The Generator Innovation Fund awarded to five start-up businesses



18 October 2022

The Generator Innovation Fund awarded to five start-up businesses

Five entrepreneurs will receive a grant of up to $10,000 to make their business goals a reality thanks to The Generator Innovation Fund, backed by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

The businesses include Whanganui-based sewing classes Paetuia Studio; 2B1 Dargaville painting and decorating service; Whanganui’s Flowstate Holistic Centre; Christchurch’s Hope to Homes; and Kaikohe’s Grow Your Own Northland Ltd.

The Generator provides seed funding and mentorship to help people on low incomes kickstart their business ventures and improve their financial situations. It is an Emerge Aotearoa Trust initiative, funded by MSD.

Earlier this year, MSD approved the Generator Innovation Fund pilot to further support five Generator business owners to demonstrate leadership in their communities, increase income and reduce costs. The Generator team provided the businesses with support to prepare their applications, including sessions with a financial advisor, The National team  and community coaches.

Grow Your Own Northland whānau business is owned and operated by Tamati Astle, Noti Astle, Michelle Wilson-Astle and Teava Teava. They were thrilled to be selected, saying the $10,000 grant will help to fast track the company’s expansion plans. “The support has encouraged our whānau immensely and provides us with the opportunity to give back to our community,” she said. “The Generator has also enabled us to introduce a range of new products and ensure our business is viable right from the beginning, with ongoing planning and financial support.”

The Generator Manager Therese Ireland-Smith said all recipients had met set criteria for a trial and ongoing management of their business. “They are already established and are ready to scale up or modify,” she said. “For some, this will involve taking it to the next step to increase income and wellbeing, and for businesses with a social enterprise focus, it will be working towards reducing community costs.”

To be selected for the fund, the businesses owners were required to present to a panel made up of Emerge Aotearoa Trust Mana Whakahaere Phyllis Tangitu; Director Pasifika Responsiveness Vailoa Milo-Harris; Generator programme finance partner Sean Tan; Northern Kaiārahi and member of the managers’ group Nikora Johnson; Coconut Wireless owner and social media advisor Mary Aue; and Emerge Aotearoa National Communications and Marketing Manager, Theodora Despotaki.


For more information, please contact Theodora Despotaki, National Communications and Marketing Manager on 021 325 475 or email

Case Study

The $10,000 Generator Innovation Fund grant is a game changer for Michelle Wilson-Astle

and her whānau.

The whānau business, Grow Your Own Northland, was born out of the COVID-19 lockdown of 2021, when financial challenges started to affect their family living in remote Taheke, Northland. Thanks to Tamati’s building skills, the whānau originally began designing planter boxes and have grown to produce shade houses, garden sheds, and chicken coops. The overall goals were to increase income, reduce expenditure, as well as helping others in their community.

The Innovation Fund will allow Grow Your Own Northland to update tools and equipment to increase their quality and productivity; improve internet and cellphone coverage; introduce a financial management system; make their site safer and more accessible to the public; ensure all whānau working in the enterprise have their first aid certificate; offer free workshops; and continue to be role models to their tamariki and community.

“We have successfully expanded our products range to now include hot houses, shade houses, chicken coops, garden sheds, pig pens and dog kennels,” says Michelle.

Grow Your Own Northland provides individuals and families on low incomes access to their product through raffles and donations to non-profit organisations. They also hold community events to support local ventures, offer a variety of payment plans and rates, and aim to keep prices affordable.

“The Generator Innovation Fund grant ensures that we have the ability to make a difference where it counts,” Michelle says.