Maori find it hard starting a business

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 08:37 14/07/2014
john
JONATHAN CAMERON/FAIRFAX NZ
John Tipene decided to go out on his own after becoming sick of "constantly hitting glass ceilings" as an employee at a Wellington transportation business.

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Nothing beats hard work and it also rings true for Maori looking to set up their own business.

It is something Waitara's John Tipene considers to be the secret to his own success. With experience setting up businesses both in Wellington and Taranaki, his most recent foray came with the launch of his own invention, the Te Kohatu Hangi Cooker, last month.

He said a decision to go out on his own came after becoming sick of "constantly hitting glass ceilings" as an employee at a Wellington transportation business.

The decision to be self-employed has not been without its challenges though.

The 51-year-old said he felt that because he was Maori, people treated him with suspicion when he tried to order materials or set up accounts at stores. However, once he was able to meet customers face-to-face and build a relationship with them, their scepticism often fell away.

"Once they knew that I knew what I was talking about, they were fine," he said.

Tipene said shyness was one factor which held some Maori back from setting up business ventures of their own, along with a lack of knowledge about what support was out there to help them.

One person tasked with supplying this information void is Bizlink Hawera's Rangi Coleman. Having had his own experience working in Maori-owned businesses, he has also helped others set up ventures of their own.

Coleman said the Maori business model was first and foremost based on relationships.

"We are very personable, face- to-face business people," he said.

He said although there was support available from agencies like the Ministry of Social Development or Te Puni Kokiri to help kickstart Maori businesses, there was also a strong regional support network in place.

"We basically have one another to lean on," he said.

Another on hand to assist is Waitara-based business mentor Amokura Panoho, who is contracted to provide support to fledgling, as well as established, Maori businesses in Taranaki.

After returning to the region to live in 2006, Panoho set up her own consultancy business, which she said took about 18 months to get off the ground.

"I just went knocking on doors," she said.

Now she works with a number of business clients, providing them with guidance and support, especially with their marketing and communication strategies.

"Our job is to mentor them, advise them and support them," she said.

Part of this also involves introducing them to others to help them build their own business networks

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"It's about giving them confidence," she said.

She said although the fortunes of the Maori economy were often linked to what was happening with iwi, it was also the efforts made by individual entrepreneurs who contributed to its success.

"They survive off their tenacity and the hard work they put into it," she said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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