Celebration of wāhine Māori business success welcomed back

By Kelvin McDonald
Credit / MWDI

The success of wāhine Māori in business is set to be celebrated at a special awards event in Tāmaki Makaurau at the end of the month.

The Māori Women’s Development Inc (MWDI) - whose trustees are past and current presidents of the Māori Women’s Welfare League - says it is welcoming back the MWDI Māori Business Women’s Awards to "celebrate success".

The awards event, which first returned in 2018 after a 10-year break, showcases the very best wāhine businesswomen and their pakihi (business) to Aotearoa, the Asia-Pacific region and other global markets and indigenous economies, MWDI said in a statement.

"This event is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of wāhine and showcase their businesses on the economic world stage," Interim CEO Linda Clay said.

Judges, Tina Kilmister-Blue (Partner PwC), Kiri Nathan (2019 MWDI Māori Business Woman of the Year) and former MWDI CEO Teresa Tepania-Ashton said they were "impressed with the high calibre of nominations befitting to all regions and categories".

The organisation "governed, managed and operated by Wāhine Māori" revealed this year's finalists on Friday, for the 29 July event at the Aotea Centre. 

The regional finalists include: 

Te Tai Tokerau

Jade Kake (Matakohe Architecture + Urbanism), Rena Bernadette Toia (Aiotis), Te Miringa Mihaka (Freedom Whare) and Mara Pickey (personal SPACE).

Tāmaki Makaurau

Billie-Jo Ropiha (BDÉT), Holly Bennett (Awhi) and Michele Wilson (AWWA).


Deborah Swann (Full Circle Appearance Medicine), Helen Paul-Smith (ŌKU New Zealand Native Herbal Products) and Nichola Te Kiri (Nichola).


Trudy James (Kura Kārearea).

Te Tai Rāwhiti

Dr Phyllis Callaghan (Katuku Island) and Whare Isaac-Sharland (Tai Huki Consult).


Kushla Okano (Te Whenua Humarie), Riwa (Maria) Wawatai (art by RIWA) and Sheena Maru (Raukura Consultants).


Amber Forest (Beauty Antix) and Kathie Irwin (Kathie Irwin & Associates).

Te Waipounamu

Cazna Luke (Mokowhiti), Karmela Rapata (Check In Queenstown) and Reni Gargiulo (KiwiKai Nelson)


The category finalists are:

Business Collaboration

Amokura Panoho (Kura Consulting), Rena Bernadette Toia (Aiotis) and Reni Gargiulo (KiwiKai Nelson).

Emerging Business

Billie-Jo Ropiha (BDÉT), Trudy James (Kura Kārearea) and Whare Isaac-Sharland (Tai Huki Consult).

Employment & Growth

Amber Forrest (Beauty Antix), Nichola Te Kiri (Nichola) and Trudy James (Kura Kārearea).


Billie-Jo Ropiha (BDÉT), Jade Kake (Matakohe Architecture + Urbanism) and Reni Gargiulo (KiwiKai Nelson).

People & Capability

Amber Forrest (Beauty Antix), Holly Bennett (Awhi) and Sandra Julian (Auaha).

Social Enterprise

Hannah Rose McKnight (Ngātahi Communications), Kushla Okana (Te Whenua Humarie) and Te Miringa Mihaka (Freedom Whare).

Marketing & Sales

Reni Gargiulo (KiwiKai Nelson), Michele Wilson (AWWA) and Helen Paul-Smith (ŌKU New Zealand Native Herbal Products).