How This Indigenous Business Bridges Worlds

May 22, 2024

When Amber’s skills in tech met Isaac’s educational background, Aotearoa gained an indigenous business that successfully paved the way to reconnect young Māori with their ancestral stories. Now, the world is their oyster.

🤔 Ever walked down a bustling city street, packed with honking cars, shops galore, and skyscrapers blocking out the sky, and found yourself wondering what life was like way back when, like just 150 years ago?? 🏢

Dr. Isaac Warbrick has. To him, it’s a daily ponder.

Isaac has Māori heritage, so it’s no surprise he has a curiosity about his ancestors and how they lived day-to-day life. But for Isaac, it goes further than that. His fascination goes so deep that it’s at the very centre of his educational career.

Like Isaac, Amber Taylor, his business partner, also has Māori roots about as deep as the Kauri tree.

It’s with Amber I have a kōrero about what it means to have a business based on indigenous culture.

ARA Journeys: A Tech Business Promoting Indigenous Stories

The year is 2017.
Amber and Isaac sit in a coffee shop, and the conversation steers down the path of disconnected cultural identities and the need to preserve Māori culture.

By the time they abandon the table, the seed for ARA Journeys, a tech business promoting indigenous stories, is planted.

But you shouldn’t confuse ARA Journeys for your average tech company. Because there is nothing boring or average about this business.

At the very centre of what makes Isaac and Amber tick is a desire to prevent Māori stories and knowledge from fading into obscurity.

See, … It didn’t escape Amber’s attention that, for many Māori, the connection with the marae has fizzled out. Even more so, despite a desire to reconnect, it’s often a pretty intimidating step to walk back into the ancestral marae.

It’s in this space Amber’s passion for tech and Isaac’s educational backgrounds intersect.

The thinking is that if there’s one thing rangatahi (youngsters) are familiar with, it’s tech. So, creating educational content and mind-blowing augmented reality experiences that make history come alive became an obvious answer.

When Amber and Isaac’s initial steps in indigenous entrepreneurship were a massive success, it didn’t take much time for Māori organizations, schools, government agencies, and even the tourism industry to see the appeal.

And the rest … is history (pun intended). 😂

Integrity First, Money Second

Often, when we talk about doing Business Your Way, we think about the lifestyle it brings us, or the clients we choose to serve.

But for Amber and her team, Business Your Way takes on an entirely new dimension. For them, it all evolves around Māori culture and values in business.

With a tight-knit team, they're nimble, flexible, and unstoppable.

But you can forget about the usual corporate approach.

In Amber’s world…

  • Staff is recruited based on values and cultural fit, first and foremost. Because… skills you can learn. Māori business values and cultural sensitivities, on the other hand,….
  • So far, every investor that came along has been turned down. Not because the team isn’t open to a growing opportunity. Rather, the deal didn’t go ahead because what the potential investors saw was a financial opportunity instead of a passion for tikanga (the Māori way of doing things). 

The team’s motto: If it’s a bad fit, the answer is NO.

The Challenges That Come With A Tech Business Promoting Indigenous Stories

But the ‘Business Your Way’ of running a tech company also transpires in other area.

Amber is acutely aware of the dangers of burn-out when working in a tech business promoting indigenous stories (or any tech business for that matter), so she’s made it her focus to find the sweet spot between hustle on the one hand and creativity, passion and lifestyle on the other.

Let’s just say, there’s no 9 to 5 workday or open plan business area.

To keep the team fresh and motivated, Amber…

✅ monitors workload
✅ fosters open communication
✅ encourages chit-chat
✅ cheers on team work
✅ is all for flexible hours (I mean, serious flexible hours)
✅ approves unlimited paid leave

As long as they meet deadlines (as a matter of fact, it’s very rare for them to miss one) and habits don’t cross the line of what is healthy and sustainable, the message to the team is: ‘you do you’.

The Future Is Bright For This Indigenous Business

As for what’s ahead for ARA Journeys, Amber sees a future serving other indigenous communities around the world.

The story may have started in Aotearoa, but a tech business promoting indigenous stories has worldwide relevance.

And the company is completely set up for it.

The Tuwhiri gaming platform is accessible and easy to build on anywhere in the world. So any indigenous community that wants to preserve and educate indigenous knowledge and stories for generations to come can jump onboard.

3 Tips For Anyone Heading A Tech Business

As for my usual question to any guest on the podcast, I ask Amber for her 3 tips for anybody heading a tech company.

Amber is short and precise.

  • Never skip self-care. (Agreed!)
  • Never underestimate the need for networking. (Also, agreed!)
  • Stay true to your vision and roots. Always. (Call that NAILING IT!)

Get In Touch With Amber Taylor From ARA Journeys

As you embark on your own entrepreneurial quest, remember: it's not just about building a business; it's about building a legacy.
With that said, go forth, embrace your roots, stand by your vision and values, and let the adventure begin!

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