A covid pivot creates new business opportunity

Whatu Creative teaches the art of Tukutuku through contemporary DIY craft kits.

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Awhina Murupaenga (Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi)) started her family business Whatu Creative Ltd, to promote Māori arts in Te Hiku. Their first product is the "Tukutuku Toi Kit", an innovative and contemporary take on the traditional craft kit that teaches the traditional Māori artform of Tukutuku.

“I am committed to growing my business and expanding into overseas markets. I want to show young Māori that they can set and achieve their goals from here”. ~ Awhina

Awhina moved north 8 years ago to manage Te Whare Whiri Toi art gallery at Roma Marae in Ahipara. She is an inspiring young wahine with a real passion for revitalising mahi toi while also contributing to the effort to grow matauranga Māori (knowledge) and te reo Māori.

She initially registered her company Whatu Creative to deliver events to build opportunities for local people to build on their creative abilities and further support the retention of traditional toi Māori practices.

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Booklets for planning patterns.

 Then Covid happened! So instead of delivering focussed in-person events, she switched her attention to selling the mahi toi kits she had put together as a DIY craft kit instead. She put a post on her Instagram with a Google form to take orders and had sold out in 1 hour!

“Growing a business can be really lonely. The best part of working with Northland Inc is the support and connections I get through my regular kōrero with Emma”. ~ Awhina

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Growth Advisor Emma Rankin and Awhina discuss what's next for her business.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity for Awhina since then as she grows the business to capitalise on her early success. When Awhina connected with Northland Inc Growth Advisor Emma Rankin last year, she was keen to find out what opportunities were available to help her grow her business. Emma put her in touch with several opportunities and helped her navigate her way through applying for Regional Business Partnership pūtea to part-fund business planning assistance via her local accountant.

 Her next steps will be to work on streamlining their shipping systems, open up to the US and then on to world-wide distribution. Emma says that “Awhina is an inspiring and very down-to-earth wahine.  I am looking forward to being able to tautoko her through her next steps so her business is well organised for future growth”.

Awhina followed up her recent exhibition at the Te Ahu Centre in Kaitaia with two awards at the 2002 Northland Business Excellence Awards. Whatu Creative was the winner of the of the Creative Northland Excellence in Cultural and Creative Industries Award. She also received a special commendation in the Jeroen Jongejans Innovate Northland Award which we at Northland Inc are the proud sponsor of. 

Here's what the judges for the Innovate Northland category had to say about the business:

“Whatu Creative have developed a Tukutuku Toi kit which offers a contemporary way to learn this Māori artform. Dreamt up over covid lockdown, this slow calming craft promotes the understanding of traditional Māori knowledge in an accessible way and is a path to hand down traditional weaving patterns with appeal for all generations. With new products being developed and new box branding the judges see a great opportunity for export. They liked the innovation demonstrated and the possibilities of taking this to a wider audience, as well as its potential to scale quickly both in volume and market segmentation". They were impressed by Awhina's energy, enthusiasm, her understanding of the craft, the market and her plans to scale this business.”

Visit Whatu Creative website

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