Craig Pollard [00:00:03]:
Welcome to this latest edition of the Fundraising Radicals Podcast. I'm your host, Craig Pollard. Today's conversation and dose of ideas and inspiration comes from Ezra Hirawani here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Ezra, alongside Rob, and Ben, his colleagues, is a co founder of the Māori Kaupapa business, Nau Mai Rā, which is an alternative energy firm that is founded in Māori values and principles.
Craig Pollard [00:00:25]:
They provide electricity to their customers and that enables them to support communities and the 130,000 families here in New Zealand were living in power poverty. They've recently raised more than $600,000 from their community for their community. Ezra's work and impact led to him being recognized as the Kiwi Bank, young New Zealander of the year. and he talks a little bit about how he stayed grounded following the sudden visibility that this brought. Every conversation I've ever had with Es fills me with joy. His humility and authenticity shine through in every word. He's living proof. That you don't have to change who you are. And you don't ever have to compromise your values Te be an effective leader and to secure the funding you need to turn your idea into impact. Now, today's episode, is also an opportunity for you to learn Te Reo Māori words. I will interrupt our conversation to share some of the meanings of the Te Reo phrases, Ezra users during our discussion. I hope you enjoy meeting Ezra today and that you are as inspired by his approach and his attitude. as I am. Thank you so much for joining me here today, Ez.
Ezra Hirawani [00:01:56]:
It's good to be here, brother. It's good to see you again. And, yeah, just glad to have get a chance to korero again, so that's all good.
Craig Pollard [00:02:06]:
So tell me about where were you born and raised Ez.
Ezra Hirawani [00:02:10]:
I was born in the Hamilton Hospital only because there was enough room in the in for me down and took it all where I where I'm from. but you spent a bit of time and took it all. I think it got really sick when I was a baby. So it appeared to ship this stuff and we we moved over to Perth's to voice in Australia. And so did my -- Oh, you were okay. Yeah. Yeah. Yep. So did primary schooling and and then over there and you moved back home high school, and then he had kind of been on a bit of a ticket tool around the place since then. So yeah. So studying abroad and then coming back home, how was it sort of coming back to New Zealand? I think it really refreshed my my view of home. You know? It's kinda like, you know, realize how warm the bath is until you jump out. So the thing is so I kind of got comfortable, yeah, when when I was at home and just taking a lot of things for granted, that then when I moved away from it, I missed quite a bit. And so when I came home, I wanted to do more to learn about who I was, my, you know, my heritage and all that kind of stuff, which I had access to growing up, but it didn't really click at the time. I realized when I was in China, especially that I had avoided my life that I didn't know was there. And so it took me going away to realize no need to come back and fill it. So you know, it's a bit of a a recharged view or perspective going away from home and then coming back and seeing things a little bit differently.
Craig Pollard [00:03:33]:
That's yeah. That that feels very familiar.
Craig Pollard [00:03:37]:
Someone who sort of spent living in New Zealand now. It's just, like, it does sort of it does sharpen your your view of home and it and that changes and evolves over time. Right?
Ezra Hirawani [00:03:47]:
Yes. For sure. For sure.
Craig Pollard [00:03:49]:
So tell me, because there's a lot of listeners who who aren't based in New Zealand. What what is a what is a Māori Kaupapa business?
Ezra Hirawani [00:03:56]:
I mean, this is the question that Māori really have to define. The issue that I have in Aotearoa is Māori businesses aren't defined by Māori, which which is odd to me. And so we'll often be talking to people and they'll say, oh, you guys are actually a social enterprise. We'll say no we're a Kaupapa Māori business. And there might be similarities, but for us, we've never known ourselves to be a socially we didn't know what a social enterprise was until people started telling us that that's what we were. and this kind of getting getting other people to identify what a commodity Māori is or even what a margin business is is a is a question I think needs to be discussed more. by more Māori. Like, it's a Māori business owned by market. It's a multi business, something that uses market principles to to go about their business. Is it someone who hires Māori because, I mean, you could have, like, a a business that has no reflection of being related to Māori, but the owners are Māori. You know? So it's kinda like what and and and then is that a multi owned business. And -- Yeah. -- so so then that's different to a co pop up. more your lead business. In in our opinion, it's a business that's focused more around what it can give rather than what it can take. And how we do that is through multiple different ways, but it if a business is focused more what it can give and less of what it can take, I think that's small sentence is the beginning of the conversation that needs to be had in defining what a co popular business is. because, I mean, that's always the conversations that we have when we make decisions whanau we're trying to do hard things is what does this end up putting back into the homes of the people that we're trying to serve. And that way of thinking is largely different to other organizations that have been a part of in my short career, but I think it's yeah. So to answer the question, it's a it's a tricky one because I'm not the one to define it. But I feel like it's it's very undefined. and there's a conversation that needs to be had amongst more final Māori and and even non final Māori to define, you know, what what that is exactly.
