Keith Toma says his success at the 2019 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards speaks volumes for his family as well as for aspiring young Pacific entrepreneurs making business their passion.
The 21-year-old budding Entrepreneur from Auckland was presented with a Pacific Business Trust Business and Entrepreneurship Award and a grant of $10,000, recognising his involvement in a business of social activity.
“This award means a lot to me and my family as it validates the endless hours, sleepless nights and the many sacrifices over the years, to pursue my passion for business, leading to the success of my current start-up business Panikeke.com,” Keith says.
In his last years of high school, Keith, who is of Niuean, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan and Tuvaluan descent, was involved in the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) where he lead the business group Matai Nonu, and created a Pacific inspired skincare range.
This proved successful and it was awarded with Excellence in Pacific Business by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples (MPP).
Keith was also awarded the top Managing Director in the South Auckland region and chosen to represent the YES 2015 cohort at the Excellence awards held in Wellington.
He was later selected to attend a six-week entrepreneurship accelerator programme Venture Up, based in Wellington before being selected by the Lions Foundation to represent the great Bruce Plested, founder of Mainfreight with his induction opening speech into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.
In 2016-2018, Keith took an internship opportunity with Grow Pacific, learning from esteemed Pacific businesses, developing platforms and raising young entrepreneurs through Yunga Opppa.
His new venture Panikeke.com is a curated beauty supply store working with local Pacific suppliers to bring Pacific products to the market at affordable prices.
His goal is to secure Panikeke into a physical retail space, to set it up as a beauty supply store and to continue to build on its growing online presence, he says.
It has not always been smooth sailing for Keith, who has faced all the obstacles imaginable, from failed business ideas, failed business relationships and investing so much time and money into failed business concepts.
“This award will highlight my journey and be used towards my mission to promote entrepreneurship within the Pacific; educating our people the power of entrepreneurship; and providing a platform for aspiring young entrepreneurs to utilise every failure as an opportunity for success,” he says.
In his free time, Keith currently mentors high school business students in South Auckland.
He has also co-founded a social enterprise which prepares young Pacific Entrepreneurs for the wide world.
“I plan to continue this venture and carry it throughout the Pacific as it is something I am immensely proud and passionate about.
“I believe the best way to grow the social wellbeing and the economy throughout the Pacific is through creating businesses and raising young Pacific business leaders.”