Teauparetea Puna Vano and three other friends formed a business group in their last year at Tereora College to create bucket hats and caps for the school.
The group was created as part of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), Year 13 Business Academy where students were required to set up, with consultation, an innovative and sustainable business.
The name of their business group was SELT Design LTD, a company that Vano now has sole responsibility for.
“After my last exam, I met my group for the last time,” Vano explained. “I wanted to continue the business and they all wanted to pursue their own things overseas, so I asked them if I could take sole responsibility.
“I bought them out, and during Christmas I was overseas selling the hats to students on the Gold Coast, so I’d say it worked out pretty well.
It has been a steady rise for Vano, who was invited to speak in front of New Zealand prime minister Bill English and his delegation at the Edgewater Resort back in June.
“Honestly, I was really nervous in front of this big business community from Raro and New Zealand. But I was really happy that after my presentation I had a few important people, coming to me asking whether I could work with them to supply their businesses with hats.
“After that I was approached by two principals from the outer islands, who were interested if I could supply for their schools. So at the moment I’m working with four schools. It’s the same thing as Tereora College: using the same supplier, just with different logos and colours.”
Not only was this a great opportunity for SELT Design Ltd, it also empowered Vano, an admittedly shy person, to become more confident and step out of her comfort zone.
“I was a bit shy before, which might not be the best thing for a business person, but through that experience I’ve learnt to approach schools.”
While students from Tereora College crave more clothing choices from SELT Design Ltd, Vano has her sights on supplying more than just schools.
“I have just collected my survey from Tereora College and I left a blank space for any comments. There were a lot of textile ideas, like beanies, sweatshirts and others.
“These are things that I’d love to pursue further down the road, because my vision for my business is growth. I majored in embroidery textiles, and I don’t just want to supply the schools but other businesses locally.
“At the moment I’m still trying to see how this goes, taking it a step at a time. But I’ll be here for a while, so I’m looking forward to the future.”
Though much of her learning has come from outside of school, from the experience she has gained, Vano is still proud to see people representing the school in her gear.
“I’ve been sent lots of photos from classmates in Waikato and Auckland University and they’re wearing their caps and I just think, ‘wow, that’s a beautiful sight’.
“And my friends at Waikato wears them all the time, because they say it reminds them of college, and that’s very touching.”