THE 3 Māori Boys, founders of the non-alcoholic beverage Wai Mānuka, have come away from their global adventures with a stronger local-based focus.
Travelling to New York City, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, Joe Harawira was away for a month with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, on behalf of Wai Mānuka.
The consumption of non-alcoholic beverages in those three different areas is said to be very strong, with Mr Harawira’s trip allowing him to gain more insight and understanding of where Wai Mānuka could expand.
He said many key leads emerged from all three areas. Some of these leads included being “in talks” with Emirates airline in Dubai and doing work further with the Saudi Arabian Government and the New Zealand Trade Commissioner.
However, while the possibilities to grow Wai Mānuka globally are looking good, Mr Harawira said the most important message that was taken away from the trip was to create a stronger home base in Aotearoa.
“It brought our focus back to the here and now, and the need to actually create a base that will enable us to grow and absorb some of the challenges we’ll come across when we export,” he said.
“Exporting versus selling locally ... time frames go up, the cost of everything goes up. “And as a small business, if you get it wrong, that could be the end of you. It would be pretty hard to recover.”
Wai Mānuka’s desire to focus locally is paying off with new partnerships with Event Cinemas, the Hurricanes rugby team, Foodstuffs, and Accor Hotels.
However, there were many insights taken away from the trip. Starting with New York City, Harawira was exposed to the huge demand for manuka honey overseas, and how Wai Mānuka could play into that.
Many regular supermarkets did not stock manuka honey products because of the sky-high prices, but when sent to a boutique supermarket, he was shocked at what came next.
“The manuka honey is kept behind the counter in a locked cabinet, like a safe. Because it’s so highly valued and it’s in short supply, there’s a real premium pricing on manuka honey.”
In Saudi Arabia and Dubai, Mr Harawira was drawn towards two values that the country shared with Māori culture; kaitiakitanga (guardianship and conservation) and manaakitanga (hospitality and generosity).
Saudi Arabia wants to facilitate the first fully sustainable city in the world, according to Mr Harawira.
Dubai also holds a similar goal, with Sheikh Mohammed, vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, holding a vision for Dubai to be the most beautiful city by 2040.
“When I was there (Dubai) walking around, everything was so clean and spotless,” said Mr Harawira.
Manaakitanga is also a value that the people of Saudi Arabia and Dubai hold highly in business relationships.
“In New York, it’s hard and fast, transactional, ‘what’s in it for me?’
“In Saudi Arabia and Dubai, it’s still about ‘what’s in it for me?’ But there’s a stronger connection around culture, relationships, values, those long-term things.”
Mr Harawira saw this first-hand in an interaction with a Saudi Arabian prince, whom he met privately for business matters.
Mr Harawira said that 80 percent of their conversation revolved around the differences between Saudi Arabia and Aotearoa.
“It wasn’t until the last part where he just said, ‘I really love your products and my team are reviewing it, and you’ll hear from them, thank you’,” said Mr Harawira.
“I get the feeling that in the Middle East, it doesn’t matter how good your business might be ... if you don’t have that relationship, and you’re not meeting with them (business partners) two or three times a year, then it probably won’t work.”
Mr Harawira’s main tip for Aotearoa businesses wanting to expand globally is to “act local but think global”.
While businesses can grow successfully in Aotearoa, exponential growth can only hit a certain point due to our country simply not having the numbers and capital, he said.
Heading offshore opens businesses up to more possibilities.
The 3 Māori Boys are grateful for the business growth opportunities in Aotearoa.
“It takes you to go overseas and see how other people live to realise that, holy heck, we really are so fortunate to be where we are and be able to do the things we do.”
The trio are excited about Wai Mānuka’s future, seeing many more “pros than cons” in their goal to become global with their strengthened Aotearoa focus.
“Coming away from the trip, it was really good to get the validation from different markets that we’re on to something special.”