Nick started TOA Architects nine years ago – just him, a moemoea (dream) and a business development gap in his knowledge. Then Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) stepped in.
Putting heads together
“ATEED has been an incredible support. When you’re starting out, it’s your heart that drives your decisions, not your head,” says Nick.
“As a business owner, you’ve got to wear many hats – you do the creative mahi, you develop connections, but it’s cash flow that keeps the place running – you need the business acumen as well. You can feel whakamā asking for help, but it’s a really important thing to do.”
"ATEED helped me source funding to assist with business mentoring. Now TOA is nine years old, we’ve gone from just me to 20 staff, we are like a whanau, I call them TOA All Stars! We’ve got projects all over the country and just this week alone we have been contacted by Te Papa and Auckland Museum, who like what TOA is about."
Arguably Nick was destined to own his own architecture practice. The son of self-employed parents, he was the second ever Māori student to be awarded top design student across the three architecture schools of Aotearoa, before gaining a scholarship and experience throughout Europe. But New Zealand – and tikanga Māori – were calling.
“I had a drive to gain the experience needed and then start something of my own. Tikanga Māori is at the heart of what we do – TOA is about strength, bravery, cutting new ground – strong teamwork, strong design and innovation. We craft projects of Aotearoa, drawing on stories of the whenua.
It’s an exciting time for this country, even the mainstream is really starting to appreciate Māori history and our roots. But there are sometimes huge challenges, particularly around complex land issues. We need to awhi (support) each other and build on our experiences.”
Support from other Māori leaders
Through ATEED, Nick and TOA became part of the Whāriki Māori Business Network, an independent, ATEED-supported network of Māori entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners.
“I love Whāriki. It’s an incredible group of Māori and not just Māori, but Māori-kaupapa focused people. We celebrate our wins and share our stories, good and bad. Being able to share makes a big difference. Joining Whāriki is an incredible opportunity to flourish, you grow from feeding off the wairua from others.”