Business

Small Business: Ngahere striving to tackle inequality

Manawa Udy, founder and managing director of social enterprise Ngahere, talks helping Māori and Pasifika get ahead and how Covid-19 inspired the group’s latest venture.

What does your business do?

There are three businesses under Ngahere Ventures: Ngahere Communities, which builds communities and enhances creativity and innovation, we’re based in South Auckland and we run a co-working space and we have a collective of creatives that deliver digital creative services. Ngahere Foundation is a not-for-profit that delivers programmes and helps develop entrepreneurial creative skills and Konei is an online marketplace that brings Aotearoa brands together in one place for entrepreneurs to build their businesses.

Ngahere Communities was the first one to start, in May 2018, and then both Ngahere Foundation and Konei launched this year.

What was the motivation for starting it?

Because we’re based in South Auckland and we’re focused on tackling inequality through education and entrepreneurship, we realised pretty quickly that a lot of the work we were doing was not about making a profit, but more about making an impact, so that’s why we started up a not-for-profit arm and Konei essentially came out of lockdown; we were looking at what opportunities we had around us, what need there was out there from the people we were interacting with and Konei as a marketplace came off the back off work we were doing with up-and-coming brand owners and entrepreneurs that were motivated by improving their families’ economic situation.

Konei has 60 brands available on the one store and it is geared at making shopping local easy for the consumer. We use the function of drop-shipping – we don’t actually hold any of the stock – but you can purchase things from multiple brands in one transaction and then the brand owners fulfil and send orders out. It’s about bringing brands together and increasing and amplifying their message because it is easier to do that as a collective as opposed to an individual brand because digital is saturated.

Ngahere is running pop-up shops- where does that come into Konei?

The pop-ups are something we have been running for three years already. They are a pre-seeded Konei, but now the pop-ups in Henderson and Manakau are serving Konei in a physical way which is pretty cool. They are really targeted at Christmas gifts, that’s why we have them at this time of year, and they sell lots of things like indigenous artwork and prints, beauty products, coffee, chocolate, cookie dough, kombucha, honey, beautiful jewellery, clothing, footwear and stationery – all sorts. We sell products from brands from New Plymouth, Tauranga, Whakatane, Wellington, Whangarei – all over the place.

How big is the team?

We have a team of 11, and we’re about to bring on another four staff in January. Some of those staff are contractors, working for us part-time. We have six full-timers now, and we’ll have 10 by the New Year.

What are your long-term plans for the business?

We see Ngahere expanding with more businesses, we see opportunities everywhere for us – it’s a really exciting time, it’s a challenge for us to be able to have the capacity to take them all on board. I call all of our businesses social enterprises because we do it to enable Māori and Pasifika people to get out of the rut we have found ourselves in as people, and to help improve our economic wellbeing and our mindsets around finances and our ability to have a hand in our own future. I don’t think that work is going to be done anytime soon, and the more momentum we gather and opportunities that come our way.

Ngahere is in property management essentially, and HR services, and there’s heaps of room for growth there, and we’ve got a very strong creative team – I wouldn’t be surprised if that became its own entity next year. The foundation itself is growing and getting more funding and contracts, and we would love for Konei to grow into the place where New Zealanders choose to shop local at scale.

What will you be focused on in 2021?

Konei is going to be a big focus. We’ve just taken on a cool contract with the Ministry of Social Development which will enable us to support a whole lot more creatives and the development of creatives in South Auckland to increase their business skills and their ability to freelance as creatives and get better-paying jobs. It’s a huge gap, a huge need and huge potential for South Auckland – the creativity here is insane, but it is quite untapped, so that will be really exciting to work through in the New Year.

What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?

You’ve just got to get going. If you’ve got an idea and want to do it, just start doing it, even if it is on the side to start off with. Have the confidence to back yourself and be willing to fail a lot along the way – it’s part of the process.

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