After an exceptional 2022, all eyes are on To’e Lokeni (pictured) to see what is next for the 17-year-old budding Pacific entrepreneur from Porirua.
In December, To’e, who is of Samoan heritage, received the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award (PMPYA) for Business and Entrepreneurship, sponsored by Pacific Business Trust.
The award recognises a young Pacific person who has demonstrated entrepreneurial qualities through involvement in a business or social enterprise activity.
Additionally, To’e and fellow Bishop Viard College senior student Mannfed Sofara were named CEOs of Year in the 2022 Young Enterprise Scheme YES), for their work overseeing Fa’amalosi – Say it Right.
The pair led a small business group to create Fa’amalosi – Say it Right, a website aiming to help people pronounce Māori and Pacific names correctly.
Fa’amalosi, Say it Right also collected the National Excellence in Sales and Marketing award at the National YES Awards.
To’e says he feels honoured to be one of nine 2022 PMPYA recipients.
“My family are also very proud of me as they know how hard I have worked.
“Receiving a PMPYA feels like the icing on the cake for everything I have accomplished.”
Having completed secondary school at the end of last year, To’e is currently working at the Ministry Of Health as a part of the Pacific Health Strategy Team.
“I am the Pacific Youth Health Strategy Liaison, so my job is to set up youth engagements around New Zealand and we travel to those places to talk about Pacific health,” To’e says.
“Comments we get at these engagements from youth contribute to the development of the first ever Pacific Health Strategy Plan here at MoH.”
He also aims to continue improving the Fa'amalosi website and app, boosted by him winning both the PMPYA and YES awards.
“This is something needed in spaces where people find it hard to correctly pronounce Māori and Pacific names.
“Being able to pronounce a name correctly on the first go is very important – and even trying to pronounce a name correctly even though you might get it wrong gives of a feeling of inclusion to the person whose name you are trying to pronounce.”
While unsure of what career path he intends to travel down, To’e says it will be business orientated and of benefit to Pacific Aotearoa.
“I want to do as much as I can for my community, especially while I am young.
“I hope to inspire young Pacific youth to take on challenges like I have as I want to show people you don't need to wait until you are an adult to make change.
“It is possible at a young age as long as you are dedicated, diligent and doing something you truly love.”
Visit the MPP website for more information about PMPYA.