Passion Project - Teen's online business part of 'revitalisation of te reo Māori'

  • 08/12/2021
  • Sponsored by - Dell

For most 15-year-olds, life revolves around school, their friends, and maybe a sport or hobby as well. Running an online business while also leading a typical teenage life is definitely not the norm.

But Takaimaania Ngata-Henare is no ordinary 15-year-old. Not only is she one of the country's top-ranked table tennis players, she also runs a successful company – Māu Designz

The web-based business sells wrapping paper featuring words in te reo Māori, celebrating themes such as birthdays, Christmas and appreciation. Māu Designz also sells stickers, gift bags and Christmas cards.

Ngata-Henare is this month's Dell Passion Project recipient. Dell and The Project are recognising passionate people who turn their side-hustles into full-time gigs. She will receive a Dell XPS laptop.

Ngata-Henare, who was raised speaking te reo, hit upon the idea of creating the wrapping paper after realising it was something she never had when she was younger.

"I looked back to what I didn't have as a kid… and what we didn't have when I was growing up was te reo Māori wrapping paper."

She started Māu Designz in early 2020 in order to raise money to pay for the travel, both national and international, required for her table tennis competitions.

Takaimaania Ngata-Henare.
Takaimaania Ngata-Henare. Photo credit: Māu Designz

"When I started table tennis we actually thought it was going to be cheap. You know, you just buy a few bats now and then – but travelling is actually quite expensive."

Because the business is run online, Ngata-Henare is able to easily work from her home in Northland. However the year-11 student, who is quick to acknowledge that she has had plenty of help from her mum along the way, admits that juggling a business, school work and table tennis can get pretty hectic.

"It can be pretty chaotic at times but I just try and stay on track."

The most time-consuming part of the business is packing orders. And though her mum helps out when things get busy, Ngata-Henare says the biggest skill she's learnt from her side-hustle so far is time management and "keeping to the schedule".

"When you get a lot of orders you're just packing all day," she says.

"I used to be so disorganised but now I think I'm doing pretty well."

Focusing on online sales has not only given Ngata-Henare the freedom to work independently, it has also been a large part of Māu Designz's success.

She says the company first started taking off after gaining attention in a post on a popular Facebook page and she received 600 orders overnight. Since then the business' online presence has continued to grow, with the lead-up to Christmas also contributing to increased sales.

Ngata-Henare attributes the popularity of the wrapping paper to a rise in the status of the Māori language.

Kāri Kirihimete | Christmas Cards.
Kāri Kirihimete | Christmas Cards. Photo credit: Māu Designz

"I think it's because te reo Māori is cool, it's something that all of Aotearoa New Zealand want to see more of and people are becoming proud of it," she says.

"I think my paper is really a part of the revitalisation of te reo Māori."

She says the response to the wrapping paper has been overwhelming, with many people taking time to reach out and leave positive comments about what she's doing on her social media pages.

"I think it's so neat how people think it's clever."

She has also been blown away by the different uses people have found for the products, such as making large bows out of the wrapping paper.

"I've seen people use it in such creative ways that I could have never even imagined – it's so amazing."

While Ngata-Henare eventually hopes to study business at university when she graduates high school, in the meantime she is focused on developing new designs for her wrapping paper and expanding the business' product range so she can "grow Māu Designz as a whole". 

This article was created for Dell.