Whangarei students who won a Maori business challenge with their idea to create te reo Maori app say the event has sparked their interest in business.

About 80 students from Kamo High School, Whangarei Girls' High School, Whangarei Boys' High School, and Te Kapehu Whetu took part in the Maori Business Challenge at Terenga Paraoa Marae last week.

As part of the challenge - delivered by Te Puni Kokiri, Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and the Young Enterprise Trust - students were placed in groups, asked to identify a problem, create a business idea to solve that problem, and then had to pitch their creations to a panel of judges.

The winning team was Te Ao, a group of students from Te Kapehu Whetu and Whangarei Girls' High School.

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Shawnee Samuels, a member of Te Ao, said since the challenge she and other members have become extremely interested in business.

"It was really challenging but we thought about our culture and how it's dying. So we thought about what people or kids are playing these days - which are apps. So we thought of apps and te reo Maori," Shawnee said.

The group envisaged creating an app which would allow users to create their own avatar - a Maori boy or girl, choose their iwi and what dialect they speak, and play mini games to improve Maori vocabulary and sentence structure.

"We all need te reo," the girls said.

"Our culture isn't just like any other culture. Ours is really special and it's got a lot of history behind it that you can learn," said Shawnee.

The group had to do market research to determine how much interest there was in te reo Maori, how much it would cost to create the app, and how much they would charge for the app so it was affordable but profitable.

"We discovered there wasn't as many Maori apps as we thought there would be. There was a couple, but not much," said Tekarehu Diamond, another group member.

The three-day challenge, which started last Wednesday, gave students one day to come up with ideas, a day to research, and the last day was when they presented their ideas.

"We learned how to actually do business. We didn't have a clue about it until we did that challenge," said Shawnee.