Craig Pollard [00:05:52]:
I I guess it's sort of yeah. People try to make sense of what you do because in some ways, to the principles of Nau Mai Rā we'll talk a little bit about what you do in a moment. But that's traditionally been the role of the charity sector or the government, right, to what what can you give, what can you put into people's homes and lives to make them better. So the fact that you're a commercial organization doing that and having that at the center of all you'll do is is disruptive in itself, but it's also super inspiring.
Ezra Hirawani [00:06:21]:
Yeah. It it's it's it's crazy hearing all that stuff because, I mean, it is pretty cool what we're doing, and we do really love it. But The stuff that we actually looked I think the entity side of things in te Maori doesn't really matter. It's more around what you're doing, and this kind of fits in with everything else in the kind of the business sphere, if that makes sense. So if you think about from a model perspective, when a Marai needs to fix his roof, generally, the Marai will sell hangi and use the hangi to raise funds to them. Yeah. And then you think of, like, find a Māori who a lot of fun to do this, but I know from personal experience that when I was playing sport, no need to go on a sports trip. They would sell hangi, or we would sell something and tell our friends a family if but but the it it didn't matter what we sold and didn't matter how we sold it. Te purpose of selling was to do something else. And so it's actually really in this way of working is actually really ingrained. and a lot of fun in his lives already. And so when we came out, we started talking with a whole bunch of different people around if we were to establish a company that's easily to identify as Ma by model. It needs to be done. Activities need to be done. I said, oh, yeah. I remember doing stuff like that. This actually makes sense. And so all we've done is gone. There's an issue here, and a lot of our families suffer. A lot of our families are energy deprived or they're living in poverty. And so we're probably gonna need something more than hardly to solve that. Why don't we just sell power to do it? So it's actually an old school way of thinking. around how to solve a social problem or an issue that we've just applied in. And we we just thought, yeah, well, we just register as a limited business. I don't know what it is, but that's that's what we're gonna do. So --
Craig Pollard [00:07:50]:
But that's just the vehicle. Right? That's just just the shell that you're you you exist, and it's just but but that that sort of obsession from the outside about what you are and and how you do. It it kind of it's kind of irrelevant. Right? Whether you're a social enterprise, whether you're a business, whatever. It's it's it's at the core of what you're doing is traditional, but it's also deeply relevant for for the future of how how social good is done moving forward because there are, you know, there's so much critique on the charity sector on environment, social, and governance within the corporate sector. But coming back to these core principles of using something in your case, sort of electricity provision to fund a social good is is isn't it it's traditional. It's not sort of, it's old school, but it's really future focused and it feels deeply relevant.
Ezra Hirawani [00:08:55]:
Yeah. because, I mean, like, a lot of the people have come and try to give us advice around marketing and all that kind of stuff, love them to bits and that's some really good stuff. But at the end of the day, we're kinda like if they are down for what we're trying to do, then they'll come anyway. Like, it's marketing, is fair. I want them for the customer. What's the value. the value proposition for the person. We don't we don't care. We're kinda like but we we care about the people that support us, but the people that support us support us because they care about the issue. Yeah. So your your customer they're not cost they're not even customers. Right? You're it's like they're they're citizens, right, within this community that you're building. Correct. It's if if you wanna join join, but if you don't, that's there's 40 other pound companies that you can do into, you know, scratchy and shithead, but we just kind of this is an issue here that's lasted far too long. And if you if you wanna tackle it with us, then come. Like, it's So it it starts to change the paradigm a little because that's a shift the paradigm a little bit from watching it for me, or what can I take turns to, you know, what can I now give. And and and again, it's like like you're saying, it's traditional Te old school, but you imagine we got an issue with getting funding for children to take care of their braces. Alright. Let's let's have 2 brushes. Let's let's Te fund children now that can't afford to pay for branches on your teeth. You buy toothbrushes. So if you care about the kid kids getting branches on their teeth and all that kind of stuff, you'll you'll buy the toothbrush. It's less around what does a toothbrush have these sorts of bristles in. So we're trying to shift our thinking away from, you know, that and and the and and then the benefit it has from you know, that the fundraising perspective is sometimes fund raises are painted with this brush that they like to do gooders. They're not cool. You know? They're just kinda like the guy standing with harvests and shaking a bucket sort of thing. So they can't have an aura about them that people almost associate cheap to, like, 30,000? because that's sales. Yeah. So, you know, he's yeah. I I mean, I I don't really know what I'm trying to say here, but it's just just feeling towards charities that charities and people that support them are like Uber Christians. Yeah. And they've got weird, and they see the world differently in there. Yeah. But moving it into this more commercial space, it it creates, like, this this coolness about like, it's it's cool to support that property. It's cool to solve these issues. and it starts to steer people away. Yeah. Sorry. I'm I'm I'm really largely here, but -- No. You're absolutely right.
