Lee Retimana

Owner, Muritai Marketing

When the Christchurch earthquake struck in 2011, nearly all of Lee Retimana’s clients were in the red zone.

Lee’s company, Muritai Marketing, was a small firm that helped other small and medium-sized businesses with their marketing strategies and programmes. Like many Christchurch businesses, the earthquake almost shut the company down.

She realised the way to rebuild her own business was by helping others to rebuild theirs.

“Christchurch had a lot of Chinese business owners, for example, who sold products and services to Chinese people on holiday,” she says. “But, suddenly, they had to re-invent their businesses and learn how to sell to Kiwis because all their old clients were gone.”

Lee was approached by the Canterbury Business Association (CBA), which supports ethnic businesses, to help its members develop new business and marketing strategies. Working with these people was, she says, “like a breath of fresh air”.

“I went from thinking about Muritai Marketing and how dreadful everything was going, to realising that, ah, there are a lot of people out there who are much worse off than I am. A lot of Kiwis were struggling to deal with the EQC and their insurers – imagine the difficulties if English wasn’t your first language?

Breaking down barriers

She says being Māori helped break down some of the barriers. “As a Māori woman, what came out of me was this kind of nurturing need to help. I could relate to them and the difficulties they were having, and they could understand that I was coming from a place that put them, as people, first.”

“What my cultural heritage brings to what I do is the inherent understanding that everything is about people. Others might look at business in terms of numbers or processes – that’s not wrong, that’s just the way they operate. But to me, everything you do touches someone in some way and, without those people, you would have no business.”

Lee says the broad business and strategic thinking skills she gained while doing her Massey MBA also came into play. She helped her new clients not only with marketing but with other strategic decisions like pricing and sourcing new facilities. She looked for ways to expand each business beyond Christchurch – a lesson she’d learned the hard way, courtesy of the 2011 quake.

The work with the CBA led to a contract with Recover Canterbury (funded by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise) to help firms in the region get back on their feet. Lee provided training and coaching and is now a registered service provider for NZTE’s national Capability Development Voucher Scheme.

The earthquake made her rethink her business. Muritai Marketing is now very focused with the services it offers – packages designed for start-ups or young businesses to fill their marketing expertise gaps.

But it’s the sense of social responsibility that her work brings that gives Lee real satisfaction. “Collaboration is really strong in Christchurch now – lots and lots of businesses working together to look after each other and grow together. It’s quite different, but very nice.”

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