“Personally, I am very humbled to be categorised alongside other amazing people that have won this award before me,” he says. “Professionally, I am very proud to be acknowledged and intend to continue to add value within the Maori economy where I can.”
In his acceptance speech, Witehira said “being an individual and believing in yourself” was key to success. He also thanked his wife and children, saying his wife and business partner Kimiora was his “greatest mentor”.
In an interview with NZRetail earlier this year, he spoke of formally becoming the first Maori retailer to receive a Foodstuffs scholarship from the Auckland group, which enabled him to become a store owner. He now knows of some eight or nine Maori store owners besides himself.
Witehira emphasised the importance of having a determined attitude: “It's not about luck, it's not about whether dad's got money or you've got no money, it's all about your own personal attitude to succeed. Because it's actually quite lonely at times, when everyone's looking at you for strength, advice and direction. You're just as human as everyone else and sometimes you don't know, but you can't show that you don't know. You've got to work through it.”
Foodstuffs North Island Ltd CEO, Chris Quin, says the company is thrilled to see one of its members honoured in such a way.
“Once again we see someone who has started their career in a supermarket being recognised as a leader not only within our organisation, but in the wider business community, and for New Zealand’s future.”
“He really is a true inspiration to all our hard working staff, and lives the purpose of making sure New Zealanders get more out of life,” says Quin.
Also recognised in the awards, which are run by the University of Auckland Business School, were:
- Young Māori Business Leaders Award: Jaimie Tuuta
- Māori Woman Business Leaders Award: Miriana Stephens
- Dame Mira Szászy Māori Alumni Award: Karen Vercoe
- Outstanding Māori Business Leadership (Organisation): Ngāi Tahu Holdings (NTH)