Craig Pollard [00:11:28]:
But this is really important because for from where I am standing, you know, I think the the idea that charities and and sort of churches and and all these organizations have the have the monopoly on doing good. It's I think it's become it's sort of crumbling. It feels that that's crumbling. And and I think that this is this whole sort of citizenship shift, and that actually, you don't need a charity. You don't need all of this stuff to do good if you focus on the issues, if you find creative ways about getting funding. You know? You don't need to be shaking a bucket because The value proposition, as I see, is is so much more genuine, authentic, and powerful. They're not buying that that sort of good feeling. They're actually supporting those people who are living in power poverty. And the the fact that they're getting electricity is just part of it. That's not what they're buying. So I I totally get it. I totally get it. It's so complex though, and it's really interesting this sort of paradigm shift that you're trying to achieve. Because it is cool.
Ezra Hirawani [00:12:35]:
Yeah. Yeah. 100 100%. Like, it just yeah. It just lifts the kind of perception that know, like, it's it's not like, I've I've worked with a few charities now, and they always wanna play the sad sob kind of story. you know, which which I which I understand, you know, the the struggling child and all that. Like, that stuff is real. And I know that's real because I was one of those children. Not not not so far down the down that side, but, you know, I I didn't have a lot growing up. And so I I understand a little bit what what that's like. but it's almost like a guilt trip into -- Yeah. -- and and at Te same time, it's like preaching to the choir because a lot of people know this stuff already that there's, you know, a lot of this things that are happening in this world that, you know, that if they could, they would change it sort of thing. But that's where the the marketing juices we feel is that you just go on and do what you're gonna do anyway. Yeah. But if you're going to consume something, consume it to enable a social impact. Yeah. Absolutely. You know, it's and and how do you unlock that kind of Yeah. Sorry. More able to carry on.
Craig Pollard [00:13:36]:
No. No. It's it's it's great. It's it's it's really interesting. It's it's that but it's it's shifting that that ethical consumption because that is fundamentally part of the global problem is consumption. and and and and leading and driving inequity. And so if in in many ways, you're you're equipping people like me who consume electricity to do something with that consumption.
Ezra Hirawani [00:14:05]:
How do you consume? 100%.
Craig Pollard [00:14:07]:
Tell me about where where did this all so where did this all start? Where did the i you know, tell me about your inspiration for this? What what was the thing that sort of kicked this whole project and and and business off?
Ezra Hirawani [00:14:22]:
Yeah. There's there's there's a few like, it's kind of one of those like keeps there's a lot of turning points in a movie that lead to the climax sort of thing. And so there are a whole bunch of different turning points that that happened in both my life, Rob's life and also Ben's life, which are which are the 3 founders. If we take Rob, for example, he's a guy that's done a lot of magic in the industry. The original program director for Genesis Energy, you know, helps to have a smart metering in Aotearoa, all that kind of stuff. And then his wife says, every time you've touched the power industry, the price has gone up for for vulnerable families. You've gotta do something else. And so he's going through this kind of you know, just I need to do something good in the power space. And then Ben on the other side, he go he has a his wedding haka go viral. And then people are, you know, saying, oh, how much Māori are you? You're not questioning his his his Māori time. which I thought was yeah. I still think is stupid, but that's just what he was going through. So he was going through this research of wanting to reconnect with who he was and and and that side of them. And then on my side, you know, I had experiences in China and then my my Chinese teacher told me, to to speak Te Reo, and I told her that I couldn't. And that we actually spoke English in New Zealand. And then she said, well, you should probably go back home and learn about who you are before you come back over here and learn about being Chinese. And so I was like, oh, well, okay. And so I decided to come home and I have these feelings of that void that I spoke about that. There's this cultural gap in my life that was missing. And so you got these three guys that don't know each other or have or sorry. have met each other in passing. I went to school with Ben with different age groups, and so I didn't really hang out with them much more to older brother. Overall, we play basketball together Te had conversation about doing something here in the future. And so we had these kind of small touch points, and then it all made sense when we came together. and we're around the table talking about power. And we both we all agreed that there were a 130,000 families in New Zealand living you know, an energy energy deprived who didn't have a lot to be able to keep their homes warm, drying, all those sorts of things. And then we all agreed that a lot of the energy assets that that generated energy set on minimal Māori. Yet a lot of the 130,000 final were Māori. And so there are all these kinds of --
Craig Pollard [00:16:44]:
So that so what the wind turbines, the, the the power stations were on Māori owned land?
