Marlana Maru and Marcia Ranginui Charlton
Co-owners and Directors, ĀKI

Marlana Maru and Marcia Ranginui Charlton
Co-owners and Directors, ĀKI

Social Enterprise, Kirikiriroa/Hamilton

Kim: I've been working with Marlana and Marcia since 2021 at a high strategic advisory level, enhancing their business literacy and guiding them on their entrepreneurial and business journey.

They’re very clear about why they've gone into business, and I love that. They have had to manage exceptional growth and one of my main tasks is keeping them really anchored on the priorities of what makes the rubber hit the road, why their “why” and their “purpose” is critical to what they want to achieve, and also keeping them accountable.

Phenomenal growth is great, but growth is when the wheels can potentially come off. It’s a constant journey and, as any business grows, the owners need to be constantly over it.

So we need to manage and scale that, and what I really enjoy with Marlana and Marcia is that I can give them some advice through our monthly meetings, which may not need to stick there and then, but six months later it becomes a need, and they’re right there to action it. 

That also means getting the right people on the waka. I'm solid beside them, and because we have a great level of trust in our relationship, I have been able to bring in the right people to help propel their business forward. 

We also work on getting to know the numbers better, which might be something as simple as building an efficient invoicing process, so that they can look at and constantly remain responsive to continuous improvement when it comes to the financials.

I drop stuff in to build the knowledge, but then I'll be patient when it comes to offering new strategic insight. When the Kaupapa between client and coach is on point, you almost get a symbiotic relationship going – not just knowing what to address but knowing how to present it. What are the useful tools that are required for you to continue to stay in your area of your superpowers?

Marlana: Marcia [Ranginui Charlton, co-owner] and I launched ĀKI in 2021. We started to get some quick growth and realised we really needed to have a think about who the best person would be for us in terms of mentoring, coaching and growth strategy.

We’ve both worked in organisations and led teams, but in terms of being directors of a company, building a brand and establishing ĀKI, we really needed to rely on someone who was going to give us the right type of support.

We’ve actually known Kim for a long time through different networking events, but never worked with her before. We knew a lot of people who had access to her support and we’d heard really good feedback, so her reputation preceded her.

We received funding and were offered mentors but we insisted on going with Kim! From the beginning, she has been very patient with us. It’s taken us a little while to get our minds around the necessity of doing things that aren’t natural, of trusting the process and getting to grips with essentials such as our USP, elevator pitch, etc. – because we’re not the typical Kaupapa Māori health provider.

Her authenticity, her way of pacing with us, is so encouraging and supportive. The concepts of whanaungatana and manaakitanga – those principles are ever visible when working with Kim.

She sits, she hears, she gets to know, she knows when to pull back – it’s a genuine, authentic process. With Kim it’s never, ‘Here's my formula for you guys use this and you'll be successful.’ Not at all. She's always got us in mind and she creates opportunities. 

She  also listens to us in a way where she's connected us with the right people. That's all been hugely valuable for us – connecting us to people who have been really integral in our business growth, from accountants to insurance brokers and intellectual property experts.. 

We needed someone who would really understand us and every single person who she's connected us with has been the “right” person for us and at the right time. Tina, The Admin Elf for example, at Stratigi, has been with us and is a huge support around financial literacy and really gets us.

We’re no longer a start-up and Kim is guiding us on what it will take to fulfil our aspiration of being sustainable and viable and to really align in a way that future-proofs. She genuinely has our best interests at heart and as a collective of wahine Māori, that's really important for us.

We’ll also have the hard conversations. Now we can consider what it looks like to elevate further with the real deal stuff she’ll tell us, ’Now's the tough time. These are the things that you'll likely experience, and this is what you need to consider.’

We are often in spaces where we have to protect our Kaupapa, and we're constantly battling systems that don't benefit our people. So to have someone who is out there for us means we don't have to worry about that. We’re all collectively supporting one another, to be well and do good for our people.