Māori economy thriving, growth largely driven by increasing number of Māori women owning own business, new report finds

The Māori economy is currently worth $70 billion and with it steadily growing at 5 percent per annum, it's expected to reach $100 billion in assets by 2030.

A new report by Te Puni Kōkiri shows an emerging factor in that growth is the increasing number of Māori women now owning their own businesses.

Business owner Nichola Te Kiri loved designing and making clothes long before she decided to quit her old job and make a business out of her passion.

"For me, it started as something that was a sideline thing, a hobby, when I was working full-time, and gave the commitment full 100 percent in 2016 and I haven't looked back."

The Te Matapaeroa Report found that Māori-owned businesses are growing steadily, but more so with Māori women at the helm.

And Māori women now own almost 40 percent of all Māori businesses.

"We are so passionate in what we believe in and who we do things for and which is often not just ourselves but our whānau our hapū and iwi," said Te Kiri.

Māori Women's Development Incorporation supports women starting or expanding companies and requests for their loans, and services have increased in the last financial year. CEO Linda Clay said when COVID got tough, Māori women got going.

"In the past two years, we have witnessed how resilient our women are. When the 2020 lockdowns hit, we had women in event management diversify into courier and delivery services and retail outlets to completely online."

Sectors, where Māori woman owners are thriving, are education, health care, accommodation food services and retail.

Entrepreneur Rhonda Kite has been operating in the media space for 30 years. Her company Kiwa Digital translates media content on apps into different languages. 

She believes Māori women approach business from a different perspective.

"We look at things totally different. We look at people, we look at the planet and then we look at profit," she said.

"It doesn't mean profit is a dirty word, it means we come at it from a different perspective. Mainstream tend to look at it straight away as profit."

Māori women generally don't invest in non-Maori companies, but non-Maori women definitely do invest in Māori companies - 61 percent of those businesses have non-Māori women as active shareholders.

And that may be because the Māori economy is growing faster than the overall New Zealand economy, which follows a trend seen worldwide with indigenous businesses.

Indigenous Trade and Economies consultant Carrie Stoddard-Smith is seeing a "real hunger" to export indigenous economies.

"So a big interest in trade and getting bigger, like tribal assets. Being able to use tribal assets in a commercial way where people can bring in, I guess, more income through trade revenues, rather than relying on domestic markets alone."

Māori women have realised the untapped potential of their heritage and their interest in it both in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world.

"There's a real openness and I feel things are really changing within our environment and in our society in regards to Māori and Māori businesses especially," said Te Kiri. 

Māori economy thriving, growth largely driven by increasing number of Māori women owning own business, new report finds