Ezra Hirawani [00:16:45]:
Correct. Yes. And so it it didn't really like it. And and I I just learned recently that in the walk on talk, there's this saying, hey, if you call it a tiny fire. Every every corner there's a tiny fire. And then the a a group in Huntley made a hucker about the the power station that sits in Hud. And in the Huddl, the words are, there's there's a sentence and it says, here, pickle here, pickle here, funny equal. which means every corner of power station along the along the. You know? And so there's all these things happening in our lives and all these things going on. things that we started to discover that, okay, this isn't wrong. 100, 3000 people in a couple of people. But a guy here, every time we touch it, the power goes up, So let's try to drive it down for those people for that market. How can we do that? Well, let's try a traditional sensor to all these things that are happening, and then it all drove it all came to a point when I spoke about I had this conversation with my man about wanting to start a power company. And she said to me, that's an awesome grandson, because now I won't have to pay for my power anymore. And I just started laughing. And For me, my nan was a huge part of my life because my parents had me at a young age. And so my nan was kind of the extra parent for me growing up. And to be fair, it's a case for a lot of my fondant for a lot of so she was kind of a rock the glue of of our whanau. And so, again, I started laughing at her comments, but she didn't laugh. And then I actually I was kind of intrigued just to oh, okay. And then she mentioned something that's kind of set normal emotion that was she said sometimes I sit here cold and alone because I'm too scared to turn the heat pump on because I won't be able to afford the powerful. And so that
Craig Pollard [00:18:37]:
Ezra Hirawani [00:18:38]:
people was now personified by someone in my own fun, by someone that I actually looked up to and still looked up to. And so I almost felt that it was an obligation for us now to run into the burning house of coffee and grab that final out and drag them, you know, to to where they need to be. to the flourishing great logs. Because I mean, people power is just one thing in someone's life, but but power is something that creates a home. and it's something that, you know, if a child can go to school with from a warm, dry home without sickness, then they're already Te steps ahead of the one that can't. to the thing. So it's hard to do hard work when it's freezing, and you can feel the cold sort of thing. And so to answer your question, us, 3 founders had different experiences going on in our lives. We're learning different things. We come together, and then it was all unlocked. when that experience was personified by my own family sort of thing. So it's a bit it's it's a bit of a story. It's it's a novel, actually. how it all kinda came to be, but it seems like it's meant to be. It's really powerful, though. It's
Craig Pollard [00:19:45]:
it feels and this is one of the things. Like, when I first when we first had that conversation, what was it, a year and a half or so ago, and what came through was just like the the real sort of authenticity that this is coming from a place, an an pure place to want to do good. And where are you now? Where is Nau Mai Rā now in terms of impact and people supported and communities helped.
Ezra Hirawani [00:20:10]:
Yeah. Where are we at now? I mean, we've we've got We've raised with our small group of citizens or our family. We've raised about $200,000 into a fund that we're going to use to support families this winter. And we we've got a bit of a strategy to to go at the end of the philanthropic sector and ask them to match the contributions of the families that have supported the Novartan movement. And we've already had to cope up, put their hand up and say, look. We'll we'll match again really close to what you have done, and it's starting to bring this really clear picture of the power collective power around people working together without leaving their lane to support the social issue. You know what I mean? Like, it it's it's something these -- Yeah. -- that philanthropics believing poverty is something that philanthropics do anyway. And so getting them involved in the energy sector in this way makes sense to to them as well as Te us. And so that's kind of where we're we're focused at the moment. It's just using health and our partner to invite more partner to come along. with different skill sets and different access and different things to continue to address the issue. So at current, we're kind of sitting at about yes, 6600,000 in in the final fund. And we we we want yeah. We're we're with with with the support of using what we've raised within Amazing. And, yeah, we're we're hoping to have it, you know, up to a 1,000,000 by winter. I mean, it's all everything we do is a bit of a stretch, but you know, if we can keep on the vein that we're on, I think we'll, you know, we'll we'll get them. And how many citizens? How many of your sort of the people you're providing power too. How many are there now? It's about 8 and a half 1000 of us now. Yeah. I mean, it's it's an interesting one because we kinda have to monitor our growth. because if if we wanted to, we could we could we could really scale, you know, but the the issue with really scaling is we then lose our edge in terms of because then you start having to hire resources that focus too much on being a normal power company. Okay. You know, which the build gets So we're just trying to control the build so we build in the right way to stay on track for the angle that we started in. But we start hiring more and more people. You gotta start hiring different people to manage those people Te then it it just becomes a normal power company if if you get to a certain source. and a sort and and if your book isn't balanced at the same time, you know, if you've got too many vulnerable consumers that you're supporting, then the pullout will have the fund decreases so the so the impact that you wanna create decreases. But then if you go If your book is too much focused on people just chasing direct pricing, then all of a sudden you're dealing with people who want to just talk about their bill every day. And and so then the the human resource needed is, like, explaining full breakdowns. You you know what I mean? So you kinda gotta get it's it's it's the age old had a job it's quality over quantity sort of thing.
