Rawinia Rimene, from a tender age of 2, found herself under the care of her grandparents, Julie and Dan Lux, as a result of tumultuous circumstances. With parents who were teenagers and her father involved in a gang, Rawinia’s grandparents made the difficult decision to provide her and her brother with a life free from the perils of drugs, gangs, abuse, and violence.
Her educational journey began at Kohanga Reo in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington, where she immersed herself in the embrace of indigenous language and culture. At the age of 4, she transitioned to Ōpōtiki, a serene township nestled in the Bay of Plenty. It was there that she continued her education at Nukutere Kohanga Reo before moving on to Omarumutu Primary School. Even as a young child, Rawinia exhibited a natural aptitude for learning, excelling academically and demonstrating a thirst for knowledge. When faced with disciplinary challenges at home, her grandfather instilled in her a love for reading by allowing her to choose a book from their extensive library. Remarkably, she often selected the dictionary as her literary companion.
At the age of 11, Rawinia shattered academic expectations, achieving remarkable grades in the national exams. Her outstanding performance caught the attention of the school principal, who extended a unique opportunity for her to begin her high school education a year ahead of her peers. This offer, however, coincided with a profound personal loss—her mother’s sudden passing from a brain aneurysm. Despite the grief that consumed her, Rawinia embraced the opportunity and commenced her studies at Opotiki College, becoming the youngest student in the school at just 11 years old, later turning 12 that year.
Navigating the complex social dynamics of high school proved challenging for Rawinia during her first and second years. While she excelled academically, she found herself influenced by disparate social circles. Eventually, she relocated to Wellington, under the care of her aunt, and enrolled in the esteemed Wellington East Girls’ College—an all-girls institution renowned for its academic rigor and holistic approach to education. Yet, the allure of negative peer influences led her astray once again, resulting in truancy and defiance. Unable to find her footing, Rawinia dropped out of school at the age of 16.
Despite this setback, her passion for one thing burned brightly—cooking. From a young age, Rawinia discovered solace and creative freedom in the culinary arts. Cooking became a transformative outlet for her, allowing her to express hospitality and love—through food—with a touch of “manaaki” and “aroha.” At the age of 12, Rawinia embarked on her first job as an all-rounder at Kōwhai Takeaways in Opotiki. This experience laid the foundation for her future in the hospitality industry, as she honed her skills and embraced her culinary talents through various roles, ultimately working as a chef until she turned 21.
At the age of 21, driven by a desire to broaden her horizons, Rawinia made the courageous decision to return to education. She embarked on a journey of self-discovery, enrolling in the New Zealand Fashion Institute to pursue a qualification in Fashion Design. Eager to further expand her knowledge, she later undertook studies in Business Management at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
Rawinia Rimene’s remarkable journey from adversity to culinary success serves as an inspiring testament to the power of resilience and the pursuit of one’s passions.
Girl Native’s Journey of Empowerment
In 2019, Rawinia laid the cornerstone of Girl Native, a brand that goes beyond the surface to celebrate the authentic allure of indigenous beauty and cultural diversity. With a commitment to ethical practices and sustainable skincare and beauty products, Girl Native has sparked a global movement, urging indigenous women to express themselves, embrace their natural beauty, and rekindle their connection to their roots.
At the heart of Girl Native lies an unwavering mission to capture the essence of indigeneity. Drawing inspiration from the rich traditions of Aotearoa – New Zealand, the brand meticulously formulates its skincare using native plant ingredients. Guided by time-honored Māori Rongoa techniques and anchored in tikanga Māori core values, each product exudes a profound respect for nature and the ancestral wisdom embedded within.
As a young Māori entrepreneur, the founder of Girl Native has discovered a deeper purpose, one that extends beyond personal success. Driven by the desire to build generational wealth, she has realized that her ultimate inspiration lies within her children and the future generations she will shape. It is a legacy forged from the teachings of her wise grandparents, who instilled in her the profound significance of having a place to call home—a sentiment that resonates at the core of her being.
With Girl Native, the world witnesses a powerful manifestation of indigenous beauty and cultural resurgence. It is a movement that not only rejuvenates the skin but also nourishes the soul. As the Rawinia’s vision continues to flourish, Girl Native sets a remarkable precedent, leaving an indelible mark on the beauty industry and igniting a sense of pride in indigenous women across the globe.
Redefining Beauty with Māori Values and Global Recognition
In the realm of beauty and skincare, Girl Native stands apart—a true embodiment of Māori and Indigenous culture. The brand not only embraces sustainability but also upholds the sacred principles of tikanga Māori, now synonymous with cruelty-free practices, organic formulations, and a commitment to environmental sustainability. In just three short years since its inception, Girl Native has garnered accolades, cementing its position as a trailblazer in the industry.
