Having funding support from Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has given Autumn Hemi-Dehar the confidence to know her dreams are achievable. As she consolidates her online business, she is already looking ahead to the day when she will open her own Westport shop.

Created in February 2021 as a primarily online and market outlet,Tamāhine Boutique came about after Autumn’s 19-month-old daughter, Elizabeth was born. Keen to reconnect with her own cultural roots, Autumn (Ngāti Kuia), saw Tamāhine as a way of showing her daughter how important it is to be proud of her Māori heritage.

“I wanted her to understand that you don’t have to look Māori to be Māori – that it’s about whakapapa. And through the ranges of clothing and decor we create, I wanted to encourage a wider sense of pride in our identity and in Māori culture,” Autumn says.

As a self-taught artist/creator, Autumn is passionate about normalising Māori culture through her unique designs, resources and products. She sources ethical, sustainable products ensuring her clothing is made from organic, recycled or premium cotton materials.

“For us, it is about saying no to fast fashion and consumerism, to items that don’t last; and being able to tap into my own creativity as a way of exploring my own cultural journey, has helped me so much.”

WAVE 16 funding has enabled Autumn to relaunch a stronger website, to purchase clothing stock, decor supplies and printing equipment.

“Te Pūtahitanga support has helped Tamāhine grow to include a much wider range of products and it’s helped me realise the importance of developing a product collection fully prior to launching.

“They put me in touch with an enterprise coach and that has been huge for me. It can be hard to establish something new on the West Coast, so being connected to people who understand and support you is so important.”

Autumn says that without WAVE support, she would probably have given up. She is also thankful to her sister Skye Neighbours, who received WAVE 14 funding to help her establish a local hairdressing business.

“It was Skye who encouraged me to apply for WAVE funding. She’s been an incredible support for me. She has two children and a business of her own but she’s always been there for me to lean on mentally and emotionally. And she’s in the same boat as me culturally – we’re both in the process of reconnecting with our Māori cultural heritage, we’re both learning te reo Māori and we’re both passionate about inspiring others.”

With Tamāhine now growing, Autumn is determined to work hard to realise the next stage of her business dream – opening her own shop within the next three years, something she only dreamed about before.

“I want everyone to know about Te Pūtahitanga. They’re an amazing organisation to have in your corner and I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.”