Craig Pollard [00:23:07]:
But it's also culture. Correct. It's also about culture. Right? As well as as it's like all of these lit things, all of these little decisions just sort of diminish and challenge and make it more difficult to maintain the the core values of what you're trying to do as you grow.
Ezra Hirawani [00:23:30]:
Yep. Yeah. That's it. That's it. It's like a just a small little decision might not matter today, but it could create, like, a huge break in the road if if we just get a little lackadaisical with the things that we do. So
Craig Pollard [00:23:41]:
But it's also for the people you bring in as well. Right? Those choices are so important and and where you get your advice and guidance from. How do you make those decisions? And and how will you do you want to grow, or is it just you're trying to be as organic as possible? all. But how how would you choose those people, and how would you make those decisions? Yeah. I mean, yes. We we we do want to grow, but we want to grow right, and we want to grow alongside people.
Ezra Hirawani [00:24:10]:
So in order because the power industry is a a multi player industry. You know, you gotta buy the power, then you gotta send the power. and then and then you retail the power, and then you gotta pay for the infrastructure. And so when we say we wanna grow, we we we have to break down silos that exist and go, let's rebuild this thing, but let's do it together and together come with a solution that we can then accelerate together. And so no model will serve no good if we just go out there and get 50,000 customers per month. Because if we do that too soon, we start to look like a threat to other people. And we're not trying to be a threat. We should have been competing over this market. We should be supporting this market. You can only support that market if you work together. And so it's it's it's kind of one of those tricky situations where we do want to grow. but doing it alone, it just isn't going to solve the problem that that exists with energy hardship.
Craig Pollard [00:25:03]:
Is there is there openness? Are you are you seeing I I don't know what it was like at the beginning, I imagine. It it seems like quite a massive threat. setting up. Was it? And and how's that changed? Is there more openness now to to working in partnership?
Ezra Hirawani [00:25:22]:
Yeah, the the the openness has definitely become more opened as we've continued to show our our value our values lead approach. initially, it and I could understand exactly where everyone's coming from or they're just using a multi flag to fly into the industry and take over sort of thing. And so we have to be really careful there. And then, oh, these guys are just social washing, you know, a power company Te just trick people into joining them and and all that kind of stuff. So I could under that they've probably seen every trick under the sun and dub in the Australia longer than what we have. And so we just had to work with them, breakdown more slowly and then understand have helped them understand you know, the change of which actually trying to create, you know, explaining to them that our success is actually by losing customers rather than by obtaining them. because if we can get them into a position where because in in Ma, the ultimate thing is Ma to hacking. It's being able to control your life and and have choices. choices the ultimate. Unfortunately, a lot of the follow that fall into that 130,000 bracket. They don't have choice in this industry. they have to go with providers who don't credit check. And as far as I know, there's not very many of those, and we're one of the leading ones in that space. And so if we can get a family from failing their credit check to now receiving power in their own name to then paying their bills on time every time. that then puts them in a position for them. When another power company knocks on the door and says we wanna give you Reo off credit, they can say, yes. Come in. I'll I'll take it. you know, or or allows them to participate in the market or free. You know, it it gives them choice. And so when we are framing the conversation of that all of a sudden, we become a complementary product to you know, from a commercial perspective
Craig Pollard [00:27:09]:
to the commercial Te. Yeah. But access to access to finance, access to to being able to own your own house and, you know, borrow and all of that sort of side of that. That's -- Yeah. so important. Yeah. That's it's it's a manner enhancing way of of moving farther from one position
Ezra Hirawani [00:27:25]:
to another. And with just had to hold the line on that and trust that if we stick to it, that the silos will start to break down and and they have And so now we've got contracts with majority of the the big power companies to support what we're trying to do. On the flip side, what we now need to do is is tackle the the the issue that big corporates have in the eyes of the people. So the people always thought, oh, you always backed Te little guy in the New Zealand's, you know, big underdog fans. You know? So -- Yeah. -- don't always look at the big power company. So I don't think that's something up Te sleeves. They wanna check us and all that kind of stuff. And so this is this is bouncing at that comes with gaming support but not losing your edge by keeping them honest to what they're going to do. rather than laying down and saying yes, you support us now. So we're gonna do everything you say. But those conversations are actively happening now. and we actually have really good relationships within both personal and in business that we're just trying to mold to say this isn't about no matter what are leading this anymore. It's not about you coming in and you taking over. It's about putting the final in charge and us falling behind them in the locker. and paddling as fast or as long as we need to to move them from powerless to opposition power. So it's there's a few perspectives to change, but we were doing well. Yeah. It it's it's incredible. I I can imagine some of those conversations
Craig Pollard [00:28:45]:
Yeah. It it's it's incredible. I I can imagine some of those conversations were incredibly challenging with with these partners in those early days, but also navigating them. You know, I'm I'm I'm thinking that when you're engaging just from a sort of fundraising perspective, the the opportunity from the corporate perspective to profile, now Ma lot as one of our partners must be is there a pressure there for them to, you know, share, you know, and and sort of use that partnership to to help their sales and marketing, etcetera. How how how Will you or would you or do you navigate that?
