Tagata Pasifika

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New Zealand television

since 1987

Keith Toma: The name behind the Panikeke beauty shop

What started out as a stall at the Otara flea market has now transformed into a fashionable business for pacific beauty products and accessories. 

A traditional Pacific Island dessert that comes in all shapes and sizes holds a different meaning for entrepreneur Keith Toma. That’s the name he’s given to his very own pacific beauty shop – Panikeke.

“Panikeke originally started at the Otara flea market and (we were) kind of wanting to build a Pacific brand,” Keith says. 

“We started with one soap and one lotion… so it’s developed to a pacific beauty shop. We have earrings, accessories and bags which we all design ourselves.”

Keith says, they used to make and design everything in the shop but demand is so high now that they have to outsource the work. 

“But we still have a big input in terms of the formulating and the design before we release it,” he says. 

Behind the brand and name, Keith always kept his inspiration at the forefront of what he was creating – his family and especially his grandmother. 

“It really holds a deep meaning for me and my family. Growing up, struggling in south Auckland, we had nothing to eat but panikekes,” he says.

“My grandmother taught me… there’s always flour and sugar in the fridge, water in the tap, and you can make panikekes.

“Having that kind of value really helps with the business too, to kind of be resourceful and use what we have locally here.

“Just like how the panikeke provided for my family when we needed help, I wanted to kind of create a business that did the same thing.”

While inspiration and drive has helped him to succeed to date, running a business with a team of just two has had its challenges.

“Opening a shop, has been challenging especially with covid but I think building the business from the markets and having that small Panikeke customer base who are really supportive of what we do has really helped the business.” He says

Being of Tokelauen and Tuvaluan decent, Keith hopes to inspire others from his community to follow his lead adding that entrepreneurship and business is a definite “career pathway”.

“If you really have the passion, go hard out and don’t give up. Go full force and do it.” 

By Hanalei Foliaki

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