Whanganui sisters start their own businesses, inspired by their māmā

By Jessica Tyson

The four Harrison sisters, from Parikino Marae in Whanganui, each run their own business and are looking forward to showcasing their mahi at the city's first-ever Pakihi Māori summit this Saturday.

The summit will celebrate and help develop local businesses by connecting them to support services and agencies.

The tuakana (oldest sister), Tessa Harrison, owns a consultancy business named Nuku Consultants which is named after Papatuānuku. She says the foundation of her kaupapa is about “nurturing and caring for our people”.

“My mahi is based on that model and so I provide education and kaupapa Māori education for our people, says Tessa.

“It's important for us to have a deeper understanding of what mātauranga Māori has to offer our people because there's a lot of goodness within our own knowledge, and our knowledge is empowering for ourselves to be able to reach our full potential.”

She says Nuku is also inspired by their late mother.

“During our upbringing, we were raised in an environment where we didn't judge people. We were taught respect, just those foundational values in a family and mum had a big part to play in it...Her expressions of manaakitanga within a hapū capacity, within a community capacity, was mind-blowing. Nobody could do it the way that our mother could do it on the marae.”

Tessa Harrison leads wānanga as a part of her business Nuku Consultants.  Photo / Nuku Consultants

Sister Rama Ashford owns Te Taioho which is a mātauranga Māori education service. It offers services like te reo Māori translation. It also works with the Waitangi Tribunal and has other contracts.

One of the education services Te Taioho offers is Te Rangataioho, a wānanga for children and teenagers on the marae.

“We are able to use that opportunity, these wānanga, to instill a love for our traditional knowledge, for our mātauranga Māori, for our Māori world, giving our kids opportunity to be able to see and feel and touch the Māori world through a Māori lens, with a Māori hand, with a Māori tongue."

Te Rangataioho wānanga led by Rama Ashford. Photo source: Te Taioho

Kelly Harrison owns K H dream Designs Limited, a one-stop-shop for any events, providing everything people need for their special occasion. She has been hired by Whanganui & Partners to manage, plan and run the summit to be held at Frank Bar and Eatery.

She says organising events with her mother on the marae gave her the foundations to learn event planning skills.

“I was only 14 when my mum got me involved with helping to run graduations for the education programmes there that were being delivered at the time for the marae-based studies.”

Misty Harrison has started a business named Palm22 which is set to launch in 2022.

“We offer a range of Palm trees for home decor, landscaping and gifts. Palm22 derives from the number of our home address and our Palm tree that's actually supplying the foundation to my business venture.”

Misty is looking forward to the summit on Saturday to connect to help services and recommends other Māori business owners come along.

“People who are new in the business, if they come down and check out our the summit, they will be able to be inspired by everyone, with new ideas and ways on how to promote themselves, networking and just getting more comfortable in the space. I think that's probably one of my biggest goals this weekend.”

The Pākihi Māori summit has been organised by Whanganui & Partners in collaboration with Te Puni Kōrkiri and other organisations.

Whanganui & Partners strategic lead capability, Louise Walker, says, “the summit is all about connecting our pākihi Māori to the different business services available within the Whanganui region for them.”

Organisations that will attend to provide support to business owners, include Te Manū Atatu, Silks Accounting, We Are Manaaki, Inland Revenue Department, Ministry of Social Development and Ngā Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui.

“It’s an opportunity for our pākihi to meet who's who in the zoo when it comes to business services and to make those kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) connections. More importantly, it's about celebrating our pākihi Māori that that have started, or that are currently on a journey, or they're far into their journey. And they just need to understand where else they can be connected into.”