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Women at the helm of new Muri business venture

Tuesday 21 February 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Business, Local, National


Women at the helm of new Muri business venture
Three generations of businesswomen. Lily Henderson, centre, has teamed up with granddaughter Pahnia Howe, left, and daughter Michelle Williams to establish Manna Boutique, alongside Sisi Short (not pictured). PHOTO: JOANNE HOLDEN / 23022111

Cook Islands businesswomen have banded together to erect a new block of shops offering style, beauty, and refreshments along Rarotonga’s “golden mile” in Muri.

Lily Henderson and her daughter, Michelle Williams, and granddaughter, Pahnia Howe, alongside

Sisi Short, jointly unveiled the name of the block – Manna Boutique – at the official opening on Saturday.

Henderson’s husband, Rod, explained the origin of the name during his blessing of the new building.

“In this case, the word ‘manna’ comes from the blessing from God where He sent the tribes of Israel, who had been in the wilderness for 40 years, food from heaven,” he said.

“Muri Village is undoubtedly the hub of tourism on Rarotonga, and this enterprise can only supplement the other fine businesses that are in the area.”

The building was constructed by Short’s husband, Mann, who incorporated materials from the fence which once stood in its place.

Located next to Mooring Café and opposite Muri Night Market, the boutique boasts a clothing store, salon, and coffee shop.

Lily Henderson, pictured far right, addresses the crowd alongside Sisi Short at the opening of Manna Boutique in Muri on Saturday. PHOTO: JOANNE HOLDEN / 23022110
Lily Henderson, pictured far right, addresses the crowd alongside Sisi Short at the opening of Manna Boutique in Muri on Saturday. PHOTO: JOANNE HOLDEN / 23022110

While Howe has been serving coffee out of the complex for the past four months, delays with bringing over qualified staff – the hairdresser has been plucked from the Sri Lankan chain of British-based salon brand Toni & Guy, while the beautician is not due to land in Rarotonga until March – prevented the rest of the shops from opening until now.

Short, who has owned and operated Top Shape Hair in Taputapuatea for 30 years, said she and Henderson, who sells dresses out of a hut at Punanga Nui Market, had been talking about opening shops in Muri “for years”.

“Muri is one of the hubs of the Cook Islands. We’ve got the lagoon, and wonderful accommodation,” Short said.

“As long as we keep the standards up, I’m sure the tourists will keep coming.”

Short said she and Henderson “like to promote each other, and also encourage our children and all the young people who want to go into business”.

Williams said she was “really grateful” for the opportunity to have Short and three generations of her own family working together to bring the block of shops to Muri.

“It’s a very proud moment for us to be able to set up here – right in the heart of world-famous Muri Beach, in the beautiful village of Ngatangiia.”

Author and former politician Iaveta Short attended the opening in support of his family, telling the crowd it was “so pleasing” seeing women with roots in the area at the helm of the new venture.

“If we go back to our history, it’s always been the women who are the backbone of our society,” he said, jokingly adding: “We should all support this thing because if the women get angry with us, we don’t get far.”

It was “good” that “our own people are part of the development of the golden mile”, he said.

Another attendee, former politician Cassey Eggelton, said the block of shops was “much-needed on this side of the island”.

“You have clothing, you have beauty, and you have drinks. It’s a one-stop shop.” 

More on Muri developments in Wednesday’s edition of the Cook Islands News


Sally Wyatt on 21/02/2023

Hearty congratulations on your new venture, Lily, Pahnia, Michelle and Sisi. May it have every success.