Girl Power.

  • Sun, 22, Dec, 2019 - 5:00:AM

Nikki Kennedy: Te Reo warrier, epic Māori gift-designer and boss lady

Nikki Kennedy (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Te Whakatōhea) needed to do something to ensure the survival of Te Reo. This, combined with her passion for design and a dream of starting her own business, led to the founding of Taputapu Design in November 2015.

Taputapu Design is a business that makes quality unique Te Reo Māori homeware products. For Kennedy, increasing people’s exposure to Te Reo Māori is an important part of her business - customers can fill their whare with Te Reo, which helps preserve our language. Her favourite Taputapu product is their incredibly popular bamboo cutlery set. Kennedy says she loves them “because they are a double edged sword, they normalise Te Reo Māori out in a variety of places but also teaches and encourages whānau to look after Papatūānuku.”

A graduate of the University of Waikato holding a Bachelor of Media and Creative Technologies, Kennedy currently runs Taputapu Design from her home in Waikato while continuing her studies. Getting a business off the ground is no easy task, and she credits “surrounding [herself] with “kick-ass Māori business men and women who are killing it,” with inspiring her throughout her journey with Taputapu.

Other experiences that helped her to launch the business included a 10 week ‘kickstart to business’ scholarship through Waikato Uni, an overseas haerenga to Singapore and Vietnam, attending Matariki X (a Māori entrepreneurship conference) and setting up a market opportunity at Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival.

Initially Kennedy faced several challenges: financially, in sourcing and producing products; in never having enough stock; and in managing the workload of running the entire business while studying simultaneously. With determination, hard work, and a bit of risk-taking and creativity, she overcame each of these issues, even hiring a part time worker so that she could continue with her studies.

Next year, she plans to work almost full time for Taputapu Design. Kennedy is working on expanding her business by increasing stock, stockists, and organically building her customer base - all while remaining true to the brand and its fundamental values. The main values underpinning her business include: manaaki, whānau, pono, and tiakina te taiao. “We uphold manaaki by looking after our customers, we ensure that there are good communication and relationships. We aim to always have a whānau working environment. We try and be as transparent as possible,” Kennedy says. “We lessen our plastic use and we provide sustainable bamboo products that are good for the whenua.”

And what would she say to other Kiwi wāhine wanting to go into business? “We are powerful units, once we have our mind set on something we can do anything. Fear is what keeps us contained. When we step out of fear, we grow, we learn and we achieve the unimaginable.”


  • Women in business /
  • Te Reo /
  • Māori business leaders /
  • Sustainability /
  • Design /
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