‘Wellington is your blank canvas’ says entrepreneur Joe Harawira

Joe Harawira describes himself as a “realistic optimist.” Generally upbeat and positive, he balances this outlook on life with an acknowledgment that setbacks are a necessary part of life. As a successful entrepreneur, he knows a thing or two!

Harawira is one of the 3 Māori Boys, the three directors of premium non-alcoholic beverage company Wai Mānuka, a business that has its origins in Joe’s hometown of Whakatāne but came into its own in Wellington.

Discover creative energy in an epic little city

“I love Wellington because it’s an epic little city that prides itself on celebrating culture and vibrancy,” Harawira says.

“You only have to stroll along the waterfront to get a feel for what sets Wellington apart – harbor views, great coffee, amazing food, markets, music and art. What more do you need?”

You only have to stroll along the waterfront to get a feel for what sets Wellington apart.

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You only have to stroll along the waterfront to get a feel for what sets Wellington apart.

While a fine day by the waterfront and a cup of great coffee might cut it for someone holidaying in the NZ capital, what about those with bright business ideas looking for a place to live and work?

Well, as it turns out it’s great for that too.

Harawira’s “Wellington moment” happened when he was still working for New Zealand rugby and Wai Mānuka was still a side hustle, and he sat down with the owners of Karaka Café on the Wellington waterfront.

“Rather than feeling like a business meeting, it felt more like a group of friends catching up. We shared our stories, laughed and spoke about our aspirations to give back to the community and to encourage more people to follow their dreams.”

Today, not only is their sparkling, mānuka honey-infused beverage stocked at Karaka Café, but 3 Māori Boys are an official partner of the Hurricanes and were finalists in the 2021 Wellington Gold Awards.

Wellington is full of stories like these. About little moments, in ordinary places, that have led to some pretty extraordinary successes.

It’s all about the people

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

For Harawira, not being a born-and-bred Wellingtonian, his connections with people have been a key part of his business success.

“The people of Wellington are warm and welcoming,” he says.

“This is partly because many who move to the city end up feeling a deep sense of community and want to contribute.”

“These types of connections have been immense on our journey and led to us having partnerships with Government House, The Wellington Club and the Hurricanes. Anywhere else, partnerships like these would’ve been challenging for a start-up to get across the line, but not in Wellington, and that’s because of the people.”

A series of bespoke bronze sculptures, created by renowned local sculptor and foundryman Jonathan Campbell, will anchor each of the founders' stories.

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A series of bespoke bronze sculptures, created by renowned local sculptor and foundryman Jonathan Campbell, will anchor each of the founders’ stories.

Be inspired by other stories…

WellingtonNZ has launched the new Only in Wellington campaign to inspire budding talent to come to Aotearoa’s creative capital, and Joe is one of ten creative entrepreneurs featured in the series.

These leaders have shared personal stories of how, and where, they have experienced “the Wellington effect”, having each found success in a compact city buzzing with opportunity and fueled by world-class culture, hospitality, events and nature.

In support of the video and written content, a series of bespoke bronze sculptures, created by renowned local sculptor and foundryman Jonathan Campbell, will anchor each of the founders’ stories to the real-life location that sparked their innovative idea or played a significant part. in their journey. Hunt out the objects across Wellington, or visit WellingtonNZ.com/onlyinwlg for the interactive map to lead you to them.

Wellington is full of stories about little moments, in ordinary places, that have led to some pretty extraordinary successes.

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Wellington is full of stories about little moments, in ordinary places, that have led to some pretty extraordinary successes.

… and write your own

Todd Barberel from WellingtonNZ says the campaign aims to highlight what is possible in a region renowned for creativity.

“Wellington is full of opportunity, and a special kind of magic,” he says.

“It’s a place where you can dream big. A place where you can meaningfully live, work, and thrive.”

Harawira has certainly found Wellington to be a place where his business can thrive, and he’s got some advice for other budding entrepreneurs and creatives.

“Wellington is your blank canvas, embrace the culture and community, and use this as the foundation to bring to life your most audacious goal.”

Explore more stories and the people behind them at www.wellingtonnz.com/business/only-in-wellington/ and follow WellingtonNZ on Facebook and Instagram.

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