Ezra Hirawani [00:29:19]:
Yeah. I mean, that's a great that's actually where we're at at the moment. Right? It's planning what the external comms looks like now that we're hand in hand with a lot of these, you know, guys that that also sell the same product, they'll be in a different way. we're we're here. We're working trying to manage our way through that, and that it doesn't get lost in the market. because the worst thing is that they put it out that they're supporting no matter and then all the customers doing no matter. because then that that the that, you know, that thing doesn't help them. You know? So it's Yeah. That -- And and we wouldn't want that Te necessarily happen. No. And so it is it is a tricky field to to walk in.
Craig Pollard [00:29:58]:
Do do they see the value of of that, actually, some of their customers? Probably a relatively small percentage do have this most, I don't I I imagine don't care whether electrical power. As long as soon as as long as they when they flick the switch, it's on. But there is this group of people, these citizens, who want this, who who want to be having a social impact with their consumption and and have a deep commitment to this. Do they see the value of of of bringing those people to Nailmarva? Or or is is that the space where you're collaborating in?
Ezra Hirawani [00:30:31]:
Yeah. It's I to to be fair, I I don't really know. I think that the more space that we're collaborating in is is gaining good wholesale pricing to support sector of the market -- Okay. -- that commercially and and I choose my words carefully, commercially no one whanau. So, yes, they can, which is something that I learned. As that no one of these big power companies wakes up in one of your things, I wanna screw people over today. you know, that they they're actually really good people. No. But there's a group of customers when you think about it. They don't use a lot of power, but they clog up your contact centres. And so you look at it from a commercial perspective, and they're not the most enticing people. You know? You they don't use much, and they're costing you through your contact centre. And so if we can support them, then I think there's a loan in terms of there's a sector of them with a section.
Craig Pollard [00:31:27]:
And are those are those the people who are living in power poverty that they that they're not able to to to cover their bills, or they the direct debit bounces or, you know, whatever it is, is is that part of the issue where they come together?
Ezra Hirawani [00:31:34]:
is is that part of the issue where they come together? Yeah. It is. It is. A lot of a lot of and and to be fair, it's there's so much more that impacts that phone call that that causes them to pick up the phone and make that call. Unfortunately, power companies don't always see everything that is behind the person that they're on the phone with. And so the people that they're on the phone would need more in-depth support that a a standard or just a normal stand alone power company can't provide easily. They can do it, but it's not it's not easy to give them a food bank or to get them hooked up with the food bank to get them food. you give them that food from, say, so Vincent DuPours in Hilton. And now they don't have to pay for food, they can now afford the payable -- Yeah. -- or you So so there's there's different things that, you know, they they need more wraparound support than just okay. Well, how can we help you create a payment plan to support you and your partner. There's there's more issues they've gotten, you know, behind the fire of their call. And then a lot of the fire that do call are just genuinely worried that when they flip the switch like you mentioned, the power won't go on. And so it's it's kinda like, we call it a known line RPTSD. which is post power, traumatic stress disorder. And so a lot of people come to us -- Mhmm. -- with this inherited fear of being disconnected. And so, you you know, a usual power company might get a phone call saying, hey. Look. I just wanted to check out your your pricing and your deals. and all that kind of stuff. What what can you do for me? Others, my address, what's the best package you can provide? Whereas someone that comes through -- Yeah. -- who's had experiences with losing power. or say, hey, Bob. Is is there a fee for reconnection and disconnection? So it's a completely different conversation. They're not they're not talking about what what can you give me this? Like, I just I just turn the power on. Yeah. And and if I can't afford it, are you gonna charge me to get it reconnected? And then you're gonna charge me when it's disconnected. You know? So the the conversation's largely different and and and but we're really good at having those conversations. And so we're working with these bigger companies. It's like, compete over the people that call you saying, give me a good package. And where we come in is and let us handle -- Yeah. -- this other conversation. And what we'll do with that other conversation is create them into people that we can then push on to you to then so so so don't -- Yeah. -- don't spend what we're trying to say is Don't spend time and money in a space that you're not constitutionally driven to do. but you are you are not built to solve energy hardship. Mhmm. And so if you create more confusion and competition in that space, it actually does worse for for you as an entity and also for the father. It it wastes more time. So it's almost like compete over the you and eyes of the world and then allow us to create more you and us -- Yeah. -- in in in this particular space.