The brand’s unwavering dedication to quality and inclusivity has been acknowledged on numerous prestigious platforms. Notably, Girl Native’s BB Cream earned the esteemed recognition of “Highly Commended for Best Inclusive Makeup Product” at The Global Pure Beauty Awards held in Amsterdam in 2020. In addition, their Coffee Body Scrub secured the esteemed runner-up position in the fiercely competitive “Best Natural Skincare” category at The Pure Beauty Awards in London in 2019. Such global recognition affirms the brand’s commitment to crafting exceptional products that cater to diverse beauty needs.
The influence of Girl Native has transcended boundaries, with its products handpicked to grace the swag bags of esteemed celebrities at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles in 2020. This high-profile exposure introduced the brand to a global audience, further solidifying its status as a beacon of luxury skincare.
Moreover, Girl Native’s remarkable trajectory has been marked by an array of notable achievements. The brand emerged as a top-three finalist for Viva & Jaguar – She sets the Pace, an esteemed recognition of its impact and influence. Additionally, it secured a coveted finalist position for the prestigious Emerging Gold category at the Wellington Gold Awards in 2022. Such accolades reinforce the brand’s commitment to excellence and innovation.
Looking to the future, Girl Native has secured a place in the pages of British Vogue Magazine, where it will be featured as one of the Top 10 Luxury Skincare Products of the year. This distinguished recognition serves as a testament to the brand’s unwavering dedication to crafting exceptional products that nourish the skin while embracing the core values of Māori culture.
Girl Native’s journey has been one of resilience, sustainability, and unwavering commitment. As it continues to redefine the beauty industry, this Māori and Indigenous brand holds true to its roots while embracing a global perspective, leaving an indelible mark on the world of luxury skincare.
Girl Native Plans Ahead & Long-Term Strategic Vision
In an unwavering commitment to sustainability and the celebration of Indigenous Beauty, the brand is proud to introduce a new botanical skincare range, available in bulk sizes. Set to be unveiled in the highly anticipated July – August 2023 Campaign, this groundbreaking collection embodies the essence of natural beauty and environmental consciousness. With carefully selected botanical ingredients, each product promises a harmonious blend of luxury and sustainability. Says Rawinia,
“Our goals for the next 3-5 years is to grow Girl Native into a multi-billion dollar company and establish Girl Native stores in Major cities across the world. We aim to become a leading brand in the industry on the world stage.”
Girl Native’s story is rooted in the timeless wisdom of indigenous core values, serving as the guiding force behind its ascent to become a trailblazing international beauty brand. With a steadfast commitment to promoting indigenous beauty from Aotearoa, the brand envisions a future where it stands at the forefront of the global beauty industry.
Embracing adaptability and responsiveness, Girl Native’s long-term strategic vision revolves around catering to evolving market demands while upholding its signature skincare formulations. Quality over quantity remains the cornerstone of their approach, ensuring that customers’ needs are prioritized through exceptional services and products.
What truly sets Girl Native apart is its unwavering dedication to its core values, or tikanga, which permeate every aspect of the business. This commitment ensures that Māori cultural and social expectations are not only met but exceeded, while staying relevant to the dynamic landscape of modern business operations. At the heart of it all lies “Mauri” – the life force that breathes vitality into the organization, nurturing a thriving and healthy organizational culture.
A Leader’s Way with Empathy & Vulnerability
Empathy and Vulnerability are the most important traits to have as a leader. Your employees and customers are human as are you, and to be able to connect with people on a level of understanding and relatability, it is vital to have empathy and be vulnerable so that you can build trust with each other and hold space for them. While talking about the importance of empathy and vulnerability for a leader, Rawinia says,
“Growing up in a small country town and immersed in my culture in my childhood taught me to be humble. I am grateful for my journey and that my upbringing and cultural values keep me grounded. My ‘whakapapa’ is important as it is a significant part of who I am and having a sense of identity and belonging.”
The Key to Workplace Motivation & Productivity
Rawinia says that she is always connecting with her employees and gauging with them to understand what their motivations are. She says It’s important to have an alignment to a company’s values and vision as an employee, however, as a leader you are responsible for engaging with the people in your company and understanding what motivates them and giving incentives.
Advice to Aspiring Young People
Rawinia advises aspiring youngsters to be themselves, work hard and stay focussed on their vision and goals. Have a sense of identity and direction in whatever you choose to do as this keeps you grounded and helps you to stay focussed on your ‘Why?’. Learn as much as you can about your industry and read or study to upskill yourself there are lots of free resources online. Consume yourself with everything you need to learn, know or achieve and cut off distractions and anything that doesn’t serve or support your future goals and vision. Rawinia emphasizes that in business it is most important to understand marketing, sales and psychology.
Lastly, FAIL. Fail as many times as you can in your startup stages it is through your failures that you find success! Take risks and always believe in yourself.