Covid-19 had more than just one impact on this week’s Hawke’s Bay Māori Economic Summit 2020. Under Alert Level 2 it had to be held virtually, and the Dragons’ Den pitch winner is a very recent returnee escaping from Covid-plagued Melbourne.

Only the speakers, sponsors and event crew were onsite at Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre, with the balance of the 160 attendees streaming into the Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga hosted event.

Aaron Huata took out the Dragons’ Den through public vote with his very new business idea. He says he’s not long returned from Australia where he’s been working for the past 15 years, the last seven in Melbourne’s cultural sector.

He describes the scramble to establish his new business Huata Creative as “building the plane while on the flight”.

His business has two parts – first, enhancing human experience by creating, developing and launching immersive theatre, contemporary dance, opera, art installations and brand activations.

Huata is currently working to secure funding through Creative NZ to show an opera he has written.

The second strand to the business, which he admits is the more likely income stream, is to contract to the creative community to help with key business activities like project management, producing, web design and digital marketing.

Of his win, Huata says he was honoured to take part. “It was a great opportunity to meet the people I need to know.”

While presenting is not new to him, he says it was a “new audience”. “In the past I’ve often been the only indigenous person in the room, and I fitted myself to that place. But this audience was my people. I had to readjust how I presented to use the words and images that was right for here.”

He says he’s looking forward to developing his networks and establishing his business model.

Māori businesses attending the Māori Economic Summit 2020 Hui on Tuesday learnt about the support on offer from various agencies including Inland Revenue, Te Puni Kokiri, Ministry of Social Development, Provincial Development, and Hawke’s Bay Business Hub.

Photo caption: Aaron Huata, winner of the Māori Economic Summit 2020 Dragons’ Den, presented to a sparse live audience and 160 online viewers this week.

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