With a background built on his Samoan and Tokelauan values and morals, and faith encouraged by the Catholic church and his parents, 17-year-old Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Malaga Aukusotino mixes service with leadership and entrepreneurship.
The Year 12 student and his Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) team, The Hustle, from Bishop Viard College in Porirua, claimed the National Excellence Business Award for Pasifika Business at the recent Lion Foundation YES National Awards 2020, staged at Te Papa Tongarewa.
At the start of the year, The Hustle recognised there was a gap in the market for the representation of Samoan history and language, so came up with the concept to highlight the culture on reusable stainless-steel bottles.
Topping off a hugely successful year for the company, Malaga was named CEO of the Year at the annual awards and took home $3,000 worth of training with future leaders, and $1,000 to put towards leadership development opportunities.
The title is awarded to the YES CEO who most effectively demonstrates leadership, support, sharing the limelight and keeping things together through the challenging times - a skill which proved very necessary this year.
Prior to taking part in YES this year, Malaga says he was too shy to speak up and found it challenging to contribute to group work.
“However, YES has been life-changing,” Malaga adds.
“I have gone on to develop courage and am now a proud CEO of a business who won a national award for its efforts.”
The skills he has acquired from participating in YES will help him throughout his life, including confidence gained from the many pitches and business ventures The Hustle had to do, while also advocating for inequalities faced by many Pacific peoples in today’s world.
“I also learned fa'aaloalo – to respect all ideas and contributions made by colleagues, mentors, teachers, and fellow students, as well as integrity.
“I have had integrity instilled in me by the help of my colleagues, and mentors. as they gave the reassurance to always check if I am always performing to the best of my abilities, and to expect 100 percent from my fellow business colleagues.”
The world is Malaga’s oyster, and he will continue working with The Hustle in ways where the business can advocate for the Pacific community, and to pass his NCAE Level 3 with an Excellence endorsement, he says.
“However, there are many big things to look out for from The Hustle in 2021, as this year was only the beginning.
“We have ideas which we will showcase in 2021, and we may incorporate other culture and languages in our products such as a stainless-steel bottle which features Tokelauan, Maori, Tongan, Kiribati patterns.
“We hope to use them as an educational tool, as we did with our Samoan Tatau bottles.
“When purchasing a Tatau bottle not only would the customer receive a bottle with a nice design, but they would also get a postcard which details Samoan Tatau history, the language used alongside it, and the importance it holds for Samoans.”
The young CEO is encouraging of Pacific students around New Zealand to take part in YES, facilitated by schools annually.
“I believe students should take part in this scheme, as YES has the potential to propel students to becoming a future Prime Minister, or a CEO of a major corporation.
“The possibilities are truly endless, and it is truly a positive experience, which can benefit a student who would like to experience business ownership.”