A desire to contribute to her iwi has seen a South Auckland scaffolding company grow from nothing to 18 staff in a little over two years.
Korin and Anthony McKillop launched Steadfast Scaffolding in Papakura in 2018 with just four staff and business has quickly quadrupled to the extent they now intend expanding into Northland, where the original business idea came from.
Korin says a big part of their success came from working for her iwi and the skills she gained from the Certificate in Small Business and Project Management (CSBPM) and Diploma in Small Business and Project Management courses she undertook at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
“I was inspired to do the courses through working with my iwi, Ngāi Takoto,” she says.
“They were talking about how every iwi has a strategic plan for employment, so we thought we’ve got to get our knowledge into that space of knowing what we’re talking about. We had the kōrero about starting a business of our own and potentially linking into the iwi to help create jobs, and that’s how it all sort of come about.
While Anthony has 20 years’ experience in scaffolding, Korin says they had no previous business experience.
“We just figured, why don’t we turn this into something that he’s got a passion for. I enjoy people so I thought let’s put those two passions together and create a business.”
While there were plenty of options to study business, Korin says Te Wānanga o Aotearoa stood out.
“What attracted me was the fact that it’s Māori-based and that mattered to me, because it’s the ethics and the values of the institution. That mattered for me as Māori because I really wanted to be in a place that upheld those values.”
And her decision paid off.
“Totally. They gave me the confidence to get further skills. I think the CSBPM course, that opened my eyes. I had in my mind a particular vision, but learning about all the legalities, employment law, leadership, that sort of broadened my scope,” she says.
“I still use all those tools I learnt every day, what I learnt there I put into practice. They were awesome, I couldn’t get enough of them. These courses are invaluable. I honestly think a lot of people, especially Māori and Pasifika, they have a lot of potential to start businesses that are authentic to our culture, values and ethics and if they took this opportunity it would broaden their ambitions.”
And as a busy mother of five, Korin says the night classes suited her family life.
“I just thought, if I’m going to go in, I’ve got to go all in. I don’t have time during the day, I’ve got kids at kura and kids in daycare, so nights were perfect. Anthony, you come home and look after the kids, I’m off to learn.”
And learn she did.
“The courses give you the tools to be in the game long term, not just to be an opportunist business. The way that things have panned out have been way more successful than we originally thought, and it’s brought that 5-10 year plan a whole lot closer. They really gave me eye-opening knowledge.”
Now that the business is firmly established, Korin says they are focussing on upskilling their staff.
“I think the future for Steadfast is going to expand and our plan for our employees – who are mostly whānau - is to raise them up to become managers and to become branch managers and we want to guide them into running their own small franchise business, that’s the goal. Ultimately we want to expand this brand and take it to the north where my people are, my iwi are to create jobs there.”