Pamela Armstrong was at her house in Northland enjoying the scenery when she had an idea.
“I was just sitting there looking out at the water, just appreciating the most amazing resources at my fingertips. I thought to myself, why can’t we share this landscape with others and make it a business?’ It was an aha moment.”
In four months, that ‘aha moment’ turned in to an award-winning business initiative called “Stay Native” that will officially launch next month in January.
Stay Native is run by the Amrstrong family that includes Pam, Chala Chase, Chanelle, Te Ara and Eliza.
Its purpose is to give tourists a chance to be fully engaged and connected with the Māori culture, rather than just watching from the outside.
Hosts from all over New Zealand take the tourists out and expose them to different cultural experiences, such as learning how to make Rewena bread with Nanny Ro. The hosts have complete control over their experience, including cost, and Stay Native take care of marketing and administration.
But it is a business with a difference. The Armstrong family are motivated by self-reliance principles, supporting Māori people in Northland to become more self-reliant.
“There’s so many people here with lots of talents and skills,” Chanelle said.
“We want to create opportunities for these people. The culture here is rich and diverse and we want to help our people understand how they can use their talents to look after their whanau.
“I met a man a couple of months ago who didn’t finish high school. He considered himself low-skilled and struggled to find work he enjoyed. But he had been carving for 43 years and now with Stay Native, he can be paid for using his talents.”
Business is a new world for 30-year-old Chanelle who has a communications background.
She has lived in Whangarei her whole life and is also kept busy by her 6 children, the youngest only five months.
“It’s definitely a struggle but it’s good for the kids to learn about hard work,” she said.
“Self-reliance helps with adversity. The gospel has engraved that kaupapa in us.
Being self-reliant means there is something you can fall back on. You can always find work and bring in money and kai.”
She also believes self-reliance is about helping out her brothers and sisters.
“It’s not just enough to look after your own family, you need to be considerate of those around you. If you’ve got those talents, skills, then you can use it to help other people.
“Stay Native uses gospel principles innately in the business and it makes it easier to do the mahi when you know there’s a bigger reason to do it.”
Mother in law Pam agrees. She believes it is essential to have Heavenly Father as part of the process.
“He is at the heart of what we do,” she said.
“With self-reliance, everything has a principle. You need to be open to the promptings of the Spirt and I think we have been supported by doing this because everything is falling into place. It is that combination of faith and effort. Building on your own skills and stretching yourself,” Pam said.
Stay Native were the Supreme Winners at The Pick 2017 - a business ideas challenge hosted by The Orchard, a business and event space for the growing community of entrepreneurs, start-ups and already established business professionals in Northland.