Whirlwind two years for duo

Ma mua ka kite a muri, ma muri ka ora a mua. Those who lead give sight to those who follow, those who follow give life to those who lead

Through their kaupapa to support others, working out of their Maraenui base, Tipu Ake Tonu directors Theresa Carter and Sally Crown know firsthand the power of the whakataukī (proverb) above. The business has had a whirlwind two years in operation and both agree that the outcomes and impact their services deliver keep them driven to succeed.

“The whānau and organisations we have worked with, their success literally gives our pakihi (business) life. That’s the reciprocal nature of not just business, but Te Ao Māori. There’s a natural balance.” says Sally.

Established out of the 2020 Covid rāhui (lockdown) the business is serving a range of whānau, funders and businesses who all resonate with their approach.

“The indigenous Te Ao Māori framework that we apply to our business support services, incorporating concepts such as atua (deities), whenua (land) and whakapapa (lineage) work for all people. It’s win-win,” explains Theresa.

And it is working here in Hawke’s Bay as well as across the motu (country). One of more than ten providers locally their Whanake Ake service designed to assist those looking to pursue business start-up through the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) Flexi-Wage for Self-Employment product was responsible for 42 percent of successful applications regionally in the 21/22 year. The service has been picked up by both Tāmaki (Auckland) and Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) regions too.

Helping applicants articulate their idea, research viability and present their case to vetters such as PwC, Tipu Ake Tonu have honed the process over the last 15 months. All the businesses they helped launch remain operational, with 12 of them now entirely independent of MSD assistance.

“For many of the whānau we work with it initially seems overwhelming. Whanake Ake is an intensive one-on-one service where we not only build their business capability but also their self-belief and resilience.”

Identifying ways to reduce barriers to start a business means Whanake Ake has provided a natural next-step for participants from their flagship business start-up programme Kurawaka that has been funded by Te Puni Kōkiri. The wāhine (women) focussed course continues to develop and has now delivered three cohorts. Sally says, “our 2022 cohort included a six-month mentoring component.

It’s a gap we continue to see in the market. Businesses get started with a bang but then what? Many just need someone to walk alongside them as they navigate the crucial first phase. We have been lucky to be able to build this into Kurawaka.”

The results of such support speak for themselves. Their 2022 cohort had a 100 percent completion rate, 40 percent of participants transitioned from being employees to full-time self-employment and all participants are operating in business. However, it is not just the success of the individual but also the ripple effect it has on the well-being of family and the wider community. Theresa adds, “one of our participants has now established two businesses, four of our wāhine are operating businesses with six-figure revenue and seven additional whānau have been employed in pakihi (businesses) established out of this cohort.”

Tis year they have also completed a covid related project working with 10 businesses to help them assess their current and future positions, with ongoing check-ins and recommendations all 10 are surviving despite a difficult couple of years. They also continue to work in business growth, community engagement and cultural capability, diversity and inclusion. “I had a client say the other day that I had said that when you authentically understand (Te Ao Māori) you will act differently; and now they are. It’s courageous and can be scary for some but once people get it, they just know it’s right,” says Sally.

The small team of contractors they work with are pivotal to their success and they are grateful to be connected to like-minded professionals who are one hundred percent committed to the kaupapa.

Sally praises their capabilities and work ethic, “we work in a perpetual state of change and innovation. Our team are flexible, knowledgeable and inspire us on the daily.” Collaboration and reciprocation are essential.

Theresa adds, “we couldn’t do this mahi on our own. Our partners and our team are key to the outcomes we are achieving. Mā whero, mā pango ka oti ai te mahi.” (With red and black the work will be complete.)