Wrapped in Awhi

The support of whānau and a focus on te ao Māori have created strong foundations for Tasmyn Roach’s Awhi Company, which offers beautiful wraps and blankets adorned with traditional Māori motifs.

The support of whānau and a focus on te ao Māori have created strong foundations for Tasmyn Roach’s Awhi Company, which offers  beautiful wraps and blankets adorned with traditional Māori motifs.

“Poipoia te kakano, kia puawai.” Nurture the seed and it will grow.

What started as a passion project inspired by a natural aroha for pēpi (babies), Awhi Company
has grown into a thriving business at a capacity that founder Tasmyn Roach (Ngāti Maniapoto,
Ngāti Raukawa, Waikato) could never have imagined.

Becoming a mother herself in 2022, Tasmyn (29) found new motivation in running her own pākihi (business), as it allowed her to stay home with her son, surrounding him in aroha and his culture.

Awhi, meaning to nurture and cherish, is woven throughout every important aspect of Tasmyn’s life, from the foundations of running the business to cultural connection and nurturing whānau, māmā and pēpi. “A lot of what we do is inspired by a deep passion to learn our culture, whakapapa and history so that we can pass it on to our pēpi,” says Tasmyn. “Whānau is also pivotal in this journey;
it’s the foundation Awhi Company is grounded on.”

Growing up in the small town of Ōtorohanga, the journey to establish Awhi has been one shaped by personal growth, cultural awakening and strong whānau support. Despite not actively learning te reo as a child, it was Tasmyn’s Pākehā māmā, who ensured it was present in her life through waiata and kupu Māori. Tasmyn has been devoted to creating something that exposes tamariki to Māori culture from the very beginning. “I want to be able to wrap pēpi in their culture and identity from the moment they enter this world,” says Tasmyn. “Our vision is to see our tamariki standing strong in who they are and where they come from, embracing their Māoritanga.”

Working with different artists and creatives on unique designs, every blanket or muslin wrap is created with an element of te reo Māori or mātauranga Māori. The designs stem from traditional motifs, adorning the blankets with a beautiful symbology for tamariki to be cloaked in. The latest muslin wraps, and the blankets in the new Whare Collection (designed for multispace use) are in earthy tones, inspired by te taiao (the natural environment).

"Our vision is to see our tamariki standing strong in who they are and where they come from, embracing
their Māoritanga."
Strong support from her whānau meant Tasmyn was able to balance a new baby and her business.
Opener: The whānau: Tasmyn, Lance and baby Kahika, who is wrapped in Mahana Throw (Rahota).

When Tasmyn fell hapū with her son Kahika, the essence of Awhi Company took on a new meaning for her. “It’s really special being able to immerse Kahika in our culture through what we do. One day
I hope he continues to share our stories and our mātauranga Māori.”

Operating the business from her whare since 2017 has allowed Tasmyn the opportunity to be a
stay-at-home māmā to Kahika, rather than returning to full-time work. However, a few months in, Tasmyn realised that juggling both the responsibilities of the business and being a new mum
was trickier than she had anticipated. “There was no boundary between work and being a māmā,
it was hard to switch off,” she says. “I had prepared myself mentally and physically for the arrival
of our pēpi, but the first few months were really challenging — I felt like I had bitten off more than
I could chew.”

Fortunately, Tasmyn’s partner Lance Wanakore, who is studying environmental science, and the
wider whānau, including her mum and sisters, played a crucial role in supporting her as a mother and business owner. Whether it was lending a hand wherever it was needed, preparing orders, setting up shop at weekend markets or caring for pēpi — they were there. “I couldn’t have managed without my whānau being so involved,” Tasmyn says gratefully.

As Kahika grew, so did the business, and earlier this year the young parents decided to set up
a permanent shop and get their home back. “We had boxes all over the whare, which wasn’t
safe for Kahika.”

On 16 June this year, Awhi Company launched their new shop with whānau and friends, celebrating an important milestone in their journey as a whānau and as a Māori business. Opening their doors
to the community at Tauranga’s much-loved Historic Village, Awhi can now be found alongside other talented local artists and entrepreneurs.

Tasmyn in her light-filled Awhi Company shop at The Historic Village.

The shop displays Awhi Company’s cot quilts, pēpi blankets, and the new Whare Collection of throws and blankets.

The new physical space allows Tasmyn to connect with the community and other māmā, all while having Kahika close by, at the local kindergarten on-site.

This is part of a much bigger plan for Awhi Company, that extends beyond pēpi blankets. The shop also welcomes māmā and pēpi who are reclaiming te reo, offering a space to learn and share the language, with plans to also offer them reo classes. “I love this for Awhi Company, for whānau and others embarking on a similar journey, that we can step into these spaces where we can normalise our culture and reo. That’s what excites me about the future for my son.”

While business responsibilities have increased, Tasmyn remains dedicated to spending quality
time with her son, and whānau continues to be a major support in the growth of the business.
“It’s certainly not easy running a full-time business while raising a pēpi, but having strong whānau support makes it possible,” says Tasmyn.

Now very settled into their new location, the future looks bright for continuing Awhi Company’s mahi. “You need to be realistic with yourself and be smarter about where you invest your time. There’s no point trying to do everything,” says Tasmyn. “Part of our success is also about employing the right people with the right skills to fill the gaps — hire where you need it most so collectively you are strong.” With big-picture vision and whānau-driven values, Tasmyn’s story is one that exhibits ambition, awhi and aroha.

Tasmyn is a true testament of a mana wahine Māori, passionate about providing nurturing products and spaces that help whānau and tamariki connect to te ao Māori from the beginning. With family and culture at its core, Awhi Company is a business with heart and soul, not to mention beautifully designed muslin wraps and knitted blankets!

Ko te pae tawhiti whāia kia tata, ko te pae tata whakamaua kia tīna. Seek out distant horizons and cherish those you attain. Karawhiua!



The Kōrero series is supported by the Creative Communities Scheme.
Arpége Taratoa is editor of Kōrero.

Words by Tuihana Walker
Photography by Adrienne Pitts