'They're starting from well behind the startline' - New crowdfunding platform aims to help Māori grow business

Access to cash to grow business has long been a problem for Māori entrepreneurs but now economists hope two new programmes will help change that and make the $40 billion sector more productive.

Tā Koha is a crowdfunding platform for indigenous businesses run by PledgeMe and the Māori Women's Development Inc.

Sharee Wilkinson is one of the first Māori entrepreneurs to use Tā Koha and is asking for $1.5 million for Moka Lashes – a product made from possum tails.

"It looks appealing. Women love lashes but men love lashes too," she said.

"I'd like to create all-natural adhesives that are 100 per cent from here - those things take time and they cost money."

The Māori economy is currently worth $40 billion but economists acknowledge that historically Māori businesses have struggled to attract investment.

One big issue small outfits face is that many Māori don't have homes to mortgage, BERL economist Ganesh Nana said.

"In terms of the base they're starting from, they're starting from well behind the startline," Mr Nana said.

PledgeMe has raised $27 million over six years but very little of it is for Māori – an issue chief lending officer Barry Grehan is looking to change.

"We'd seen access to funding improve but when we dug a little bit deeper the equity behind that distribution of money wasn't quite there," Mr Grehan said.

"There wasn't the diverse representation across communities in New Zealand."

Mr Nana said it's intriguing to see platforms like Tā Koha springing up.

"I think it is challenging and indeed exciting that we're beginning to see these new sources of capital become available to a much broader sector of the community."

Access to cash has been a problem for many Māori entrepreneurs. Source: 1 NEWS