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Coast e-commerce students scoop up scholarships

A Maori e-commerce programme working with global online sales giant Shopify has handed out $30,000 in scholarships to entrepreneurs on the East Coast.

The scholarships have been awarded to Coast applicants for the 12-week bootcamp in e-commerce and digital marketing run by social enterprise Te Whare Hukahuka.

The recipients are Lily Stender, Holly Maitai, Jodie Reid, Jacinda Moran and William Maurirere from Tolaga Bay Innovation, an initiative to drive economic revival in the Tolaga Bay area operating out of the Tolaga Bay Inn.

Tolaga Bay Innovation aims to foster the success of grassroots business and develop digital technology capacity on the Coast.

Ms Stender said the scholarship would allow them to learn the art of digital marketing to create online sales.

“This is imperative for the survival of our Maori businesses to reach wider markets,” she said.

Te Whare Hukahuka developed the programme as part of its mission to improve the lives of 10 million indigenous people.

It has partnered with Shopify and Te Puni Kokiri to offer 65 scholarships worth $487,500 for the online learning programme.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise also contributed toward scholarships for iwi and Maori businesses.

Ms Stender said post-Covid many consumers were becoming more socially aware, heading back to basics and seeking more ethical, local supply groups.

“Indigenous values are paramount in looking after people, land and environment.

“More consumers are wanting authentic, indigenous products and services.

“We require e-commerce platforms to connect with customers and trade nationwide and globally.

“Our small communities cannot sustain our businesses. We need more exposure to external marketplaces.”

Once they complete the online learning programme the recipients hope to be able to create an online shop and understand how to drive traffic to their site.

It is also about connecting with like-minded people to create solid networks to further teach and build tech capabilities on the Coast, Ms Stender says.

As part of the application for the scholarship, the team at Tolaga Bay Innovation had to complete several tasks, including creating short videos.

“It showed that whoever completed the tasks was hungry and serious about creating online businesses.

“It is not easy to create a business. You have to show dedication and commitment to prove you are ready to make the journey.

“They wanted to ensure the chosen people would not waste the scholarships, and work hard at learning the digital marketing strategies to empower their own business journeys.”

Scholarship winners range in age from 18 to 61.

E-commerce and digital marketing programme Ka Hao i te Ao requires participants to form and collaborate in virtual teams around the country and in Australia, where five scholarships have been awarded.

Te Whare Hukahuka chief executive Travis O'Keefe said well over half the available scholarships had been awarded to applicants in smaller towns and rural New Zealand.

“We put more than $250,000 in scholarships where we know it will have the greatest impact — at home, in our smaller, harder-to-reach communities,” Mr O'Keefe said.

The programme starts on August 17 and will include a series of master classes from e-commerce experts around the world.

■ E-commerce, also known as electronic commerce or internet commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet, and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions. Tolaga Bay Innovation is a social enterprise working to create “sustainable livelihoods in our rural homelands”.

IMPROVING DIGITAL CAPABILITY: Lily Stender (right) and Holly Maitai, from Tolaga Bay Innovation, are two of the recipients of scholarships in e-commerce, which they will use to improve their skills and build digital technology capacity on the East Coast. Picture by Paul Rickard