Māori business woman Rachel Taulelei awarded Prime Minister's Business Scholarship

updated By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A game changer in business, Rachel Taulelei joins 13 other senior New Zealand executives and business owners as a recipient of a 2017 Prime Minister's Business Scholarship.

The CEO of Kono, a Maori-owned, top 100 New Zealand food and drinks company, is an advocate for young entrepreneurial Māori women.

Business leader Rachel Taulelei is motivated to help young Māori get into business.

She says, "I'm pretty passionate about business and for them to understand what it is to be a job creator and a wealth generator because when you can create jobs, when you can generate jobs for you and your whānau and your community, that's when you have choice."

Taulelei is the CEO of Kono, the food and drinks arm of the Wakatū Incoporation.

This year, one of their wines, Tohu Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc, was selected in the Fine Wine list for Air NZ.

She says brewing success takes time.

"It's a cumulative effort so it's 20 years in 2018 so I think it takes all of that time to hone your craft and hone your skills and then it all comes together in a wine like that."

A recipient of the Prime Ministers Business Scholarship, she draws on her whakapapa and tikanga Māori as foundations for sustainable business.

"So you can't do anything unless you're being a good kaitiaki.

If you're really showing care for people and place and if our moana and whenua are well, if they're full of vitality, so too will your people be and that allows you to sustain your business."

The trailblazer says women aren't represented in senior management roles.

She strives to set an example to inspire young Māori women.

You know, we can't expect our young women to go into these places unless they can identify somebody who looks and feels like them, so you need to be out there, be visible, be accessible and help bring those other Māori women through.

A mentor for youth, she has a message for aspiring young Māori.

"Go for it. You have to grab every opportunity that comes your way, even if you don't have every skill or every tool in your tool belt that you might need to tackle that opportunity but you need to throw yourself into it boots and all and build the tracks while you're on the train."

Rachel Taulelei plans to use the scholarship to study organisational culture at Stanford University in 2018.