Toi Pakihi: Hawaiiki Pēpi, Joelle Holland

Formerly a kaiawhina, Joelle Holland loved being surrounded by tamariki and being able to help give them the opportunity to not only become what they wanted to be but grow up proud to be Māori too.

But when the now 27-year-old and mum-of-two became pregnant with her first pēpi, she struggled to find culturally designed products that she could buy to show off their Māori heritage.

Wanting to spend more time with her daughter rather than putting her into kōhanga and going back to work fulltime - and recognising that there was a gap in the market - Joelle founded Hawaiiki Pēpi in November 2022, and now designs and sells Māori-designed, Aotearoa-made products and blankets for babies.

“I knew I wanted to do something to help Māori in some way. I’ve always had a passion for helping my people and wanting them to wake up in the morning being proud just because they’re Māori. I feel like it’s a superpower for me, and I don’t want other Māori to feel ashamed of being Māori,” Joelle says.

When she first started Hawaiiki Pēpi, the team at Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia supported Joelle with a Toi Pakihi grant that helped pay for the likes of a Xero subscription and to get a logo created which otherwise would have cost close to $2,000.

She started her new business endeavour by getting in touch with suppliers and then immediately got underway with designing and sampling. Just over a year on, Hawaiiki Pēpi has been going from strength to strength, and Joelle recently started receiving mentorship to keep the business growing.

“I’ve literally self-taught and learnt as I’ve gone. I started knowing nothing; I just did a lot of research and learnt off YouTube. Every time we would grow, I just had to figure it out.”
Now, a typical day in the life for Joelle involves packing all orders before 11am when the courier picks them up, followed by playing around with designs, colours, and products. Nighttime is when she does all the admin; once her babies are asleep, Joelle gets stuck into emails and invoicing.
In December, Joelle joined other whānau businesses and set up a Hawaiiki Pēpi stall in Te Tōangaroa.
“I enjoyed being able to speak to customers in real life because most of my work is online, so I don’t really get that interaction, and for people to be able to see our products, feel them, touch them, pick them up and check the sizing. It was something new for me, and something to add under my belt in business.”
Joelle’s ‘why’ is her kids, and she encourages whānau wanting to start their own business to find their ‘why’ too.
“Why you’re doing what you’re doing needs to be solid. If you know why you’re doing this - if it’s for your whānau or your culture - you need to know that and then work hard. It's not going to be easy, it's going to take time, but you have to be ready to take the losses and you have to stay resilient.”
Joelle has a quote that she has lived by since she started Hawaiiki Pēpi: ‘What’s meant for me will always be for me, I just have to work hard to get it’.
“It will always be there for me; it’s waiting at the end of the rainbow. I just need to work hard to get it, and that’s what gets me through.”