Maara Fresh: Young, home-grown entrepreneurs give back to Manurewa community

An innovative business idea developed by Manurewa’s home-grown entrepreneurs will benefit more than 2,000 Manurewa High School students through Ka Ora, Ka Ako, the Government’s healthy school lunches programme, starting in 2021.

Maara Fresh's founding entrepreneurs
Maara Fresh's founding entrepreneurs (from left): Serenity Temu, Emma O’Riordan, Fateh Singh, Leanne Gibson and Pete Jones.

Maara Fresh is a social enterprise which literally grew out of the Manurewa Community Garden. Developed with the support of the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) it provides a structure to ensure the financial sustainability of initiatives run out of the gardens. These include growing fresh produce to supply to local families, community kitchens and food banks in Manurewa and an education programme about horticulture for students to ensure sustainability.

Giving back

Maara Fresh was developed by University of Auckland Business School students Fateh Singh and Serenity Temu, whose shared interests are at the heart of the enterprise. Both graduated from Manurewa High School, came to the University on scholarships and are passionate about giving back to their community.

“I really appreciate what MHS has done for me and the opportunities I received, such as leadership roles, international trips and national recognition. Therefore, I have always looked to grasp any opportunity to give back to my school and the Manurewa community,” Fateh, CEO of Maara Fresh and a second-year Bachelor of Commerce student, says.

Serenity, Marketing and Communications lead for Maara Fresh and a final-year Business student, adds:

“Growing up in a low-income community like Manurewa, and seeing the positive impact a social enterprise like Maara Fresh has on the community is definitely what drives me to keep going. I want the students and those in the surrounding community to have greater access to freshly grown produce; as well as the opportunity to seek greater educational programmes and build their own career pathways, the same way the school has done for me.”

I wish to see people being educated about food choices and
growing practices... and food banks [operating] without fear of supply shortage during unforeseen circumstances like lockdowns.”

Fateh Singh

During the COVID-19 lockdowns in Auckland this year, both Fateh and Serenity have seen the impact of a national crisis on the food supply of a community like Manurewa, where there is a lack of educational opportunities on horticulture.

“I really wish to see people being educated about food choices and growing practices. I also sincerely hope that food banks and local kitchens continue to operate without fear of supply shortage, especially during unforeseen circumstances like lockdowns,” Fateh says.

Manurewa Community Garden
The team in the Manurewa Community Garden.

Velocity Launch Pad

To translate their ideas into a venture, the young entrepreneurs – together with MHS Principal Pete Jones, MHS Business Academy Executive Director Leanne Gibson and the academy’s Director of Disruption Emma O’Riordan – submitted their ideas to CIE’s Velocity $100k Challenge competition. They were finalists, and won a place in the Velocity Launch Pad programme, which enabled them to receive valuable mentoring from industry leaders as well as intensive entrepreneurial education and workshops.

Serenity looks back on their Launch Pad experience:

“With the help of mentors Cath Handley and Steve McLean and intense internal team discussions, we were able to narrow our focus and create a strong business plan. Our biggest win is definitely our ability to turn the initial difficulty of having different backgrounds to become our greatest strength.”

“The biggest challenge was to be able to cohesively portray the business in the application and business plan process. Maara Fresh is a business that branches out in various directions. Therefore, it can be very difficult to produce an in-depth document that covers all aspects in extensive detail while making it interesting for judges to read. Our biggest win would have been the development within the team,” Fateh says.

What’s next?

The vision of Maara Fresh is to create a healthy cycle of growing and supplying organic produce and educating people across New Zealand, starting with rolling out the innovation to other high schools.

Serenity, Fateh and their team hope that their social enterprise model will continue to create investment and funding opportunities, as well a sustainable business that can be passed on to Manurewa High School students in the future so they could run it for the community’s benefit.

At this stage, Marra Fresh is looking for volunteers who are keen to share their horticulture expertise either by working in the garden, offering training to staff and other volunteers or assisting with the student learning programme.

To follow their progress and offer support:

Facebook: @manurewagarden