Fourteen-year-old Georgia Latu is the chief executive behind Pōtiki Poi, a business that makes, sells and distributes poi and earrings while sharing mātauranga Māori.
Her business has environmental and social values at its heart, using op shop and second-hand materials, with biodegradable plastic. She’s also about to start selling a new book called Ngā Mihi, in partnership with creative agency Maui Studios.
“We partnered alongside Maui Studios with the graphics which talks about the whakapapa of poi, so how our poi came to be, the creation story and telling it in a way that tamariki and kaumatua can understand.”
Latu says she wrote the pukapuka during the Covid-19 lockdown last year after thinking about strategies on what would happen after Covid-19.
“I was writing a pukapuka with Mum and then in the past six months, we just thought we need to create it. So we partnered with Maui Studios and hopefully, fingers crossed by Matariki, we’ll be able to release this pukapuka around the whole motu.
How Pōtiki Poi came about
Latu was 12 when she started the business.
“I needed to fundraise for a wānanga. We didn’t have the pūtea at the time and mum said ‘Well you make gifts, koha for your friends so why not try it as a fundraiser.”
Latu then ended up raising $1000 in three days.
“I then went to a business boot camp and they taught us how to think strategically. This was held in Kirikiriroa and from there won People’s Choice Award then went on social media and now we’re here.”
She says the business is named after her ancestor Tahu Pōtiki who led her people to the South Island.
“Pōtiki also means, youngest child. My youngest brother was born with Trisomy 21 and I want to ensure my business will someday support him and others like him in our community.”
Support from her mum
Latu says a huge pou in her life has been her māmā, Anna Latu.
“My mum is the main driver and everybody says ‘Your just like your mum. You just got for it.’ Okea ururoatia! (Keep fighting). If nobody does it, who will.”
Anna works fulltime at the University of Otago as asenior lecturer at the pharmacy school for Hauora Māori. She also works part-time at Pōtiki Poi.
“So we’ve got a lot of people working full-time jobs and balancing Pōtiki Poi at the same time but [Mum] is the director. I call her my PA because I’m the CEO. Mum's my PA and we work together as a team.”
As well as running the business. Latu also hosts poi workshops.
“A lot of people think we run workshops on how to make poi but we actually run workshops on the whakapapa of your poi. So you learn it through skits, through workshops and then at the end I teach some kapa haka, she says.
“So depending on the rōpu I’ll teach either advanced poi or just an easy poi so everyone knows the parts of your poi and where it comes from.”
Passion for tā moko
Latu is a student at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Otepoti and has her eyes on becoming a tā moko artist.
“My all-time dream is to become a tā moko artist. Ever since I was a little baby through kōhanga I used to draw on all of my skin. So ever since then I’ve been drawn to the art and learning about my whakapapa in a different way. When I’m older, once I learn all the mātauranga, I’ll go back and give all that mātauranga to my next ahurea so that the tradition will stay alive.”