Aotea Made skincare founder Tama Toki on his products inspired by traditional Māori herbal remedies

Aotea Island (Great Barrier Island) on the outer Hauraki Gulf is home to a unique Māori business that produces a range of health and skincare products inspired by traditional Māori herbal remedies.

"We have a range of kinds of health care products, but those key tenants are things like kumarahou, kawakawa, mānuka and harakeke," said Tama Toki, a lawyer turned entrepreneur who is the founder of Aotea Made.

The business launched in 2017 and five years later, the appetite for Aotea Made skincare is significant. Toki is selling domestically and overseas with distribution deals in Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. 

Despite the challenge of his products being sustainably produced on the Island of Aotea, Toki said it's skincare with a kaupapa.

"The main purpose of Aotea Made is to strengthen the community living on the island. It's creating job opportunities and we're doing it under our own steam."

And the 31-year-old isn't your average skincare mogul. 

"I was fortunate enough to grow up alongside my nanny and koro. From that unique upbringing I was able to learn about traditional Māori medicine," Toki said.

"So you start to pick up little things. And so in the winter, for example, in the winter there's always kumarahou steeping, things like that, which were pretty special but not unique."

Toki has big plans for the future, including broadening the business from therapeutic products to Aotea solar energy.

"The free cash flow is still investing back into the island. We're still building on the island. We're still looking at concepts around battery technology and around solar technology." 

And giving back to his hapori is something Toki will continue to do through his business. 

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.