Whiua Ki Te Ao 2020: Navigating the Waters in Uncertain Times

Whiua ki te Ao is Velocity’s annual event celebrating and highlighting Māori and Pacific engagement in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This year, we were privileged to be joined by a range of speakers in different industries holding strong beliefs in Māori and Pacific students’ capacity and capabilities to assist with rebuilding New Zealand post-COVID-19. 


Whiua ki te Ao aims to inspire students to view the world in a different light and give them the tools to work through a problem and create a solution. On Monday, 11 May, three guest speakers joined us with 76 participants: Fale Andrew Lesa, who is a global policymaker and the only Pacific director to sit on the board of MIT and UNITEC. Philippa Holmes, who is a social impact designer and founder of Aspargove: a social venture aimed at creating social impact with strong community-focused events and initiatives. Lastly, Miriana Lowrie, who is the founder of 1Centre, which is a tech start-up that assists companies with client onboarding.


Fale Andrew Lesa addressed the potential for many Māori and Pacific students to reshape the New Zealand environment. He highlighted that the most significant change you can create for your community is to plan and execute strategies and initiatives from the top down. Furthermore, he expressed what it means to look through a Pacific lens and the holistic approach to understanding and learning that would benefit many initiatives, companies and policies.


Philippa Holmes shared the collective approach many Polynesian cultures take when heading into the unknown; she described it as “I am an ingredient, not the whole cake”. When it comes to teamwork, utilising team members’ strengths is essential. Philippa also highlighted social entrepreneurship as being more of a mindset than about the vehicle itself. Although social entrepreneurship is all about helping your communities, the biggest priority should be yourself and your wellbeing.


Miriana Lowrie highlighted that entrepreneurship is not a race and that anyone can do it with perseverance. “Becoming an entrepreneur has never been easier, succeeding as one is difficult.” For Miriana, she experienced this firsthand starting up a tech company with little technical ability, but that did not stop her. Miriana also highlighted the Māori values that helped her to succeed in her entrepreneurial journey. Values such as trust, respect and caring for one another have all assisted guiding Miriana and 1Centre to where it is today.


The event concluded with help from Commerce O’ Pasifika – the Commerce association for Pacific students at the business school where we ended the call with further inspiration, insight and a Tiktok.

By Nicholas Bing