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Messina Waitaci

For three years Messina Waitaci has quietly gone about building her tourism business. 

Her company, Tino Pai Tours, was going well and she had identified opportunities to expand, but “I never had the confidence to take that next step”.

But that’s all changed after Messina took part in Pakihi - a nationwide series of free business workshops and mentoring sessions being delivered by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and business partners Crowe Horwath and Aotahi, backed by the Māori Innovation Fund – He kai kei aku ringa and managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).

Tino Pai Tours offers one-day and weekend tours to iconic tourist attractions within the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, predominantly for international students studying in New Zealand.

Messina, who is also a Kaiwhakarite Matua at Te Puna Mātauranga, says it’s great to be able to show international visitors parts of the country they wouldn’t normally get to see.

“I enjoy interacting with international students. I feel like I’m helping them learn a little bit more about New Zealand and Māori culture - I absolutely love what I do.”

Messina’s initial business plan was to build Tino Pai Tours to provide experiences for international students studying in Aotearoa, and to do it while working full-time, raising a family and studying towards a Masters in Indigenous Studies.

“I come from a pastoral care background and saw an untapped opportunity while I worked at university. Students expressed a desire to see and experience Aotearoa during their short stay,” she says.

What makes Tino Pai Tours different is that it offers an authentic Māori experience - offering whanaungatanga, kotahitanga and manaakitanga through shared kai, which is provided free throughout the tours. They visit places that are off the beaten track, participate in cultural activities and are picked up and dropped off from their accommodation.

Messina says she was attracted to the Pakihi programme by the range of the workshops on offer and says she has been able to apply a lot of what she was taught into her business. 

Pakihi was launched in July and so far 292 people have attended the 30 workshops which have been held in Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Hamilton, Auckland, Nelson and Hastings, with another 170 to come.

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Business Development manager Bryce Turner says that participants have told us that they have found the workshops extremely valuable and helpful.

Messina was part of the Whānaua – Business Growth section of the Pakihi programme, which is aimed at businesses that have been operating for more than two years and are looking at expanding. 

The Whānaua section provides four workshops – marketing, business innovation, financial capability and exporting – along with one-on-one mentoring with a business coach who provides tailored advice for each specific business.

After attending the workshops, Messina says the facilitators’ skill in simplifying business processes made them easier to understand and use in her business.

“I was able to apply those learnings to grow the business further and it also gave me the confidence to take that next step.”

Messina says the workshops provided plenty of opportunities for networking with other Māori business owners and helped build confidence in sharing ideas. 

“Confidence is something you can feed off and the networking gave us the confidence to help each other grow.”

She found the mentoring sessions with business mentors Heta Hudson and Ira Wilkinson the most useful parts of Pakihi.

“The one-on-ones were fantastic. They could share experiences that were relevant to me and reassured me that I had the ability to rectify my mistakes. My mentor, Heta - who is a trustee of White Island Tours - shared experiences that I could relate to and that I could learn from and utilise in my business. The mentors have a lot more integrity than some I have seen and I have a lot of confidence in them,” she says.

“I have identified a new niche I could expand into but without this programme I would never have had to confidence to do it.”

Messina says she would “totally recommend” the Pakihi programme for anyone either contemplating going into business or already running their own business.

Messina’s top tips for business:

  • Surround yourself with supportive people who will help you grow and develop your business.
  •  Take on board all feedback given to implement and improve your business.
  • You might be afraid of failure, but don’t give up – you will get there with persistence.
  • Intertwining Māori values into my business is what sets my business apart for the unique kiwi experience.
    • Whanaungatanga – Treat our clients like family and how we would look to be treated.
    • Maanakitanga – Hosting our clients and making sure there needs are catered for throughout the tour.
    • Kotahitanga – We are all one and united during the tour, we do everything together.-Tauutuutu – Share our culture and let our clients share these with us to learn from each other.
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