Rosa Meredith looks like a regular high school student in her GGHS uniform. She is.. and she isn’t. Rosa is also a young entrepreneur, under the mentorship of Tāiki e.
Rosa makes and sells hand-printed wrapping paper at markets and through her Instagram page @pasifika.prints using vibrant colours and traditional Samoan patterns to decorate the paper.
This isn’t the first time she’s made and sold the gift wrap. As a Year 6 student in Samoa, she and her sister Eve needed to make some money. They were in Samoa to connect with their heritage, a year long family trip that extended to four years in Vailima, near Apia.
Rosa loved being immersed in the culture and experiencing the different lifestyle of Samoa. She describes it as vibrant and colourful; poor in economic terms but rich in family values, the sense of community and incredible hospitality.
She was humbled by her experiences. In the village, her extended family live communally, a group of small houses – fale – around a central meeting house. They were fed fabulously when visiting relatives in the village and she remembers kind gestures like her cousins swatting flies away from her food while she and her sister ate.
Local boys sold stencils that they’d carved in traditional designs, out in the street. Rosa and her sister bought some stencils and started printing the paper after school. They sold the paper at a car boot sale and to friends and family, who loved it.
The stencils are made out of discarded X-ray films from the hospital. You could still see someone’s broken leg or ribs on them. But that is the ingenuity of it – repurposing something that has been discarded. Sustainability may not have been a word in Rosa’s vocabulary back then, but the concept resonated with her, and it’s a cornerstone of her business model. She still buys the stencils from Samoa, supporting local artists who in turn can support their families with the income.
The prints reflect the vibrancy of Samoa. Rosa uses bright colours, choosing those that best suit the pattern. The designs include flowers - frangipani, teuila (the national flower of Samoa), birds - the toloa, and shark teeth. Stencilled onto rolls of brown paper they retain a traditional feel, and the family component is there too, Grandad has cleared space in his shed for a safe spot for the printed paper to dry out. Rosa’s been asked to include other items like duvets and reusable bags, and hopes to extend the range in future.
The Pacifica connection has continued for Rosa back in Gisborne, joining the Pacifica group for Girls and Boys High students and going along to Tautua Village, a space underpinned by Māori and Pacific values in which rangatahi can connect. It was at Tautua Village that Rosa found out about Tāiki e.
Tāiki e were offering business mentorship for young people. Rosa, now in Year 11, was ready to get back into business and develop her skills. Rosa, Eve, and their friend Neela started having weekly Zoom meetings with Cain Kerehoma of Tāiki e during lockdown, learning the steps to build a successful business. In November they scaled back the meetings - it was time to get into production! They sold Pacifika Prints at a few different markets and Rosa was hooked.
Rosa has continued the business by herself, fitting it in between school, the school Pacifika dance group, her roles on the school cultural council, as a Year 11 class representative, Hospice Youth Ambassador, and oh, and her holiday job!
In continuing her business and sharing her story, Rosa hopes that more opportunities are created for Pacifika people. She enjoys creating reminders of home and sharing the beauty and culture of Samoa with the people of Tairāwhiti. She’s had plenty of challenges along the way, but the mentorship has taught her to learn from any failures and where to go from there.
Rosa’s mentor Cain, says he saw Rosa and her team’s confidence grow during the mentorship growing from shy, reserved rangatahi to future leaders. Environmental concerns were embedded in their plan and he loved the beauty of their business idea in terms of celebrating and showcasing their culture.
Rangatahi should give it a go, says Rosa. Better to give something a try, even if you're not successful at first. It’s just the thing to develop the skills to get started as a young entrepreneur.
YOUTH ENTREPRENEURSHIP CLUB
Starting in April, rangatahi keen to learn about entrepreneurship have the opportunity to head along to Tāiki e, meet other like-minded youth, and get a leg up into the world of business. It doesn’t matter if you have a business idea or not. You’ll build confidence, network, learn how to use business tools, get mentoring, access to seed funding, and market opportunities. It’ll be one afternoon a week from 3 to 5 pm, alternating between Tāiki e and Tautua Village.
It is run pretty informally. Think of it as a group of aunties and uncles sharing their knowledge and skills, rather than formal business mentoring. But don’t be fooled, just because no one’s in a suit and tie, these guys know their stuff and are back here to share it and develop the raw talent of Tairāwhiti.
The club will be held 3 - 5pm Mondays at Tāiki e! and 3 - 5pm Thursdays at Tautua Village. Check out Taiki e! on Facebook for further details.
Story by Leah McAnneny