Business Central December 2021

54 | Whāriki: Whāriki Business Network REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT Civil work ‘inevitable’ for successful team T T Sue Russell Whāriki has partnerships with some of New Zealand’s largest corporate organisations. Maori business hub shows strong growth T T Karen Phelps PIRTEK WANGANUI IS PROUD TO SUPPORT RIVER CITY TREE SERVICES PIRTEK WANGANUI PH: 06 348 5519 | 39 HEADS ROAD, WANGANUI A new Māori business network is seeing strong growth with businesses signing up to the platform each week. Whāriki Business Network started as the brainchild of a small group of Māori business owners and professionals in 2016 seeking a dedicated group in Auckland. Starting with networking meetings the group quickly grew and in 2020 became a fully-fledged entity. “Our name Whāriki, a traditional woven mat, is a metaphor for how each individual within the network is woven together through whakapapa, friendships and ongoing rela- tionships. As individuals we are strong but to- gether we’re even stronger,” explains Whāriki Business Network chair Heta Hudson. Part of the growth of Whāriki has seen successful partnerships with some of New Zealand’s largest corporate organisations, including Facebook, Air New Zealand, Spark and Auckland Unlimited, to continue to offer support and assistance to Māori businesses. Whāriki already has a regular column in Air New Zealand’s Kia Ora magazine to showcase Māori businesses and has recently partnered with Facebook to deliver digital training pro- gramme Boost with Facebook to over 350 SME business owners across the country. “The adoption of digital technologies has had a democratising impact by lowering bar- riers to entry for whanau to start a business utilising online and social media platforms. Whāriki believe that utilising these platforms and the ability to tell their own story is game changing for SMEs,” explains Heta. “That kind of exposure is important. Although we often J oe and Siobhan Marshall own and oper- ate Whanganui business Rivercity Tree Services, established in 2008. The company has grown in leaps and bounds, seizing opportunities that have presented. As Siobhan explains, their’s is a story of hard-work and amassing a group of like-minded team members as their service offering has broadened, well beyond caring for trees. “When Joe first started his attitude was very much to take advantage of the different opportunities that presented themselves and see where they led. I don’t think back then we saw the business moving into Civil work, but as the business grew, we got more versatile in the services we offered, and looking back now, I can see the shift into Civil Construction was probably inevitable” says Siobhan. Today, Rivercity Tree Services serves a large geographic across the Manawatu-Whanga- nui, Rangitikei, Horowhenua and Waimarino districts, doing work for a number of different Councils, large and small scale entities as well as private/domestic work. hear about the successes of large iwi corpora- tions, we also need to recognise and celebrate the successes of our Māori SMEs. When Māori see other Māori running successful businesses we want them to say to them- selves: ‘I could do that too’.” He says there are certain things that make Māori businesses unique. “More and more we are seeing businesses that are developing products and services that bring a strong cul- tural element. Often the business is a means to an end to enable a broader kaupapa or passion for the business owners.” He points to Northland based apparel and clothing business Taiao as an example, whose driving force is to promote and develop the understanding and use of te reo Māori. Heta says the next phase for Whāriki will in - volve connecting people who want to start or grow their business to the right resources and expertise as well as continuing to showcase Maori businesses. “Through building connections, businesses have enjoyed direct sales, collaboration and inspiration opportunities and we are finding more and more opportunities as to how we can assist from a capability building perspec- tive. At the heart of what we do is building whakawhanaunga (relationships) so Māori can see that they can achieve whatever they want to achieve.” Recently a new website – – has been launched. Heta says eventually the aim is for this to be an online hub for all things Māori business featuring stories, events and content aimed to inspire pakihi Māori. Cur - rently there are over 350 businesses listed on the directory and people can search by region or iwi to support whanau business owners. River City Tree Services While Joe is not on the tools as much as he was in the beginning, a lot of his work these days is keeping the team of 25 full time staff busy, organising contracts, quoting work and keeping his pulse on everything in the business. Joe is driven by the desire to run a successful business and is proud at how much the business has grown. “I spent my childhood helping my Dad on the farm, so I guess that’s where I got my work ethic from. When I started the business, it was just me and one other worker. “I had a ute, a small chipper, a small truck and a couple of saws and to see where the business is at now it’s quite humbling really – but it’s all from a whole lot of hard work” says Joe. Siobhan on the other hand looks after the administrative needs of the business, ensuring compliances, the all-important Health & Safety systems, and the team needs are met. With four children, aged six through to a one year old, life is full-on, demanding an organised and methodical approach to the daily tasks. Joe’s brother, Peter Ashford, is the compa - ny’s Civil Projects Manager.