Ottyleah Te Houkamau: She’s a winner
As you read this, young mum and Te Tipu Whenua o Pā Harakeke (Flaxmere Teen Parent Unit) student Ottyleah Te Houkamau will be finding out which national Young Enterprise Award (YES) category she has won, and banking her prize that comes with the award.
Ottyleah has already won two regional awards with her lip product company Trio Treat: Māori Company of the Year and Regional Entrepreneur of the Year.
The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) is a national business experience competition in which high school students set up and run a business over the school year. It includes a number of challenges: product validation, sales and marketing, a businesspitch, and an annual review, which are judged to find the regional finalists, which then go on to the nationals. The aim is to provide the students with skills to help them succeed in their career and in life.
Ottyleah had long had her eye on entering YES, supported by teen parent unit teacher Judy Waapu. Over the year prior to entering the 2021 competition she had researched her lip treatment products and prepared her business plan.
Like many successful products, the development of her lip scrubs, balms and glosses was prompted by her skin reacting badly to standard off-the-shelf products. Trio Treat products are all based on rongoa Māori, made from natural ingredients. “I really needed something I could use that wouldn’t aggravate my skin.”
Of course, no great plans run smoothly, and having baby Avani (now 11 months) at the same time as the competition was starting added complexity. Like most new mums, she overestimated how much time a new baby takes up. “It was a lot of juggling, but we made it.”
And the most surprising thing that came out of the process? The amount of time that it took to develop a product. “There’s a lot of trial and error – some of the product came out too hard or too soft; then there’s product testing, and packaging development.”
Judy says students who enter the competition need to have patience and stamina. “Ottyleah has both those qualities. We are very proud of her; it’s not easy to start a new business when you have a new baby and you’re doing school study, never mind win a regional and now a national award.”