Entrepreneurs changing the game for Māori business & innovation

By Tepara Koti
Tupu-ā-Nuku Business & Innovation Award 2017 finalists - Image / File

Te Tupu-ā-Nuku Award for Business and Innovation is special recognition of inspiring Māori whose game-changing discoveries, research or innovations are a driving force in our society.

This year's finalists are Mavis Mullins from Poutama Trust, Hōhepa Tuahine and Kristin Ross from Pipi Mā, and Grant Straker from Straker Translations.

In 2016, Mavis Mullins (Rangitāne, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Te Arawa) was the second Māori woman to be inducted into the New Zealand.

Hailing from Dannevirke, Mavis started out in business running the long-time Paewai family shearing contracting firm which she bought with husband and shearer Koro Mullins. She was appointed to the board of the Māori business development trust, Poutama, in 2003 and has been the chair for the past 10 years. During this time, she has helped Poutama navigate the ever-changing Māori business landscape.

Poutama Trust is an independent charitable trust established in 1988 to provide business development services to Māori.  Poutama strives to create an environment for successful business ventures and economic growth.  Income generated from its investments enables Poutama to engage in activities and provide services that support and facilitate Māori business development.  Mavis is the Golden Shears' first and to date only female president, and the first and only president from outside the Wairarapa.

Hōhepa Tuahine and Kristin Ross are the creators of the world's first line of Māori speaking dolls for children, Pipi Mā.  The pair found that many Māori speaking families have despaired over a lack of Māori resources for their children.  In 2016, in a world-first, the couple launched Pipi Mā – and their first line of merchandise called the Kōrero range. 

The dolls went on sale on 8 November 2016 and sold out within 36 hours.  In 2017, they also launched the Tae (Colours) app, an app for tamariki to learn colours in the Māori language with a unique Māori perspective. They are also have other Pipi Mā merchandise, which supports their Māori language focus, which includes flash cards, colouring books and t-shirts.

Hōhepa affiliates to Te Arawa and Tūhoe. Kristin is of Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Tara descent.

Straker Translations was the winner of the Excellence in Innovation award at the 2016 New Zealand International Business Awards run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) in partnership with ANZ. 

Co-founder Grant Straker (Ngāti Raukawa) is a prominent advocate for Māori in technology and the business was founded on Kiwi values. His hope is that Straker’s success can motivate other Māori to choose technology as a valuable and rewarding career path.

The company offers an internship programme giving school leavers, students and graduates an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the technology sector. Straker started its Coding for Kids programme in 2014, helping Auckland schools teach the fundamentals of computer coding.

Straker is among the companies that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise works with to help grow internationally. Husband and wife Grant and Merryn aim to grow Straker into a $1 billion revenue company that is among the global top 20 language service providers.