Shopify Invests in Making Māori E-Commerce Program Available Worldwide

Te Whare Hukahuka CEO Travis O’Keefe said his organization’s program is designed to enable more Indigenous businesses around the world to launch online, sell more and do it more efficiently. (Courtesy Te Whare Hukahuka / YouTube)

Global e-commerce giant Shopify is partnering with New Zealand social enterprise Te Whare Hukahuka to build online businesses around the world.

Canada-based Shopify, whose 2019 total revenue was $1.57 billion, houses online stores built by more than a million businesses in 175 countries. It will invest in expanding Te Whare Hukahuka’s e-commerce program internationally.

Te Whare Hukahuka trains Indigenous entrepreneurs to start, grow, market, and manage online retail businesses. As part of the new investment partnership, the Māori enterprise will roll out its flagship e-commerce and digital marketing program Ka Hao i te Ao to other Indigenous nations.

Te Whare Hukahuka CEO Travis O’Keefe said the three-month program — delivered 99 percent online — is designed to enable more Indigenous businesses around the world to launch online, sell more and do it more efficiently.

“We’re working to make entrepreneurship accessible to everyone,” O’Keefe said. “Anyone anywhere can become an entrepreneur and build economic prosperity for their families and communities.


“Our program steers Indigenous business owners toward growing their household income by at least $200 a week, an amount that can have a life-changing multiplier effect on health and mental, social, economic and educational wellbeing.”

As part of its social mission to “improve the lives of 10 million Indigenous people,” Te Whare Hukahuka has worked with Te Puni Kōkiri and Shopify to offer 55 scholarships worth $412,500 for the next course, starting mid-year, with at least two further intakes this year. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise will contribute up to $5,000 to additional scholarship programs with iwi (Māori Tribal groups) and Māori businesses.

Shopify has flagged its commitment to building Indigenous e-commerce capability. Its Lead for Indigenous Entrepreneurs, Jace Meyer, says part of that undertaking is partnering with organizations that can provide the necessary support and expertise.

“We are proud to partner with and invest in Te Whare Hukahuka. We appreciate that they are working to remove barriers to entry by providing scholarships for Māori and Pasifika people to participate in their programs.


“The quality of products and services we have seen from across North America, Latin America and Africa — the exquisite crafts, Indigenous artisans, musicians and healers — has been astounding. Our research shows that New Zealand and Pacific commerce is still largely unknown in the rest of the world and our aim is to bring these talents into the global spotlight.”

As part of this drive, Shopify recently appointed Rotorua entrepreneur Inez White, of Te Arawa, as Global Indigenous Ambassador. Her role will be to support Māori and Pasifika businesses to develop successful e-commerce platforms.

Te Whare Hukahuka said applications for its digital commerce program had increased ten-fold since the COVID-19 crisis began.

“Demand has rocketed,” O’Keefe said. “Suddenly — overnight — there was a tsunami of distress signals from business owners who urgently needed solutions for this unprecedented challenge.

“For existing enterprise, an online presence has gone from being a smart addition to a do-or-die business essential, and for whānau whose jobs disappeared overnight it’s a potential lifeline — an opportunity to establish the e-commerce opportunity they have had at the back of their minds for years.

“The New Zealand economy is powered by small businesses like these. In the space of a few weeks, every one of those enterprises has understood very clearly the need to get online, whether they’re in retail, services or manufacturing — and the same is true for Indigenous entrepreneurs the world over.

“It is both exciting and humbling to have the opportunity to share our New Zealand-developed program internationally.”