Craig Pollard [00:34:29]:
I I sorry. I don't I don't mean to use the word you know, ask them UI sort of thing, but there's a -- No. But it's but it in fact, I I but I see it as the opposite. I see what you're doing has a deep respect for the fan out, for the families and communities who can't afford light and power, you're treating them with the same respect and they're they're equal citizens in this project with the people who are purchasing the electricity from you.
Ezra Hirawani [00:34:58]:
Yep. That's right. And and giving them the bespoke support that they need. And so the you know, it's and because every platform Te tries to be as as customized and bespoke as they can be, but they can't be in the sector we're we're trying for service because they need more.
Craig Pollard [00:35:13]:
So how are you getting on with today's Te Reo Māori lesson? Here are a few words of Te Reo Māori. I apologize in advance for any poor pronunciation. Korero is a meeting or discussion. That's Korero. Whanau. That is the extended family and community. Whanau. Marai, Māori Meeting House, that's a Marai. Waka, A waka is a big Māori boat and a metaphor for working and being in something together. That's waka. Haka is the ceremonial Māori challenge, display of strength, and unity, as performed at the beginning of every All Blacks rugby match. That's a haka. Hangi is a big community meal. Traditionally, cooked underground. That's a hangi. A tangi is a Māori festival of mourning someone who has died. That's tangi. Whakapapa is about understanding and respecting our origins and ancestors, who we are, and where we have come from. That's Whakapapa. Mana is our internal spiritual power. Social services here in Aotearoa and New Zealand describe themselves as mana enhancing because they focus on empowerment and rebuilding self confidence and esteem. So what are your what are your links? You know, you're talking about the wraparound services, food banks, etcetera. What what are your connections and and and within that ecosystem?
Ezra Hirawani [00:36:56]:
Yeah. We've we've we've got a few, and and the kind of I I mentioned it's in the ports. here in kitty kitty door, they're a partner of ours. And we have different partners just like them, not not just simply Te pause. So if you think about going up north, you know, we can work with that to any house trucks, you know, down to more way down in down in. And so that the entity that we partner in different areas differs, but their abilities are generally the same. They offer food bank. They offer healthy home checks. They offer financial guidance and budgeting planning and and different things like that. And so depending on where the funnel sits or lives, will depend on the support that's most easily and readily available to them. So we take, for example, Jonathan calls it, and he can't afford to pay for his power bill. Well, our our Te will first ask, you know, how are you? Like, what's what's going on? You know, what what areas of of life do you need supporting? and just have a conversation with them and through that conversation, no set no real situations. They'll start to open up and share about what's going on. and then at the end of the call, we might ring. Okay. We're gonna call Mike down at Simmons and DePaul's, and he's gonna give you a food parcel. for x amount of days and all that kind of stuff. And then we're gonna contact Carol from from down there as well who who we want you to go and see to talk about money where it says help, since we should put it just to make sure that you you have the right behaviors in place and habits in place to be able to keep you in your final out of this position of paycheck to paycheck certainly. And then we might say, look, this, but we might give you 50% off your power bill and just use the final fund to cover. but we only do it we only use the final fund to incentivize them to do the other 2 things we told them to do or ask them to do. So it it it then becomes a partnership, but then becomes an incentive to change behavior rather than a handout that perpetuates dependency. and it becomes a a real strong bond sort of thing. So the links that we have in community differ vary depending on where the family sit -- Cool. -- or basically use what's local to them to get them to change their behavior so that we can give them the support that they they need. And so whanau hence, our ability to have those kind of conversations different from a normal or a normal power company could or would provide. Yep. Not really a power company at all, do I? Yeah. You do. Yes.
Craig Pollard [00:39:21]:
Power power is it feels like such a a a small easy and and it's, you know, it's it's not easy, but it's such an easy perspective from the people who are purchasing it just it feels like kind of incidental to the core of why you exist. You could have been selling toothbrushes. Right? You could have -- Correct. It's it's the social change and the support that you're providing to to to communities is is at the heart of this. Yes.
