In Founder Focus we introduce entrepreneurs and innovators working on our next generation of new business startups, social enterprises and small businesses.

At a glance

Founder: Awhina Murupaenga

Business: Whatu Creative

Founded: 2021

HQ: Auckland

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

Whatu Creative is a creative arts agency aiming to revive traditional Māori artforms. We launched our company initially to grow workshops and exhibitions in the Far North, but Covid would stall all those plans and we shifted focus to a product.

We launched the Tukutuku Toi Kit on 17th October 2021 with a Google form link on social media and sold out 200 kits in one hour. We were an overnight success and have done our best to keep up with Whatu and scale too. We hit 100k sales in 3.5 months. The growth in sales and our brand has been huge in our startup phase. We now live in Auckland with huge opportunities on the horizon and looking at investment to hit those goals faster.

What’s the backstory for your business idea?

Whatu Creative came off the back of serving (volunteering) my marae art gallery Te Whare Whiri Toi in Ahipara for eight years. I spent time with elders who shared their knowledge and lived in the beautiful Far North that fostered the entrepreneur within me. One thing I was good at was selling all the handmade woven goods in our gallery, but replacing that handmade kete or cloak would prove harder than expected. I guess the seasonal elements of our fibres, the relaxed nature of living in the Far North and the fact our weavers were elderly and in ‘retirement’ sparked the innovation.

I wanted to design a contemporary beginners kit to introduce Māori artforms that took some of the labour of love required in reviving traditional artforms. Tukutuku would be the perfect prototype to launch with as we had real life experience teaching two kura through the Creatives in Schools initiative.

What programmes, learning or mentoring have been of assistance so far?

  • I learnt about e-commerce on the Ka Hao i te Ao course.
  • I did most of The Pitch a Northland accelerator with support from Northland Inc.
  • I attended the Powermoves Founders Summit in 2022 and won a few awards along the way including a Northland Business Excellence Award and a Tai Tokerau Māori Business Award.


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