Tuhi Stationery has basically become a household name in Te Ao Māori, and 5 years in business is definitely worth celebrating.
We caught up with Geneva at Te Matatini, about what this past year has been like as a business owner, what it’s like running a Pakihi around matauranga Māori, why she relocated to Samoa, and also what’s next for Tuhi. You might be surprised by her answer 😉
Listen to the full podcast episode on Spotify or continuing reading below for some snippets.
Geneva: Ko Geneva Harrison ahau. Nō Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahi engari e noho i Hamoa. So yes from the far north, whakapapa to Ngāti Kahu, Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa and I currently live in Samoa.
Tuhi Stationery was started in 2018 so we're coming up to year five and I've had the business for the last two and a half years on my own. And in the last two years we expanded it also into doing Samoan resources as well. And then, beginning of the year I moved to Samoa and we outsource the running of the business to 3PL.
Manawa: Yeah, we'll talk about five year, five years and business and we'll talk about what it's like that far down the track. It's quite fitting we sitting in the MWDI tent, where both of us kicked our pakihi off with an MWDI loan almost five years ago. So that's that's pretty choice. Linda was the accountant. Now she's the CEO. We're nearly there, I've got six more payments! But what is it like being in a pakihi that's focused on Matarangi Māori?
G: I guess that's how we originally started. We wanted to bring more Matarangi Māori into everyday space, make it more accessible and then as we've as we've grown, you know, we've, we've expanded into other things. You know, we've, we've created children's resources, educational resources, and then we've got a Sāmoan range. But I guess it's still really important to us every time we design and you'll know as a creative and I'm always looking for what is the whakapapa of something? You know, where did I actually got this from? What does it actually, I guess, contribute to?
And it's funny too, because I get asked so many times for different products and I'm always of the belief of creating things that I think there is something missing. Currently. I don't create things where I think there's already five of them in existence or anything like that. Every time I've created something, I've always thought there is something missing and I think I can add value to it. If I don't think I can add value to it. Then I think our moment, it's a waste of time.
M: As any good business owner should know, you've got to fill a need, right?
G: I think you have to balance that because. Oh my God, if I get asked one more time about making wall planners, I think you have to balance that with obviously business demand. I know there's certain products, if we ever developed, I know it would be successful. If I can add to it, then I'll do it.
I think I think there's some great stuff out there. I don't see other Māori businesses as my competition. I think we are just part of a small ecosystem. Our competition is the massive ecosystem out there that we need to compete with, not each other.
So every time I see something that is really awesome, I think, "Oh, I'd rather recommend and support that" than try to duplicate and compete with it.
M: We're all in here to just kind of get ahead and you might as well do what you can to add to the kete, not try and increase friction.
G: It's scarcity mindset. If you already think like that and if you're worried about who you're competing with and all that kind of stuff, it's because your view of the world is only here. I'm a little small ball, instead of realising that Te ao is actually massive.
You've just got to find your niche within that. I'm really supportive of other Māori businesses. I know I get a lot of feedback from people, because I share a lot of information on TikTok and people always say, "Oh, you know, you shouldn't share who your suppliers are." And I'm like, "Why? You'll always bring something different and unique. Like no one is going to exactly copy what you do, but might get inspired by you or you might get inspired by others or whatever, but you're always still uniquely you. And you'll always still have your own audience. And all the rest of it, that's why it doesn't bother me.
M: And I love that about you. I've learned so much about business from you. I love that. I love that you're happy to share and I love that you say things as they need to be said. (You) don't muck around. There's been so many times, you may or may not know this, but you've said stuff that has really encouraged me or helped me. Helped me in a place where I'm not quite sure what to do, and you just say how it is and it gives like encouragement that we need sometimes to just keep going. That's just me, myself. I'm sure you've done that to heaps of people.
Did you ever think you'd be a famous Tik Toker?
G: It's so funny! I just quite like the medium. I know I'm only, you know, real small time. Small little business owner. But then I just keep, I just keep looking around and I keep thinking, "If no one's talking about all this simple stuff... starting out in your garden, in your shed or in your kitchen table, who else are you going to listen to?" Because when you listen to the the big Tiktokers, all the big businesses, it just seems too far ahead. You know, like for me, I always listen to the people who are just ahead. I think if you listen to people who are miles ahead, you'll just get too discouraged. It's too far. It's too big. It's too scary. But if you can sort of just look a little bit ahead of yourself and think, "Oh, yep, I can do this and give it a go."
M: So five years you've been running Tuhi Stationery, what have you noticed in the whole space of Mataurangi Māori now that it's becoming a bit more prevalent and a bit more out there and as a whole, our people are reengaging a lot more and re-indigenizing ourselves. What's just some of your thoughts on what's going on in the whole world of sharing Mataurangi Māori.
G: I just want to preface that I am not an expert. But I think it's a lot of different things happening. I get asked this a lot, "Why don't I share so much about Maramataka stuff anymore on our socials?" One is because there are so many people sharing about stuff now. So for one I think, oh well there's lots of kōrero already out there but I don't need to add to it. But also I think in this kind of sharing, it's awesome. But then I guess the flip side that comes with it is a whole lot of stuff comes out. And to be honest, I'm not sure of its origins. And you don't want to discourage people. I'll never discourage another wāhine Māori or anything like that. Ijust think, if I don't understand it, then I'm gonna leave it...
Editors note: Now this awesome kōrero continues for another 24 minutes. We'd love for you to listen to all the gems dropped in this podcast. You can continue listening on Spotify here!