27 Oct 2022

Teen founder of poi company among winners at Māori Business Awards

6:38 pm on 27 October 2022
Georgia Tiatia Fa'atoese Latu at the NZ Startup Boot Camp

Founder and chief executive of Pōtiki Poi Georgia Latu. File photo. Photo: SODA

A teenager who founded the world's largest poi manufacturer and an organisation that is helping marae to reduce their waste are among the winners at this year's Māori Business Awards.

Georgia Latu (Kai Tahu, Ngāpuhi), the 16-year-old founder and chief executive of Pōtiki Poi, has won the Young Māori Business Leader Award, a recognition she said she was humbled by.

"We've been going through a lot lately, one of my best friends passed away not long ago and so when I look at this award, I see my best friend. And also see the hard work that has been put into making Potiki poi the largest poi manufacturing company in the world," Latu said.

In 2019, a then 12-year-old Latu started made some poi as a fundraiser, managing to make $1000 in three days.

In the early days of Pōtiki Poi, Latu was asked in an interview where she saw her business going, to which she replied, "I want to walk into a shop and buy Aotearoa original poi".

"And now we can walk into a Countdown and buy Aotearoa original poi."

The entrepreneur has since been contracted by the Women's Rugby World Cup to make 32,000 poi, an order she said has taken an entire whānau to complete.

"We sent a tono out to our hapori, to our community to come in and help Pōtiki Poi achieve this crazy order and through that we've actually been able to offer first-time employment to a lot of rangatahi in Ōtepoti, which is also amazing," Latu said.

There are currently 20 people on the payroll of Pōtiki Poi, with around 80 orders per week. But Latu had her sights set on further expansion.

Latu said she was hoping to launch a new clothing brand for Pōtiki Poi in the next coming days.

Another winner was Para Kore, a Māori organisation which supported marae to reduce waste, has taken out Te Tohu Whakanuia te Rangatira a Mānuka Henare - an award that recognises education, service and leadership.

Para Kore Kaihautū Matua Jacqui Forbes said it was a huge honour.

Para Kore received the Energy Global award for New Zealand on Tuesday night for its marae-based programme that cuts waste going to the tip by up to 85 percent.

Para Kore Kaihauti Matua Jacqui Forbes. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

"It's an award that's recognising Mānuka Henare so that makes it even more special ... we started as a small project within another organisation called Extreme Zero Waste and we've grown over time. So we're really humbled and appreciative of this recognition," Forbes said.

Forbes and her team started with looking after three marae in 2009. They now work with more than 730 rōpū which included marae, kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and social service organisations.

She recognised that as part of manaakitanga, marae tended to have a lot of leftover kai, so she was helping to reduce the amount of waste.

More marae should take up composting and use organic waste to help grow more kai.

"Another thing that we like to educate about is that how the situation we are in now is that we are in economies that are linear and they're extractive by nature and they're based on making profits above all else," Forbes said.

"So looking after papatūānuku or looking after people isn't an aim or a goal of our current economic system that we have, and the system has been created from settler colonialism and capitalism.

"It's good to look at the whakapapa of kai as well and remember how our tūpuna and how we still do now, gather our own kai and how our ways of collecting our kai have been interrupted by colonisation."

Therapeutic skincare brand Aotea's chief executive Tama Toki won the Māori Entrepreneurial Leader Award and Kaitiaki Business Leader Award.

Tama Toki.

Tama Toki won the Māori Entrepreneurial Leader Award and Kaitiaki Business Leader Award. File image. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

"The work that we put into this business, it can be quite difficult, it can be quite hard by its very nature running a facility that produces our rongoā and we've elected to take a difficult path but it felt correct. When you get recognised like this, it's really quite special," Toki said.

Incorporating mātauranga Māori was vital in his business.

"We're not doing it for the sake of doing it, we're doing it because it feels correct to us ... the hierarchy of values we have as a business are underpinned by our tikanga and our kawa," he said.

The winners are:

Te tohu mō te Kaiārahi Rangatahi Māori i te ao Pakihi Young Māori Business Leader Award. This award recognises a person under 30 who has achieved significant success in their career and inspires others to succeed as a new generation of leaders.

Winner: Georgia Latu (Kai Tahu, Ngāpuhi)

When Georgia was 12 years old, she started a poi business with her whānau in her lounge. Today she is the 16-year-old CEO behind Pōtiki Poi, the largest poi manufacturer in the world.

Te tohu mō te Kaiārahi Rakahinonga Māori: Māori Entrepreneurial Leader Award. This award recognises a person who has created/built/is building a successful business that's recognised internationally, driving innovation and entrepreneurship.

Winner: Tama Toki (Ngāti Rehua, Ngāti Wai, Ngāpuhi)

Tama Toki is the founder and CEO of the Aotea brand, which includes businesses focused on therapeutic skincare and the efficient generation, storage and distribution of renewable energy.

Te tohu Taumata Rau. This award specifically recognises an iwi, hapū, or marae-based business with a strong cultural ethos portrayed in the global arena.

Winner: Kono NZ LP

An associated business of Māori-owned Wakatū Incorporation, Kono is a food and beverage producer and exporter of premium wine, seafood, craft beer, fruit and natural fruit bars.

Te tohu mō te Whakatairanga i te Kete Aronui i te ao Pakihi Kaitiaki Business Leader Award. This award recognises a business that promotes and achieves environmentally sustainable outcomes.

Winner: Aotea

The Aotea brand includes businesses focused on therapeutic skincare and the efficient generation, storage and distribution of renewable energy.

Te Tohu Whakanuia te Rangatira a Mānuka Henare. This award is in honour of the late Māori academic Dr Mānuka Henare. It recognises education, service and leadership that has positive local and global impacts for Māori and indigenous communities.

Winner: Para Kore Marae Incorporated

Para Kore is a Māori organisation that empowers and supports marae and organisations to reduce waste.

Te tohu Kairangi mō te Ihorei Pakihi Māori Outstanding Māori Business Leadership Award. This award recognises a kaupapa Māori business that has achieved significant success that demonstrates transformation in their industry, sector or community.

Winner: North Drill Limited

North Drill is a fast-growing Whangarei-based drilling company that proactively works to improve the wealth and well-being of its people.

Te tohu Rātā Whakaruruhau a te Kahurangi Mira Szászy Dame Mira Szászy Lifetime Award. This award recognises a person who has an exceptional long-standing record in governance.

Winner: Robin Hapi, CNZM (Ngāti Kahungunu)

Robin has held a range of governance and executive leadership positions of importance for Māori development. He remains engaged in various projects involving Māori, community, sporting, educational and environmental initiatives.

Te tohu Kairangi mō te Kaiārahi Pakihi Māori Outstanding Māori Business Leader Award. This award recognises a person who has achieved exceptional success in their career and demonstrated outstanding leadership whose influence extends beyond the confines of their role.

Winner: Steve Saunders (Ngāi Te Ahi, Ngāti Ranginui)

Steve is an innovative agritech entrepreneur who thinks big in his quest to solve challenges to feed the world with smart automation and intelligent robotics while upholding the value of kaitiakitanga, guardianship of the environment.