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Maori women in business shine, with national recognition

It’s time for Maori women in business to shine, says one of the region’s three Maori Women’s Development Inc (MWDI) Award winners.

Outstanding performances in business by Maori women in Gisborne Tairawhiti have been recognised nationally at the MWDI Awards.

TC Logistics founder Carla Seymour Mansell won the Te Tairawhiti Regional Award.

CK and Co owner Caroline Kingi won two awards, the Growth and Employment award and the People and Capability award.

Tolaga Bay Innovation founder Lily Stender won the Social Enterprise Award.

Mrs Seymour Mansell said receiving the regional award felt empowering.

“It is a huge honour to receive the Te Tairawhiti Regional Award for Maori Women in Business and I’m greatly humbled by it.

“I’m sure we have all felt those moments as business owners where you feel like you are paddling the waka on your own and getting nowhere.

“I am a female running a trucking company, so I am the minority.

“To be acknowledged on this scale is acknowledgement that I am not alone in trying to transform this industry for the better, that others also see value in what I am doing.

“I hope the award and acknowledgement transpires into my business and helps remove barriers I face in the forestry and transport industry.

“All three businesses representing Tairawhiti at the awards were winners and that’s an amazing accomplishment for Tairawhiti and Maori women in business,” Mrs Seymour Mansell said.

“I would hope this encourages all other Maori women thinking of starting a business, to do so.

“Those who currently have businesses should put their hands up and enter the MWDI awards 2020,” she said.

Ms Kingi said getting the two awards felt surreal and overwhelming.

“I think all the hard work I’ve done is validated by being recognised nationally.

“I have plans to expand my business and even set up a youth training programme — it’s still early days but this award reminds me I know what I’m doing,” Ms Kingi said.

She thinks more Maori women need to take the bull by the horns and get into it.

“Personally I would rather fade into the background and stay in the shadows, but this year I realised it was time to shine.

“I hope more Maori women decide to pursue their goals,” she said.

Ms Stender said it was not about the accolades but being given the opportunity to profile their business on a national platform.

“We are really thankful MWDI has given us this opportunity. It’s a chance for us to show the country we know what we are doing.

“Hopefully when we knock on bigger doors to expand the work we are doing, they will listen.

“We are on a mission — this isn’t a joke to us, our people suffer on the ground levels and we want to build our own sustainable livelihoods.”

Maori women in business were important because they had a bit more heart, Ms Stender said.

“It’s not about the almighty dollar. What drives us is making sure ourselves and whanau are taken care of, now and in the future.

“Anyone else out there with an idea shouldn’t be afraid to pursue it,” she said.

“This year we had over 90 entries, across seven regional categories and six business categories,” MWDI chair Druis Barrett said.

“The winning businesses show that Maori businesswomen are changing lives for their whanau, not just themselves.”