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New Plymouth couple live their self-employment dream

New Plymouth couple live their self-employment dream

  • 11 Apr 2023
Amy and Jai

Covering the bills, the struggle to make ends meet with three children and providing for elderly parents are challenges Amy and Jai Sao Tui-Huta (pictured) are all too familiar with. 

However, thanks to some good old hard work, commitment, and a passion to invest everything into their dream, Amy and Jai have been able to turn challenges into triumphs. 

The New Plymouth couple are the proud owners of Game Changer – a Samoan/Māori clothing design and manufacturing enterprise, with a far-reaching clientele base. 

They have worked alongside schools and clubs including Touch Taranaki, F45, NZ Navy, Clifton Rugby, Southern Tribes, Woolworths, Fonterra, New Zealand Police and many celebrated customers. 

Their most recent milestone has been establishing a Game Changer branch in Samoa. 

“My hope is that we (my family and children) continue to keep our connection with our aiga in Samoa for future generations and that we can continue to grow Game Changer, so we can give back to the community both in New Zealand and Samoa,” Amy says. 

“There is nothing more rewarding in business and life than creating a flow of income that can support communities, families, individuals - this has always been our plan for Game Changer.” 

Amy and Jai have been in the clothing design/manufacturing game now for more than 15 years. 

They are among the many Pacific-owned enterprises that received funding from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) to help them diversify their business. 

Thanks to MPP’s support, the couple bought much-needed equipment to create logo garments inhouse - they had to outsource this service previously. 

“This support has grown our business significantly and enabled us to employ 2.5 staff members,” Amy says. 

“The Ministry’s Pacific Business Village has provided ongoing support to guide us on our journey, and connections to other support providers.” 

The couple considered many factors that pointed them in the direction of working for themselves, such as their experience in the sporting, uniform, fabric technology and manufacturing space was vast. 

“We have grown other businesses, opened/launched other businesses into the Australian market, and I had also had my own design and manufacturing social enterprise,” Amy adds. 

“Working in this industry for ourselves was not only a dream of Jai’s, but a natural progression of our experience in this industry and life. 

“When we moved back from Australia, we both found it hard to find full-time work that could cover the bills - living in New Zealand and making ends meet with three children (Indiha, 23, Harper, 19, and Fuschia, 17) was a challenge. 

“We had both been unemployed at different times, and when we did have work, we felt it undervalued our experience, so, we basically weren’t able to contribute in these roles to our fullest potential. 

“We also had elderly/sick parents and teen children, and we found that we really wanted the flexibility to be there for our parents and children – employment wasn’t providing us any flexibility.” 

With an urge to contribute to their community, financially and in areas like valued, skilled, flexible employment, Jai and Amy set their task of becoming a self-employed family. 

Amy describes Game Changer as Jai’s “hobby” business for several years, while they both worked in full-time employment. 

Their house was full of boxes of sportswear, fabric samples, colour swatches and various other samples. 

Once COVID-19 hit New Zealand, Jai and Amy had time on their hands to rewrite their future. 

Amy says it was the ideal time for Jai to find a shop and commit all his talent, skills and life experience to turn his dream of self-employment into reality. 

Shortly after opening the shop, the couple left their jobs to commit to Game Changer full-time. 

“I was able to care for my dad while he was ill, and when he passed, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if we had not been self-employed,” Amy continues. 

The couple have had their doors to the shop open for three years now, and business has been equally stressful and rewarding at the same time. 

“We do work long hours, most days over 12 hours a day and many weeks of the year seven days a week,” Amy says. 

“We are grateful for every customer that works alongside Game Changer.” 

Not ones for the spotlight, Amy says they prefer making an impact on their community quietly in the background. 

Game Changer has given incredible amounts of support to individuals, teams and communities, yet most of their support is anonymous. 

“We don’t ask for anything in return, for example, photos on public platforms to tell everyone what we have done,” Amy adds. 

One of their most recent give-back initiatives was the proceeds from a team memorial jersey auction, which raised $24,000 for a local sports club. 

Meanwhile, Amy has the following advice for Pacific people who want to start their own business. 

“Just start… start small (baby steps) and learn as much as you can as your business grows. 

“Be prepared to commit to working hard, long hours and being able to think outside the box when it comes to problem solving… keep in mind that this is your journey.” 

Visit the MPP website for current funding available.