Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Manurewa High School students win a start-up for success

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Moon Wood Canvas at Market Place at AUT
Moon Wood Canvas team at the AUT Market Place
Avatar photo
Kendall Vano | Reporter

Nervously stepping out onto the stage to present her team’s product to an open audience, Manurewa High School student Leonada Manu’atu asked herself, was all her hard work and late night hours worth it? The answer was “YES” according to the “Young Enterprise Scheme”.   

“I cried a couple of times.” admits Leonada.  The Manurewa Pacific team jumped for joy in disbelief as they heard the winning announcement of the regional YES awards. 

“Our business teachers were screaming and shouting before we had even realised we had won”, she says. 

The South Auckland school’s team consisted of Selina Helg, Luseane Langoia, and Taeao Pomale-Time and led by Leonada.

Their success was thanks to their MoonWood Canvases. A business producing canvas frames, carved with both Pasifika and Maori cultural designs. But their path to success was not an easy one, and they had a long way to go perfecting their product.

Leonada explains that the original concept was to use recycled wood however this changed during development due to the quality of the wood needed for the canvases. She adds this was one of the many challenges they faced.

Moon Wood Canvases win's Company of the year at the YES Regional Awards. Photo: Leonada / Facebook
Moon Wood Canvases win’s Company of the year at the YES Regional Awards. Photo: Leonada / Facebook

“Certain members of the group had begun to drop-out or were not contributing as much to the project, and so the work would have to fall on the rest of the group to pick up the slack”

When we first started off there were seven of us which gradually fell down to just the four of us still committed, Leonada says. 

But what kept them all going was their understanding of the struggle. That all their hard work was all part of the process. 

MoonWood Canvas
Photo: Michael Telford

The YES team drew encouragement from their High School teachers Rekka Ram, Karishman Kelsey, Brendan Lambert and Nilam Chandra but more so from their loved ones. 

For Leonada her constant source for support came from her mum. A Tongan single mother  working to provide for her family and still makes time to back her daughter. 

“My mum would find me staying up late at night. Working on re-writes for the presentation after I had already finished my part-time shift,” she says. 

Refining their business strategy, these young entrepreneurs completed their final product and were ready to present but were met with some anxiety on the day of the competition. 

Leonada says “The other schools were so confident and were very professional, we began to get intimidated watching them”. 

MoonWood Canvas can be bought online
MoonWood Canvas can be bought online. Photo: Michael Telford

She adds. “While I was on stage with my co presenter Luseane, the microphone headset I was wearing started to slip off and then began interfering with the speaker. Fed up, I took them off”.

Thanks to Leonada’s quick thinking, she improvised, projecting her voice across the stage.  And while this saved the presentation the team had already accepted defeat before the announcements were made.

And that’s when it happened. They heard the name Manurewa High School echo across the stage. The teachers leaped from their seats cheering. 

 “My mum came up to me and gave me lots of hugs and kisses, tearing up. She told me how proud she was of me”.

“After all our hardship, I could proudly say that it was all worth it in the end.”

Follow MoonWood Canvas on Instagram



Stay Connected

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive daily updates direct to your inbox!

*we hate spam as much as you do