Kelly shares her learning behind Curtin Ignition: be bold, be brave and don’t let anything get in your way!

ContactsKelly Pohatu, Events and Communications Coordinator
Published31 August 2017

Kelly Pohatu is the Events and Communications Officer at the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre. In order to foster staff development, BCEC encourages staff to seek opportunities to grow and develop their skills. Kelly recently completed Curtin Ignition 2017, a program which prepares participants to take their ideas to the business world. She shares her insights into the knowledge and experience gained through Curtin Ignition.

Tell us a little about yourself.

As well as coordinating the events for the Centre, secondary to my role is the design and brand development of the Centre’s publications, flyers and promotional material. I have a creative eye, thanks in large part to my father.

I am of Maori descent. Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, and I am incredibly proud of my culture and heritage.

For those of you who don’t know, the Maori culture is one of storytelling. Traditionally, we have such a rich oral history. These stories have been passed down from generation to generation and are typically embellished to be exciting and creative so we will remember them, and our children will remember them. These legends are about my forefathers, brave warriors, strong chiefs and beautiful Maori princesses.

Tell us why you chose to participate in Curtin Ignition.

Curtin Ignition is a five and a half day intensive program comprised of a blend of practical teaching sessions, expert clinics and mentor sessions where leading entrepreneurs and innovators share their experiences, advice and support.

I first heard about the Curtin Ignition program when we launched our BCEC Small Business report in May and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get a better understanding of the business concept I had thought up some time ago.

I was fortunate enough to gain a scholarship through the Office of Multicultural Interests within the Department of Local Government & Communities, and so I seized the opportunity.

Tell us more about the concept.

My father, Warren Pohatu, was very passionate about researching genealogy and family lineage. Here is our family line, cultivated by him, dating back 19 generations.

He would stand proud and recite his family line starting with his father, noting his profession, followed by his father, also noting his profession, until he reached the very top to the very first chief of our tribe; the captain of our canoe.

I have been very fortunate to inherit such a legacy. Not only did he commit his life to researching genealogy, he also had a passion for art, and he spent a great chunk of his life revolutionising the way we view and embrace our culture and heritage. Traditionally in black and white tones, he spent some 30 years working with positive shapes, negative space, a few random lines and sketches, and he introduced purples, greens, blues and yellows to create his art.

What’s more, his art is inspired by Maori mythology. These stories blend life lessons and teach us or guide us to love all things including mother earth, our family and animals – large and small. They teach us about courage. They teach us about morals.

Can you tell us a little story?

Let me tell you a story about Maui and the Great Fish. Maui was renowned as a great trickster and thrilled the ancient Maori world with his daring and cunning ways. Maui was involved in so many adventures that help celebrate his inquisitive nature. In fact, many of his own family saw him as a nuisance and very disrespectful. They loathed taking him with them, as they feared he would embarrass them with his silly antics. When Maui’s older brothers went out fishing they often left Maui behind.

On one particular occasion Maui decided to sail after them in his own canoe. Somehow Maui obtained his grandmother’s magic jawbone and fashioned a special hook for himself. Maui baited his hook then cast his line into the depths of the ocean. He waited. In no time at all Maui caught a fish! A huge stingray that fought and thrashed about wildly. He hauled the great fish to the surface using prayers he learnt from his ancestors. Up and up it rose from the deep. In the Maori world, the North Island is known as Te-Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Maui) and the South Island is Maui’s canoe.

The learning behind this story is: be bold, be brave and don’t let anything get in your way!

Image of Maui and the Fish
Maui and the Great Fish


Now what?

I want to share and impart this knowledge of our beautiful culture with the rest of the world – with anyone willing to listen. My father passed away in 2014 and left behind a great legacy. I want to keep his work alive and plan to share this through a funky and popular medium – SKINS, otherwise known as exercise leggings. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, they’re also very unique in that the artworks have incredible stories behind them.

Image of SKINS

How will you use the knowledge and experience gained through the Ignition program?

As my business concept is at a very early stage, I participated in Curtin Ignition to seek mentorship, to help me refine the business model and make this journey a successful one!

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to pitch to SKINS – global giants in compression clothing for pro athletes proven to enhance endurance. SKINS were very keen on a joint project, and so I am now working towards equipping myself with the knowledge and skills required to create and implement a business plan; a key finding in the BCEC Small Business report on the challenges small businesses face.

I was fortunate enough to meet leading entrepreneurs and innovators, and was offered continued support from both a commercialisation adviser and a patent and trademark attorney.

Ignition proved to be a big learning curve, both professionally and personally. My mentor and facilitator were able to unpack some of my inner fears that contributed to a fear of public speaking. I have never sought to understand why I dread public speaking. That small but incredibly powerful talk enabled me to realise my weakness. It’s all in the prep work; I need to prepare not only for the speech, but I also need to prepare myself to be tall, strong and fearless!

Ignition is highly focused and the concentrated nature makes it all the more worthwhile. You focus all week on your business or concept and it really opens up your thinking. The speakers were also very knowledgeable, and you come away with new ideas from each and every session.

The networking opportunities were invaluable and will definitely contribute to my role here at the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre. I believe the skills I have acquired will further the meaningful contribution I make to my team, and I know I can draw lasting benefit from the Ignition program to the work that the Centre delivers.