A global report says New Zealand is one of the best places in the world for women entrepreneurs. Is it true for Māori women?
Start-up founder Candice Pardy was rejected by investors so many times she was starting to question if it was because she was Māori.
She spent seven months raising capital before landing any for her brainchild Jobloads, an app that connects farm workers and growers with a focus on making every job experience tika, or right.
"It's really difficult to go out and find money as a woman of colour," she told the Herald, "people don't think that as a Māori woman I'd be able to do it."
"I'll go out and walk in the shops and people ask me if I'm a shopkeeper," said Kylee Potae, Māori sector leader at accounting and financial services firm BDO New Zealand.
"You're up against a mindset people don't even know they've got."
New Zealand has come out tops in Asia Pacific - and fourth in the world - for its support of women in business, according to this year's Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, an analysis of 58 economies.
New Zealand's strong ranking is based on its high representation of female business leaders and professionals, as well as favourable conditions like access to resources to start a business.
Experiences on the ground paint an uneven picture for Māori women.
Access to capital is the biggest challenge, says Teresa Tepania-Ashton, CEO of Māori Women's Development Inc, a second-chance lender started in 1987 to address this very problem.
The reasons are many and systemic. Māori women are less likely to get funding for their start-ups because "they haven't prepared well enough, haven't got enough equity, and can't talk to the proposal," she said.
Many can't afford professional advice and services, and lack the tools and know-how to click with investors.
Indigenous women do think and work differently, and on multiple levels, says Potae.
Making money is important but often not the driving force.
Case in point, Pardy's focus with Jobloads is on the vulnerable worker.
"The sole parent struggling to make ends meet, coming from a different cultural background. A lot of people in New Zealand fit the brief, particularly Māori and Pacific Islanders."
On her persimmon orchard, Pardy has seen workers run out of phone credit so they could not tell employers they were not coming to work when, for instance, their kids fell ill.
"They became whakama or embarrassed about not having money for credit, and because of that, they don't come back to work again."
The Jobloads app is looking remove this cultural barrier, easing communication with a conversational chatbot on a free 0800 number for workers to call and tell growers if they can't come to work. The app is in the testing stage and scheduled to launch next year in the key growing regions of Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty.
Three per cent of Māori women - nearly 6500 - own and work in their own business, according to a 2019 report by the Ministry of Women. And they're sustainable - the majority of businesses studied in the report have been running for six years or more.
There is growing recognition of the value Māori women bring to business, says Potae, but they still have a few extra strong tides to swim against.
"The stereotype of a Māori woman is A, you're a shopkeeper or labourer, or B, you're a troublemaker and all you're going to talk about is fairness and equity."
"You just have to rise above and get out of it, but that's an added challenge."
Women help women
Pardy's advice? Seek out other women who can and will help you. The tide finally turned for Jobloads when she got funding last month from SheEO, a women's investment network led by Kiwi entrepreneur Theresa Gattung.
Government agencies like Callaghan and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise both have specific units supporting Māori businesses.
Māori Women's Development Inc has offered loans to hundreds of Māori women ventures, mainly in food and hospitality, who have been turned away by mainstream banks.
"We take a holistic view, not a banking view, of how and why problems exist to help women get the funding," said CEO Tepania-Ashton.
"Imagine if the world did that?"