THE second national hui for Maori business networks and enterprises - Te Hekenga II - will bring a range of speakers and delegates to the Bay of Plenty later this month to discuss ways of boosting Maori participation in the small and medium-sized enterprises sector.
"A lot of our members are lacking support," said Lara Northcroft, chairwoman of Takiwai, a Maori business network created to support Rotorua SMEs.
"We have Maori businesses here with great ideas and passion and drive, but often the support isn't there for how to run a business, how to navigate business plans, strategies and tax issues."
One in three New Zealand workers was employed in a small business and SMEs made up about 97 per cent of businesses in New Zealand, according to the first Small Business Sector report, recently released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. And almost 70 per cent of them were single-worker businesses.
"A lot of the businesses in our network are small one-man bands or those having up to five employees," said Ms Northcroft.
"Business compliance is a big issue for them."
Te Hekenga II will be held at the ASB Arena in Tauranga on September 18 and 19, and follows a first conference in 2012. Event organiser Buddy Mikaere said during the past couple of years there had been a continuation of the strong Maori presence at the top end of business, with major iwi trusts such as Ngai Tahu, Tainui and Ngati Whatua.
And Maori continued to provide the unskilled and semi-skilled workers in traditional primary industries such as farming, fishing and forestry, as well as food processing and manufacturing and infrastructure construction, said Mr Mikaere.
"We're aiming to fill the gap for Maori between the top and the bottom, where we believe there's a role for Maori business networks," he said.
That was a sensible goal for the Maori Business Network.
Anthony Olsen, a Bay of Connections trustee who sits on the Maori Economic Development Strategy advisory group, said the strategy group had recognised that there was already a high degree of entrepreneurial activity among Maori in the Bay of Plenty.
"Maori are in fact well represented within small and medium-sized business," he said. The hui would ask the SMEs what issues they faced, the potential employment opportunities in developing those businesses, and how the Maori business networks could help.
Ms Northcroft said while there were existing Maori networks for some specific industries in Rotorua, Takiwai had been created to provide support for smaller businesses across all sectors.
Takiwai also drew upon the experience of larger Rotorua Maori enterprises and iwi collectives for guidance and advice.
Takiwai's activities included running workshops on the IRD, employment law and marketing.
"Tourism, forestry and agriculture are the main industries that feed our economy," she said. "But we also have a lot happening in the arts, and we've got some really exciting small businesses in IT and technology around graphics and website development, gaming and software development."
The work being done with the Maori Economic Development Strategy was important, said Ms Northcroft.
"But meanwhile, people are still starting businesses with little support or experience," she said. "The networks are on the ground, wrapping around them."