Indigenous tourism-tech start-up helping whānau sharing authentic cultural experiences
Stay Native is a social enterprise empowering indigenous whānau and hapori (communities) to build sustainable lifestyles and business opportunities through sharing cultural experiences with travellers.
In Aotearoa, Māori-led businesses make up less than 1% of small businesses and Māori are nearly three times likely to be unemployed. Whānau living in rural Māori communities typically end up moving to bigger urban areas or overseas for work. Stay Native have created a unique platform that can support rural and indigenous communities to create sustainable tourism ventures which provide employment opportunities and keeps people connected to their culture.
Based in Whangarei, Te Ara and Chala are working to help indigenous families, like their own whānau, to be able to generate income through tourist revenue and have the freedom to stay connected to their homes, their whenua, and their culture.
The home-grown start-up began when the Armstrong’s were looking to list the whānau bach (holiday home) on Airbnb to generate additional income. Te Ara says, “People only wanted to book over summer and long weekends when we already had a lot of whānau coming to stay with us. We thought ‘Why don’t we just invite those looking at our accommodation to stay with us and our whānau?’”
“We started hosting people, doing activities such as fishing and diving, riding horses and all the things we’d usually do, that we’ve done for years, and which were really normal to us. We learned from these early hosting experiences, that sharing these everyday activities was something that travellers really enjoyed and wanted.”
Stay Native is built around connecting travellers with the wider Māori community to be able to share the Māori culture – but not in the way that has been portrayed by the tourism industry in the past, Te Ara says. “It’s more about experiencing everyday life as we know it and that’s a more accurate portrayal. Our culture is something we live everyday.”
Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the current focus is on the domestic holiday market in Aotearoa, Te Ara says the long term vision for Stay Native is to benefit indigenous communities internationally. “The statistics around employment for Māori communities are very similar to other indigenous communities around the world,” Te Ara says.
Te Ara Armstrong (Ngātiwai, Ngāti Hine) and sister Chala Chase (Ngātiwai, Ngāti Hine) are the co-founders behind Stay Native. Te Ara and Chala are also joined by their mum, Pam Armstrong (Ngati Wai, Ngati Whatua, Ngapuhi), and Te Ara’s wife Chanelle Armstrong (Ngapuhi, Ngai Tahu).
Te Ara Armstrong
Being a part of the Kōkiri programme with other Māori founders and start-ups has enabled the whānau enterprise to learn how tourism ventures and TourTech fit within the Māori economy in Aotearoa but also the overall global indigenous economy. Connecting with fellow Māori entrepreneurs has created a invaluable ‘tribe’ of like-minded innovators and “the sense of whanaungatanga (family-like relationships) from the programme and the cohort has been really beneficial,” Te Ara says.
“Our goal for the programme was to be investment ready,” says Te Ara, “We wanted to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s around putting together what we needed to get investment and go to the next level.” Through an accelerated and applied learning process, Kōkiri develops start-up teams to be ready to foster and secure investment. In the upcoming months, Stay Native are looking to finalise their investment pitch and start looking for investors that align with the teams vaules and aspirations for the future.