In the ’90s, when Rene was a young man growing up on Rarotonga, his parents owned and operated a business called ‘Hand Bakeries’ known more widely as, ‘The Pie Man’.
Unfortunately, the bakery ceased to exist following personal issues, but 18 years later Rene and his wife have helped to revive and reopen the family business.
CI News sat down with the couple at the Cook Islands Game Fishing Club, where their partnership first began.
Just over 10 years ago, Chiavanni met Rene at the fishing club, where Rene was working as a bartender.
Chiavanni says Rene shared his bakery business dream with her, and eventually they began applying for loans to try and start a company.
To their disappointment, they were unable to secure any money with local banks and say they might have been too young back then.
The couple decided to move to Australia where they worked and saved money for seven years before returning to the Cook Islands to start their business.
While in Australia, Chiavanni says it saddened them that their children Kiani, 9, Revas, 5 and Halem, 3 weren’t learning their own culture and language.
She says their eldest son would always sing the Australia anthem at sports games, not the anthem of New Zealand or the Cook Islands, where they originate from.
Chiavanni says this was fine and they had nothing against it, but they did want their son to know more about his own culture than the Australian culture.
After years of saving, and a desire to bring their children up the same way they were brought up, Chiavanni and Rene returned to Rarotonga with their family in September last year.
To further cement their partnership and investment in their future on the rock, Chiavanni and Rene were married a month later, in October, before moving house in December.
Now residing in Tikioki, Chiavanni says the change in their children as a result of the move is astounding and more than they could have hoped for.
“My eldest son was always quite reserved and shy, but now he’s confidant and he’s come out of his shell,” she says.
Chiavanni adds that all her children are now using Cook Islands Maori words and learning the Maori alphabet and numbers.
“I am so grateful to Takitumu School for the learning our children are getting. They have been doing so well and have learned more than I could ever teach them about their language and culture,” she says.
Chiavanni says while her husband and herself are from the Cook Islands, they didn’t speak enough Maori for their children to learn from them.
“Coming back to Rarotonga has been such a great experience so far, both for our business and our children.”
Back to business, Rene says it’s been awesome to come back and start up the business again with his mother.
When trying to come up with a new name, Rene says they were going to call it ‘Poly Pies’ but Chiavanni says she didn’t like the idea of people confusing ‘Poly’ for Polynesian with the name ‘Polly’.
It was Rene who then came up with the idea of ‘Ka Pie’ as play on the New Zealand Maori word Ka Pai which means ‘good’, like an equivalent to Cook Islands word, ‘meitaki’.
Rene says ‘Ka’ is also a verb word in Cook Islands Maori, so people are ‘doing a pie’ and a ‘good pie’ too.
Since launching Ka Pie Pies in January this year, Rene says the business has boomed with more and more people wanting their product every day.
She says they are grateful for the support and positive feedback from their family, friends and the wider community.
“We keep asking people to give us feedback so we can make out product better, but they keep telling us it’s all good, which is great to hear,” he says.
Rene says they are now focused on exploring a vegetarian option and a gourmet range, as well as bringing up their children.
“It’s been awesome to be able to have my children grow up the way I did, on Rarotonga,” Rene says.
Ka Pie Pies can be found at many convenience stores around the island, as well as the local supermarkets.
Look out for Ka Pie, ‘Hand’ made by Coconuts, with Aunty Nane’s stamp.