Secondary school entrepreneurs honoured for their company promoting Samoan culture

By Jessica Tyson

Samoan secondary school students who are part of the social enterprise group The Hustle have been honoured for creating a product that incorporates Samoan stories, history and language.

The entrepreneurs, Porirua Bishop Viard College students Malaga Aukusotino, Siose Lokeni, Oliver Toru-Tyrell, Fa'amanuia Paulo won two awards at this year’s Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) Awards.

Out of 1000 companies, they took home the National Excellence Award for Pasifika Business, and their chief executive, Malaga, won the CEO of the Year Award, for creating their product, the Tatau Bottle.

“There are companies selling water bottles with cultural designs but not only are we selling a bottle but also we are selling a story that will teach you the significance of the tatau (Samoan tattoo) to our Samoan culture,” Malaga says. 

The Design

The tatau design on the bottle was created by Siose.

“I was inspired by just growing up and seeing my people with patterns on their bodies because each of the patterns on their bodies, whether it’s the pe’a, the tatau... I got inspired by those patterns and I did a draft copy and we decided to put it onto a bottle,” Siose says.

The students say their product is a vehicle for promoting their Samoan culture and language.

“For many of our New Zealand-born Samoans there is a need to keep the language and our culture alive, our product is a solution to that. Many of us cannot speak our Samoan language. We knew about the Samoan tatau but not the depth we know about it now through our product and learning from our 'aiga and community.

“Our story is a postcard wrapped around the bottle, on heavy card.”

YES Awards

The group received its award at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington last Thursday at an awards ceremony celebrating the achievements of New Zealand’s most outstanding young entrepreneurs.

Despite the disruptions faced in 2020 more than 4000 senior secondary students took part in YES this year, setting up over 1000 companies between them. Only 21 of those companies made it to the national final, including The Hustle.

Over the past year, the students created and ran their own businesses from conception through to production, marketing and sales. The one-year programme offers students an authentic learning experience that prepares them for life after schooling by teaching entrepreneurship and connecting them with the business community.

Malaga says one of the challenges they faced when creating their company was a lack of resources during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“I was unable to have Wi-Fi to communicate with my colleagues," he says.

“We received massive support as our business mentor Gina was able to step in and give me a connection to connect with my colleagues.”

The group so far has sold 369 units of its product.

"We have reached 92% of our sales market and we were able to beat our planned gross profit by $416 as we were able to get better pricing from the supplier. Our goal was $3,200 gross profit and actual was $3,616."

The profits went to a visit to Queenstown in October to learn about different types of tourism businesses.

"More than anything the fa'aaloalo (respect) shown by our community demonstrating alofa (love) for sharing our communities stories is the greatest gift," he says.

The future

The group says it wants to continue advocating for the challenges faced by its community.

“We also hope that we can receive more input and response on how we can improve our ways and how we can advocate for more challenges,”  Malaga says.

The four entrepreneurs also plan to make bottles with other cultural patterns from other Pacifika cultures, incorporating Tongan, Māori and Tokelauan designs.

They say three businesses are on selling their product including Luca Hairstyling, Le Aute and Le Marche Cafe and they also sell the bottles via an Instagram page.