New products used to normalise te reo Māori

A new wave of Māori entrepreneurs are selling products that use te reo Māori in a bid to normalise the language.

Pipi Mā dolls creator Kristin Ross and family. Photo: Supplied

From Māori greeting cards, to tea and coffee containers with te reo labels, Māori businesses are making te reo Māori accessible to whānau.

Making money is not the only thing driving them, said businessman Piripi Winiata.

“We were heading to a baby shower and we knew that they had committed to raising their new baby in te reo Māori,

“We really wanted to get her a card in te reo Māori but there were just none out there.”

Ō-kāri cards are written entirely in te reo Māori Photo: Supplied

That was the catalyst for Ō-Kāri, a boutique online store that sells cards written entirely in te reo Māori.

Mr Winiata started the business nine months ago with his partner – Lee Belk.

“We hope that it plays some small part in the accessibility and normalisation of our language in every day spaces, in every day interaction,” he said.

Nikki Kennedy runs Taputapu which sells household items like mugs and containers with te reo Māori labels on them.

She‘s so passionate about te reo, that she runs Taputapu on top of her full-time studies and job.

“I hope that Taputapu can impact the household. That conversations are being had around te reo Māori in the lounge, in the kitchen, that people are having a cup of tea and using te reo Māori while they‘re having a kōrero.

Taputapu sells household items like mugs and containers with te reo Māori labels on them Photo: Supplied

“There‘s a need to have that money coming in… profit needs to be coming in but there‘s a bigger cause it‘s about preserving our language.”

Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui said whether the business is big or small every little bit counts.

“The more you see a particular language, the more that it‘s used whether it‘s spoken or used in signage, that‘s a signal that the value of the language is growing and the usage of the language is more widespread.”

But running a niche business is not easy, and both Ō-kāri‘s Mr Winiata and Taputapu‘s Ms Kennedy say they are struggling to make a profit.

Taputapu is selling roughly 340 products annually and Ō-kāri is making just enough money to keep the business rolling over.

However, the creators of the te reo Māori speaking Pipi Mā dolls say can be a massive market for products that bring te reo Māori into the home.

A Pipi Mā doll Photo: Supplied

Kristin Ross said their business has grown beyond anything they could have imagined with their dolls now selling worldwide… and the trend is catching on.

“There are a lot of start ups now that are selling or making te reo Māori products and that‘s awesome.

“Anything that is in our world that we can make Māori or we can turn into something to help normlaise te reo Māori in our every day life is amazing.”

Since the dolls came out two years ago, they‘ve expanded their business, creating a te reo Māori children‘s TV show with the Pipi Mā characters.

Ms Ross said it‘s important for Māori entrepreneurs to be bold in their identity and continue to promote te reo Māori.

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