Indigo begun last year as an innovation start-up. When COVID hit they were just eight months old. A team of 11, this little family unit harnessed their relentless drive to fight the status quo with innovation and empathy to support Kiwi businesses. Indigo is made up of two platforms; Manaaki, an online forum that makes business experts accessible for free to Kiwi entrepreneurs, and Chooice, a shopping platform small businesses use to sell their products.
How was Manaaki born?
“Back in March 2020, Covid was spreading. We went from seven investors to two in 24 hours. We lost half a million dollars’ worth of work and in times like these you’re meant to batten down the hatches, say “oh well” and make people redundant. That wasn’t an option for us - I had a responsibility for these people and their families” explained Pat MacFie, Global Director of Design & Innovation.
At the same time, Pat knew that these conversations were happening in small businesses all around the country. “We were lucky that we had business connections to turn to in a crisis, but I couldn’t help but think what about those mum and pop businesses? Someone needed to do something for them. We realised it could be us.”
So, they quickly created an online forum to connect small businesses to business experts.
“The following day we had a brand identity, a logo, a name: Manaaki, a developer in Prague we’d never met, and absolutely everything on the line. This was innovation under urgency with massive stakes” said Pat. “Our only hope was that within a short period, we could create the revenue we needed to keep everyone in our team employed, and somehow do that with a free platform.”
On the 25th of March, a state of emergency was declared in NZ and the country was put into lockdown. Manaaki went live that very day and has been a runaway success. To date, Manaaki has interacted with more than 300,000 Kiwis via livestreams and Q&As with experts on the forum.
Chooice is also a lockdown success story
Formerly one of New Zealand’s youngest elected officials, Sarah Colcord started New Zealand Made Products as a way to support her events management business, which was hit hard by the restrictions of COVID-19. When the page hit 7,000 likes within a week, she knew it was building a life of its own.
Chooice rapidly grew to be New Zealand’s largest Facebook group, with over 540,000 members. Its matching online platform has 3,685 stores and is on track to hit $1m in gross sales in December 2020. “That’s $1m in Kiwis’ back pockets that otherwise wouldn’t have been there and we’re pretty proud of that” says Sarah.
Keeping up with demand was tough. She gathered a team of volunteers to help moderate and when Indigo’s Pat and Monty (who were behind Manaaki) touched base, a fruitful mentoring relationship began.
“I was getting offers daily from people who wanted a piece of the pie,” Sarah said. “But Pat and Monty stood out as being authentic people. They stood in to review approaches and offer advice like big brothers. It was a natural progression to work with them.”
2degrees signed a partnership deal with Indigo in November 2020. The deal, which includes 2degrees’ cash sponsorship, provision of mobile and broadband services and mutual support of key projects, is built on a philosophy of enabling small businesses to survive and thrive in New Zealand.
Why team up with 2degrees?
MacFie explained “2degrees and its 10 year legacy of Fighting for Fair is well aligned with the Manaaki and Chooice kaupapa. We saw an opportunity to join forces and live up to the notion of big supporting small - which is so important in our economy right now. 2degrees is a big business, with the heart of a startup and there’s a great energy in the team.”
For 2degrees Chief Business Officer, Andrew Fairgray, the runaway success that is Chooice, and the support network that grew to form Manaaki are a testament to this. As 2degrees has been Fighting for Fair for Kiwi Business since 2011, the partnership felt like a natural fit.
“At 2degrees, our goal has always been to help businesses get on with doing what they do best, which is running their business. We know this year businesses, and particularly small businesses, need more support to do that than ever, so we’re proud to partner with Indigo to help extend the reach of this amazing avenue for support” he says.
When there are so many people trying to get the SME support model right, the team at Manaaki and Chooice are making a real difference and this is what caught the eye of the 2degrees team and led to the partnership agreement which has a very bright future.
Fighting for Fair means helping Indigo, a COVID startup, get little businesses back on their feet.