Best Small Business 2022
Winner: Tū Mai Rā Energy
Established in 2020, Tū Mai Rā Energy is the first Iwi-owned energy solutions company specialising in delivering solar power solutions. We approach everything through a cultural lense, standing proud in our Māoritanga. We have installed typical and innovative systems including community solar plants micro-grids, virtual power plants, peer to peer sharing platforms, battery storage and off grid solutions.
First and foremost, for Tū Mai Rā Energy has always been to utilise technology to contribute to the health and wellbeing of whānau in the home. In the two years of operation more than 50% of installations have supported vulnerable whānau in the home.
Māori are disproportionately represented in the energy hardship group within New Zealand, particularly Māori living in rural areas. TMRE believes that access to quality and reliable power at reasonable prices should not depend on where you live or your social economic status. TMRE was established to transform communities by harnessing renewable energy and its longterm economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits.
TMRE quickly realised to achieve our vision required social, financial and technological innovation. Success, however would be determined on developing a company that reflected the hopes and aspirations of the many who have contributed to and inspire us on our journey to improve the lives of whanau and the community.
Building strong relationships with experts in the solar community in New Zealand and beyond meant we were able to build our internal capability quickly while ensuring best in class designs and equipment were used in all of our installations. We developed an internal installation team under the guidance of experienced installers and have gone from completing 8 panel installations to 800 panel installations in a short period. TMRE have a warehouse in Tauranga where we manage the logistics of equipment and materials. This way we can control the end-to-end process from sales, design and engineering, procurement, and installation.
In December 2020, the government announced a new contestable fund to enable renewable energy technologies to be trialled on Māori housing. TMRE held wananga to help Māori communities apply for the fund across the North Island. TMRE assisted several Māori organisations, groups and whānau to apply for the fund. TMRE has been responsible for approximately one quarter of the solar power systems installed as part of the fund. This fund has been the driver for TMRE to deliver technological innovative projects to the Māori sector. These pilot projects have been replicated by TMRE and pitched to non-govt funders and investors and packaged to ensure low income and vulnerable whanau can access these projects in the future. The realisation of this package is the financial innovation needed to ensure the sustainability of these projects beyond the MBIE fund.
Tū Mai Rā Energy has taken a socially innovative approach by incorporating a number of initiatives. Considerable engagement is undertaken up front to educate whānau on the how a solar system works and how to maximise the benefits of the system. Educational and monitoring dashboards are built in to provide real-time information on solar consumption to enable and encourage a reduction in unnecessary waste. Opportunities are available for whānau to be involved in the installation of the systems. All this engagement of the communities is designed to encourage people to work together to realise the benefits of renewable energy at a large scale in response to societal challenges, with the aim of improving societal well-being.
TMRE staff whakapapa to Rangitāne and other iwi throughout Aotearoa. Staff undertake tikanga and reo classes regularly to ensure our team delivers culturally competent services. Training and development of all our staff is of high importance and is undertaken regularly. Where particular skills are not available in the organisation, those skills are procured so that staff have access to the expertise even if it is not employed in the company. This tuakana-teina relationship with contractors is a traditional Māori cultural philosophy and practice where we work hard to develop long term mutually beneficial relationships.
TMRE reflects the hopes and aspirations of our Iwi Rangitāne. We are therefore a values driven entity and we seek to involve our iwi everything that we do. Recently we had a full contingent of iwi leaders at the opening of a project in Dannevirke where Rangitāne were invited to give deliver a blessing. We deliver an annual report annually at our Iwi's AGM and we meet at least once a quarter with Iwi to let them know what we are up to and find ways that we can help our iwi.
Solar power solutions may not be new, but the way our company demonstrate its commitment to delivering a kaupapa Māori model in the renewable energy industry is not only new but socially and culturally innovative.
TMRE has been proud to develop a business that is not only technically competent, but striving to deliver socially, financially and technologically innovative projects implemented by a culturally competent workforce.
TMRE have provided renewable energy solutions to 50+ low income and vulnerable homes. It’s not enough to put panels on houses, whanau need the tools to take full advantage of renewable energy technologies. One kaumatua told us‚ ”now we have solar we can keep our mokopuna warm in the morning and night‚” others have been encouraged to buy heat pumps with solar we can use more power and pay less.
Runner Up: Ecoefficient Solutions
Our business’s mission is to save the planet the Eco way! Our strategy to achieve this, is by providing customers with renewable energy sources and complimenting them with energy efficient products.
Our target market is residential and commercial clients whom can reduce their demand from grid supplied power and offset this with PV energy. Our ultimate goal is more solar on roofs and positive solar experiences all round.
For more than 6 years we have continued to improved internal processes and the customer journey. We pride ourselves on our reviews, fantastic community reputation and the fact we can give back to our contractors, staff and charities. Each year we donate around $10,000 to our chosen charities.
We have built an insightful social network platform where the customers can easily contact us and further understand their system at any time. We ensure all customers have adequate monitoring for every system that is installed and provide them with ‘after-care’ documents to ensure that they fully understand how best to utilise their system. We provide only premium products and are lucky enough to have secured a Tesla contract to offer this solution to our clients also. If clients wish, we provide a maintenance service for them to help with that side as well. Our customers are so happy with their service received that they wish there were more transaction opportunities, but if they ever want to add more panels or batteries, or if they move house, they come back to us to assist them with their next purchase. From 2020-2021, our turnover almost doubled and from 2021-2022 it increased again by 50%. Over the last three years we have nailed our marketing and our lead generation has never been better. The result from this - more solar on roofs! We are the leading supplier for the Hawkes Bay Regional Council and worked with ANZ weeks leading up to their 1% loan release. We spend time completing marketing videos for Spark & ANZ as well as developing our own marketing material so we can get the word out there on how to go solar.
Our employees love working at Ecoefficient. We pay them above the living wage, offer flexible working hours and locations and reward them generously for their hard work. They all have hybrid company cars, private health insurance and phones & computers for personal use. We also have implemented a superannuation scheme where we pay 2% of and above their salary annually which is invested into sustainable and ethical investments but employees have full access to this after 5 years of employment. We have a really positive work culture and Ecoefficient is an attractive place to work. All of our contracting teams are on contracts with us where we pay them a competitive remuneration rate for their works. We believe that it is two way street that if Ecoefficient is going well, so should our employees and contractors. All of our contractors are proud to be working alongside us. Due to our positive relationships that we have built with our contractors, it has meant that ourselves and our staff are spending time with our contractors to become better trained on how to install a premium solution. When our contractors have put in big hours, we offer small bonuses and pizza shouts on us to make the big days a bit easier. Health and safety is paramount to us and we take this seriously and ensure our contractors are only working in a comfortable space for them. We perform regular site visits to meet with contractors to ensure that all parties are happy with the planned job and that the job is done safely. By investing into our staff and contractors we are ensuring long-term relationships which ultimately enables the longevity and success of Ecoefficient Solutions.
We have grown into a renowned solar provider - this has not been without long hours, sacrifice and doing the ‘right thing’. It has been important to grow sustainably yet at speed to keep up with the growing demand. We are worthy of recognition because we are a premium solar provider, offering an excellent, customer solar journey. We invest into ourselves, our staff, our contractors, the community and our charities. Ecoefficient is out there giving the solar industry a good name and recognition for our hard work would be very rewarding.