Bringing Viktual+ to life has been an inspiring learning about early Māori enterprise.
From as early as the arrival of Europeans, Māori have always demonstrated trade and entrepreneurial nous - supplying fish to new arrivals in the late 1700s to the early 1800s when Māori visited Australia for commercial trade.
From the 1820s Māori began exporting firstly flax, then wheat, oats and potatoes. During the 20th century, along with forestry and farming becoming our primary sector, Māori businesses expanded into honey and more recently hemp and rongoā products.
It’s been exciting and motivating seeing Kiwis, especially wāhine toa, take the risk, leap out there and start their own businesses. In 2017, Miriana Lowrie (Taranaki) launched tech company, www.1Centre.com, a customer onboarding and auto decisioning software, which set a record funding round with Flux Accelerator (Icehouse Ventures).
Miriana is a friend from school, so we’re fortunate to have been able to pick her brain about a few things. It’s been invaluable to kōrero with her and other small business owners and take in and learn from their experiences.
We’ve had kōrero with many other people along the way too, including iwi members who have been entrusted as kaitiaki (guardians) for their whānau land, having to make decisions that will benefit their current and future whanau, while aligning with their kaupapa (values, principles) and tikanga (custom, practice). Some of these kōrero have been around ensuring they have their rongoā gardens for their whānau while also having a commercial side to their whenua, ensuring this is done in a holistic and responsibly sustainable way. Viktual+ are not rongoā, however, we have learned so much from these kōrero. There are native plants that we’d like to incorporate into our range, but these aren’t commercially grown yet, so until they are, we can’t go and forage for them - they’d be depleted in an instant. The native plants in our range are from commercial suppliers on private land.
One thing that’s really stood out on our journey is that while there’s a lot of advice out there for new businesses, it’s a bit of a rabbit warren, so it’s all about doing your research, filtering out all the noise and tuning into likeminded people. Being a Māori/Pasifika business, we’re conscious of the fact that we want to respect our cultures, and my biggest learnings so far have been to talk and listen to people who have taken that jump already and started up their own business. We’ve connected with people we didn’t know personally, however most have been more than willing to share their experiences.
We’ve just got to trust our gut, talk and listen to as many people and business owners as we can and keep learning.
Stainless Steel Taiaha by Darren Wise @stainlesssculptor