The first Startup Weekend with an Pacific focus in Wellington was filled with big business ideas, hard work, collaboration and a whole lot of Pacific spirit. The weekend-long entrepreneurship journey saw the development of 12 business plans from Pacific and Maori participants, under the mentorship of 12 experienced entrepreneurs which included three from Pacific Business Trust.
Despite the 54-hour time limit to build an entire business from scratch, PBT Business Growth Manager David Wilson says the calibre of ideas and businesses involved in the Pasifika Start Up Weekend were top notch.
Involved from the start, David was originally approached by Victoria University and the volunteer-based Startup Weekend team.
He helped organise the event and mentored throughout the course of the weekend.
“Our three PBT mentors – myself, Richard Taurima and Zachariah Reuelu – worked tirelessly over the weekend. We were general dog’s bodies as well,” David laughs.
He commended the Startup Weekend Wellington volunteers for their work over the last five months and Whitireia for providing their premises free of charge.
“The volunteers, mentors, organising committee and those normally involved in running a startup weekend did an amazing job and all did it for love not money.”
However as the first ever Pacific-oriented startup weekend, they had their work cut out for them, from getting people to attend and pitch their ideas, to choosing their favourite ideas, forming teams and developing their businesses plans.
“It all culminated in pitching a 5-minute business plan to a panel of judges that included the Mayor of Porirua Mike Tana- with an audience filled with their friends and family as well as half a dozen potential investors.”
PBT’s touch made the Startup Weekend a comfortable place for Pacific entrepreneurs to go and get out of their comfort zone while exploring business ideas.
Perise Iupeli was a second-place-equal winner with her team D.E.A.R, a programme to help integrate new migrants into the community quickly and effectively through education.
“This weekend helped bring to light some key functions of starting up a business in a really conducive environment,” says Perise.
“With likeminded people who are also empowered to pursue the business visions in their heart, it was a great atmosphere to put into practice some really tangible ideas!”
David, along with the judges, was blown away by the calibre of ideas and business plans.
“The ideas were quite pervasive in terms of their social focus, so many people were trying to start up social enterprises because Pacific people care,” says David.
“The environment was refreshingly filled with a sense of community. You can imagine what the lunches and dinners were like, with people laughing and getting to know each other, discussing ideas about the community- things that are natural to Pacific people.”
Normally people get into their little silos of groups, and there’s a lot of competitiveness and insularity, however the Startup team were struck by the Pasifika Startup Weekend’s atmosphere.
“It was refreshing for them to see, and this is a pat on the back for Pacific in general, the sense of community, sharing and bonding that happened just naturally over the weekend.”
Puawai Solo was part of ‘Creating Champions’ a business that mentors high performance athletes to provide better tools to enable them to cope with success and money.
She said attending the Pasifika Startup Weekend was an amazing experience.
“We learned critical principles and strategies to help build a foundation from which to act as a springboard to putting our own business concepts into action,” says Puawai.
Puawai’s team were really challenged in finding solutions with regards to the viability, validity and financial profitability of their idea.
“It really was a great weekend and we are still running around to catch up with the interest that has been generated by our concept ‘Creating Champions’.”
When asked when the next Pasifika Startup Weekend is likely to occur David says it’s hard to tell.
“However considering the response from the Pacific community in Porirua, the natural move would be for us to team up with Startup Weekend again and do one in South Auckland, the Pacific capital of the world. In fact just a couple of days ago we had preliminary discussions about replicating this in South Auckland and, well, let me just say it would be a good idea to keep in touch with our website and Facebook page in the first quarter of next year ”
Winners and second equal were:
Winner: Sign Friendly
A tech-based service designed to make daily life for the deaf easier and more communicative with society at large. A web-based course teaches basic signing that leads to an accreditation. The smart-phone app can then identify businesses and services that are accredited, in your current geographic location, so the deaf can use them and have a more successful and happier experience in going about their daily lives in a way that most of us take for granted.
Second equal: Awhi
A socially-minded business with a purpose to increase the use of basic maternity and young child services by the disadvantaged in our society. Using a buy-one-give-one model, donors will purchase baby products from the website knowing that when they do a similar item will be donated to a family/expectant family in need. When a disadvantaged family signs up for any of the designated services they will receive a free basket of baby products.
Second equal: D.E.A.R.
After having noticed that new migrants at their school were alone and not fitting in, the girls from D.E.A.R. decided they needed to do something about it. Their idea is to devise a school programme that will help integrate new migrants into the community quickly and effectively by educating other students about their society and the countries they come from and to get them involved in activities with the other students.