Joining the Startup Community

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Bjana Young, Ngahuia Toma and Rachel Dunn

Finding and becoming part of the Startup Community in Tauranga can feel difficult, especially if you’ve only known the path to having a ‘standard’ job or career. 

However, if you’re wanting to start your own business or explore the potential of your ideas, you’ll need support, advice and your fellow entrepreneurs to walk the journey with.

So how do you get involved in Tauranga’s Startup Community? 

At Venture Centre, Startup Weekend is one of our doors of entry into a community of support right here in Tauranga. 

Startup Weekend Tauranga is where you’ll find; volunteer organisers who are keen on meeting new like minds, mentors who want to see more entrepreneurs succeed, and judges who are intent on supporting emerging talent with their feedback, all come together to give participants a great taste of what this community of support looks and functions like.

We chatted with three participants of this year’s Startup Weekend Tauranga; Bjana Young, Ngahuia Toma and Rachel Dunn.

Top Row: Ngahuia Toma, Andrei Naidoo, Jack Shennan, Ratime Eunice Bottom Row: Katherine Daczo, Bjana Young, Rachel Dunn

Top Row: Ngahuia Toma, Andrei Naidoo, Jack Shennan, Ratime Eunice              Bottom Row:    Katherine Daczo, Bjana Young, Rachel Dunn

Bjana, Ngahuia and Rachel had quite different reasons for signing up. 

Bjana: I've always wanted to start my own business but I feel like now is not the right time for me. My partner, Jack (also in this team) asked me (well, convinced me) to come. 

Since startups are such a big part of his life, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about his world in a weekend, meet like-minded people and learn something about starting a business. Plus I heard meals were provided

Ngahuia: I signed up to support another idea that our team wanted to share at the Startup Weekend.

Rachel: I signed up after my business teacher, Mrs Poffley, raised the opportunity with my class. I was the only person who was interested. 

Each participant came from a different background, increasing the diversity of skills and experience in their team.

Bjana: My team called me "the brains". I have a science background so I guess I knew how to research even when our idea got quite complex. Also I enjoy talking to people, which came in handy during validations. 

Ngahuia: I brought my expertise in the resource management field and my connections to my Iwi. This connection meant I could go to them for support with our business idea (including possibly financial support) as well as getting permission to use our natural resources to make our business idea a reality.

Rachel: Being the youngest member of the team I like to think I brought a different approach to the way we looked at things, introduced new technology or programmes that may help us along the way and also had a few helpful contacts in the farming industry. 

Their combined passions brought them together to pursue their team’s idea; getting people together, leadership and sticking up for those that are trampled on by others, especially Government departments. 

With the support of mentors (and their expertise in relevant industries), their team was able to overcome challenges and improve their offering. 

Bjana:  I loved the mentors’ energy and passion! We got some good feedback from them during the pitches and along the way to make sure we were ticking the criteria and staying on track. 

Rachel: The mentors at Startup Weekend were absolutely incredible! Each one was a wealth of knowledge that was able to help us with many aspects of our business. 

Ngahuia: Peter took us to the University of Waikato seaweed farm to look and gather information as well as props to present in our pitch. He was very helpful with his input regarding growing seaweed and giving us helpful feedback about our business idea. 

As a result of their Startup Weekend experience Bjana, Ngahuia and Rachel plan to continue being involved in the Venture Centre Community.

Bjana: It’s helpful knowing how hard it is to start a business and succeed. I want to continue coming to events and being part of the community. 

Ngahuia: At the moment I am doing a Small Steps to Business Course to increase my knowledge about running a small business and am hopeful I can also use this business course to help run the seaweed business better when we start fully in 5 years. 

Rachel: After Startup Weekend I have become more interested in entrepreneurship and business and have decided this is definitely the career path I want to take. It has been helpful knowing that we have so much support around us available to use through Venture Centre and the many connections we can reach out to. 

That’s what we love at Venture Centre! That a simple decision to sign up for an event can be the catalyst for personal growth, development of entrepreneurial mindsets and friendships that result in awesome impact. 

Events such as Startup Weekend tangibly build an emerging community of purposeful change makers and their supporters, right here in Tauranga.


Sign up to Venture Centre’s news for many events (your catalyst) you can choose from. Have a business idea you want to pursue? Book a time with our co-founders for a chat here.


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