Etienne Tapueluelu

Etienne Tapueluelu

Founder, Lelei 'o Tonga
Master of Business
Bachelor of Business in Management

He has always been interested in business, says Etienne Tapueluelu who completed a Bachelor of Business in Management in 2020, followed by a Master of Business which he completed with honours.

“It made sense to learn more about business on an academic level. A friend of mine suggested I study at AUT, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For a mature student, AUT was a little intimidating at first, but once I settled, I realised how supportive AUT was and how easy-going the students were. The supportive, friendly environment helped build my confidence so I could try new things – so I tried to do everything I could!

“When I was studying my last few courses for my Bachelor of Business, I took a course on risk management and immediately took an interest. I realised this was how I could help people and make a difference. I pinpointed health and safety as an important area of interest I wanted to learn more about. I felt I could make my mark by helping to address health and safety issues for workers in Aotearoa. I’ve been fortunate enough to have both Associate Professor Felicity Lamm and Dr Danae Anderson support me on my postgraduate journey.”

He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend AUT’s business programmes to other students, says Etienne who is now focusing on his business, Lelei 'o Tonga,  and on doing volunteer work in his local neighbourhood.

“I can’t say enough about AUT – supportive lecturers, teachers and staff, and friendly students with no egos. If it wasn’t for AUT’s support, compassion and empathy for students during the pandemic and other stresses of life I might not be writing this right now. Both 2020 and 2021 were tough mentally and physically for everyone, including for me and my family, and with the good grace of God we all got through in one piece.”

Turning ideas into reality
One of the highlights of Etienne’s time at university was participating in the activities AUT offers aspiring entrepreneurs.

“The CO.STARTERS programme appealed to my business sense, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. I met some awesome mentors and other like-minded students who I still keep in touch with. The X Challenge competition was another great opportunity I had to take up. It’s a great competition and one I’ve been promoting to other students as I believe it’s important to have many income streams, especially now that it’s possible to create passive income and make money while you sleep.”

His entrepreneurial idea was simple: a Pacific Island twist on online food bag delivery.

“Like most food bag providers, a customer would select a food bag or meal kit for a specific dish or meal, choose a delivery date and pay online before it’s delivered to them at the location they have provided. The service would focus on Pacific Island cuisine, and the idea is a tribute to my mother Ma’ava and my late grandmother ‘Ana who both taught me how to cook many different island meals.

“By participating in these entrepreneurship activities, I’ve learned a lot about my strengths and limitations, and have discovered some ‘nuggets’ to help me bring my idea to fruition and benefit people in the community. I know I have great ideas and can explain them with a passion that’s not only persuasive and genuine but is paying homage to my family, my childhood and also AUT.”

Supported to thrive
Etienne says he is grateful for the support he received throughout his studies.

“I must thank the Pacific Education Foundation, the Auckland Business Chamber and the Health and Safety Association of New Zealand for supporting me with scholarships during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Without their assistance, I would have found it hard to feel confident with myself and what I was trying to achieve. Also, none of what I’m doing would be possible without my family’s unwavering support.”

He has some great advice for other students who are just at the start of their university journey.

“Enjoy your student life, but figure out your ‘why’ and point of difference from others, so that when potential employers or mentors see you they immediately buy into what you offer. Moreover, develop a positive online digital footprint with a solid résumé and an appealing LinkedIn page, and then work hard and add every glowing piece of information about you including work experiences, education, volunteer work and skills as you go!”