Know your kaupapa, know your why!

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Flexibility is essential when you head out of university, says Joshua Iosefo, AUT graduate and Odd Founder storyteller. He eloquently encourages students to know the island they're navigating towards in their career and life journey, but also told them to embrace change.

"My journey has changed a lot since I graduated. It is okay to change track."

Damaris Coulter, Coco Cantina

Damaris Coulter of Coco’s Cantina, who strongly advocated “knowing your kaupapa”, spoke with down to earth authenticity about leadership and journeys.

She talked about how hard it is to keep authentic when navigating around systems, law, people and the world, but how understanding your kaupapa helps you keep true to yourself. This included working out what you’re good at and outsourcing the rest.

“An effective leader is someone who is brave and able to reflect – and reflect often,” she told students.Phoric founder Holly

Holly Sutich, an AUT student and co founder of natural energy drink Phoric, encouraged students to “Know your why”. Holly and her Phoric co-founder have been working on Phoric since they first decided they wanted to create a natural energy drink back in 2015. They’ve worked part time and full time on Phoric since, officially launching it five months ago.

Holly pointed out you have to do some stuff you don’t enjoy when you first start out, but you also should turn to experts to help you along the way. Holly got a food technologist on board to help create the drink, did Co-Starters to develop the business plan and found mentors in the commercial sector.

She says she is driven by her passion to create health energy drinks and won’t let anything get in the way. The business doesn’t provide any income for them yet, so she baby sits and does gardening to get the dollars she needs to continue to work on the business.

“I’m not getting paid to do it, but I’m doing it because I believe in it and want to do it. What drives you to get up in the morning? Know your why!”

Another eloquent speaker was broadcaster and Māori language advocate Stacey Morrison whose passion is to reclaim Te Reo Māori in the home. She spoke about  how it is essential to follow your passions, find a gap and be the bridge between old and new to bring change.

My first words in MaoriStacey, and her husband, decided to advocate for Te Reo Māori because they wanted their children to grow up with their indigenous language as a living language.

Stacey pointed out while they may not be able to return the land or resources that have been taken from them to their children, they can keep passing on the language.

She also spoke about how she has been criticised for being too plastic, too elite. These challenges made her realise that it is really important to be true to who you are, follow your own purpose and self belief and not do what others think you should do, but what you believe is right.

Sometimes, though, people can feel overwhelmed by what is possible for them to do as individuals, particularly when bombarded by global uncertainty and climate change issues. Gareth Farry, Splice Programme Manager of Active Citizens Programme, suggests volunteering is a great way to take a step to saving the world when you don’t know where to begin.

“You need an action plan and skills; it is not all doom and gloom. By being practical you can be positive.”