This article was published on 10 August 2020
Callaghan Innovation is proud to sponsor once again the NZ Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau – Māori Company of the Year award. Ahead of the awards announcements on 21 August, we are checking in with the four finalists (who happen to be Callaghan Innovation customers) – Kiwa Digital, Emergency Q, NZ Trade Group and Plink Software – to find out how they’re making their mark as Māori innovators.
Andrewe Brown didn’t anticipate a future in tech.
He originally set up NZ Trade Group to help himself and other ‘tradies’ get ahead, through a unique combination of software, suppliers and services. But it has since become something much bigger.
NZ Trade Group’s cloud-based software, Katipolt, manages tradie’s quotes and jobs to help them improve profitability and save time. Member businesses remain independent but can access support tools, shared resources and group purchasing arrangements.
Brown, known to most as Brownie, has learned a lot through hard work and perseverance: “I never thought I would work in tech. I would say to anyone aspiring to make a go of it in the industry that you just have to give it a crack and be dogged and focused on succeeding. As a tradie and a business person, I’ve made all the mistakes and I want to give others the resources to be able to learn from that and do better.”
Since starting in 2006 the business has gone from strength to strength, starting out with three members and growing to more than 140. Callaghan Innovation’s Growth Grant helped with their business expansion and using Callaghan Innovation’s Student Grants scheme for students led to successfully employing one of the interns.
Brownie is pleasantly surprised to be a NZ Hi-Tech finalist, and to be recognised among Māori tech innovators. “The positive mindset and mana exuded from sharing our success as a Māori-owned business will hopefully attract and encourage more into tech. Our people-first, community culture can add relationship depth and warmth to the coldest software programme.”
He’s now keen to develop tools to create pathways for young Māori to work in trades and, when they’re ready, support them with mentoring into successful business owners.
It’s important to Brownie that NZ Trade Group is more than just a business, but also a way to bring people together: “I take a whānau approach and that means personal relationships are really important to me,” Brownie says.
COVID-19 shifts focus for NZ Trade Group
During COVID-19, Brownie saw an unexpected shift towards NZ Trade Group as an online community and source of support.
“People could come to our online meetings or webinars and interact with people going through all the exact same worries. I think it really gave them a sense of support and belonging,” says Brownie.
This online connecting of members, isolated during NZ’s lockdown, created an unexpected demand for NZ Trade Group’s online services.
“Often, tradies don’t like change,” he says. “We’ve wanted them to take up more of our online offerings for a while, but it took COVID-19 to drive this change. We’ve had more interaction online with our members than ever before, and we’ll continue to benefit from this because our customers can now see the value in engaging in this way.”
What’s next for NZ Trade Group?
Like many Kiwi businesses, COVID-19 meant NZ Trade Group had to pause any international plans, including expansion into Australia this year, and focus on improving its local product.
“That way, when we do enter a new international market, we’re offering a ‘next level’ product,” Brownie says.
To find out more about NZ Trade Group, check out its website here.