A Havelock North woman humbly accepted her New Year Honour on behalf of many who she says deserved it more.
Sarah Reo has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Māori and education.
She is the co-founder of education provider Cultureflow, established in 2002, which developed innovative methods of delivering te reo and tikanga Māori training programmes to encourage the uptake of Māori language among a new generation of learners.
Ms Reo said she initially thought she would turn down the honour because she felt there were many people who should have been recognised before her such as her mother and others of that generation.
"I was pretty overwhelmed when they first rang.
"It's very humbling to be singled out, a little bit embarrassing to me."
However, she decided accepting the accolade was a way of acknowledging her parents' generation who provided opportunities and set a high standard for future generations to aspire to.
"That generation went without, they did so much. They really sacrificed," she said.
"I feel like they have contributed a lot more, my acceptance is in honour of them.
"On behalf of all of them I accept it with absolute humility."
Ms Reo's achievements are a reflection of how she was brought up and she continues to try to add more value in her work to honour her parents' generation, she said.
"There's so much work that we can do to try and live up to their example ... that's a really strong legacy that they've left behind."
Ms Reo has just returned from a Fulbright Platinum-Triangle Business Scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii for two years.
She graduated with an Executive Master of Business Administration degree in May and has been continuing small business consulting work since her return to New Zealand.
She will also continue her work with Cultureflow which has programmes delivered throughout New Zealand to public and private-sector organisations, not-for-profit groups and tertiary institutes using a mixture of software classes and one-on-one training.
Cultureflow China was developed in 2006 to use these technologies to deliver English language programmes in China.
In 2008 she adjusted the business strategy to include more one-on-one tailored learning for clients and the redesign of the online systems to allow programme facilitation from anywhere in the world.
Cultureflow won Best Regional Business (Wellington) at the 2003 Māori Women's Development Inc. awards, while also receiving the Westpac Chamber of Commerce Award in 2009.
She has contributed to Māori housing projects, mentoring programmes for young women, and employment programmes for the unemployed.