'Older entrepreneur' scheme for Pasifika and Maori launches

April 5, 2023

 'Older entrepreneur' scheme for Pasifika and Maori launches

Older Maori and Pacific entrepreneurs will benefit from Trust MYRIVR: Project Manager Akerei Marsala Thomson with Hon Ginny Anderson MP. Photo: supplied

Older Pasifika and Maori entrepreneurs wanting to kickstart or boost a business can now get much-needed support thanks to a South Auckland charity's new programme.

Its research showed members above 50 years-old need support with accounting, bookkeeping and marketing, so Trust MYRIVR, which already provides full wrap-around support for their Pasifika and Māori community, has now launched Seniors Enterprise Pilot Programme.

“Our programme aims to address those needs,” says project manager Akerei Maresala-Thomson, who advocates for the community after 20 years' experience in the police service and working for suicide and domestic violence prevention.

Two members on the new scheme, Meli To’a and his wife, are working together to advance their refrigeration and air conditioning business.

“I was motivated to join this programme because I wanted to start a small business and be self-employed. It has really helped us financially and with accounting and tax, they also helped us develop our website," he said.

It has also helped To’a’s skills in marketing, computer navigation and health and safety programmes.

“It is hard work, but what has held us back in the past has been lack of funding.”

With 15 participants currently signed up, Maresala-Thomson says “we understand how our communities operate and how technology impacts them, giving us an edge in developing programs that truly make a difference.

“Outside of the office of seniors we have been doing this sort of stuff for a very long time. As entrepreneurs ourselves we really struggled to get any local support.

“With grant money we developed a free app to connect business owners with clients. That experience, and the difficulties we faced through COVID-19 really challenged us to think differently.

Listen – Akerei Maresala-Thomson explains “parents and grandparents are putting their own aspirations at a halt”


Trust MYRIVR has already created job opportunities in a variety of industries, from software and web development to social services and manufacturing.

Maresala-Thomson says they also encourage Pacifica and Māori communities to get into STEM industries via their Tula'i Mentoring Programme.

“Our inter-generational projects are designed to address the impact that every member of a household has on an individual's well-being.

Maresala-Thomson stresses the importance of investing in economic well-being, education, and healthcare for communities to thrive.

The new seniors scheme connects the Tongan, Pacifica and Māori entrepreneurial community and connects them with clients for their business to grow. The programme, which was launched in Pukekohe, will be available in four other locations around New Zealand.

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