently crowdfunding NZ$65,000 to be able to rent their office in central South Auckland, mere meters from the brand new Manukau transport hub. Readers can donate to their cause at this link: https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/5742

© Samoa Observer 2016

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