Ezra Hirawani [00:39:53]:
And and that's when you were talking earlier about what's a Coca Ma Body business? What's a if we if we loop that loop it back there, to us, everyone else can define us as you please, but we we we're just doing what we're trying to do. Like, it's we'll just Yep. We can be that. We'll we'll be that today. You know? If you've got funding, we'll be whatever you want us to be.
Craig Pollard [00:40:17]:
But you won't, though, will you? Because your your principles and and your values, and I think this is the really exciting thing. I think that that that that's often misunderstood. It's like, is that you born? You are who you are. Like, you don't care. Like, if your customers will come along, funders will come along because if you stick to your core of what you're doing, your values, your purpose, they will come And it's not only that. It's sort of that. What the amazing thing is when you when you're saw values and purpose centered, is that act like a screen, like a filter? For all of those organizations and people and funders, etcetera, and influences and and whoever they are, it acts as a sort of filter. So only The ones who are really committed to your same values who share your worldview are the ones who you who who approach you and want to be involved. Do you find that?
Ezra Hirawani [00:41:01]:
Yeah. Yeah. And I've I've got a really cool I can't use names, but just experience it. Got just to put that in but put your thought your your words in motion there. Te went for some we we used the final fund. We told the final that we had already kind of sussed out that we thought, look, their values If they mean what they're saying, do not support this. And so we put it out to them, and we said, our partner have raised this much money. Will you match it? They came back to us and said, give us something to look at. I I literally wrote, final font. So f u n Te. I I got I spelt it all wrong. I thought and and there was there was riddled with all these spelling mistakes. Super draft. Like, it was it was a draft Te a draft. It's terrible. My my grab is terrible. And I just said, hey. Look. I don't want to spend a whole bunch of time writing a professional draft or just getting things organised and pretty for you, only for you to come back to me and say, no. We're not gonna do it. And so you should be able to decipher What I'm trying to say in in this one page, have a look at it. Yeah. And then let me know your thoughts if I'm on the right page. then we'll then we'll start tweaking it and getting it looking nice to be presented and all that stuff. But I just said, look. I've -- Yeah. -- I've spent I've spent 3 years of this in my head but 10 minutes on a piece of paper saying this is how we're gonna do it. They came back a little while later and said, hey. Look. We're gonna give you a couple of 100,000 for this winter, and then another couple of 100,000 for next winter. And and I was like, that's awesome. Wouldn't Te real? It would it was just kinda but to to what you what you what you mentioned, you know, it wasn't this where is the money going? Where is the I mean, that we're working through that now just to make sure that the reporting that we send back to them is clear from our perspective, but they pretty much sent us like a a blank not a blank check because it had an amount on it, but a blank reporting schedule and just said, put down whatever you want -- Great. -- and make it make sense to us. But there was this trust that we weren't just gonna go here. Thank you. We're just gonna use it for Burger King on Thursday Thursday on Friday. Like, we we we put some some thoughts into it. We're working through them now, but it was that attitude of, we're just gonna keep doing what we're doing. And we're gonna do it ourselves. We've got $200,000 of our own money. And so if you're gonna support us, the show is gonna go on. But with your help, if you did wanna jump on, we could double the impact. And if that's something you wanna be a part of then, And, you know, they were mentioned, look, let's just do a Facebook post together. Yeah. And that's it. We don't want we will while we're getting your way, it doesn't matter.
Craig Pollard [00:43:47]:
So it's that kind of mentality is is attracting people that, you know, are backing up calls. But you you mentioned trust there as well. You know, this is something. I think the theme that comes into every single conversation I have about fundraising and and authenticity Te you have the trust of of the community and you you the values that you're living and showing, build trust. And That is such a fantastic example of of of how but also your partnerships with the with the other power firms. Right? You're building trust. and it's so core to to who you are as an organization. And the fact that you can send an email with grammatical spelling errors, and and and and it just but it just proves that that stuff isn't the stuff that matters. Right? It's not the shiny proposals. It's not the beautiful tailored reports. It's not the spell checked. It's the work. It's the values. It's the impact. that really matters. Yep. 100%. And but that's what and and the fact that I don't see yeah. We'll give you 100 of 1000 of dollars. not just this year, but next year. How how did you feel when you got that response? What was your sort of immediate response?
Ezra Hirawani [00:45:07]:
Well, actually, remember we're driving up the road and they gave us a call. And I was like, oh, shit. What's this about? And so I put it on speaker Ma and Ben are in the car. and then they said, hey, look, mate. Just wanted to let you know that we're all good to go. And and and I didn't know what that meant because I was expecting this like Congratulations, guys. We just want to inform you that, yeah, well, it's just like, hey, mate. Lucky. We'll just run a piece of paper and all good to go. And I was like, what what does that mean? As a bubble, the paper you've seen through with all the grammar grammatical errors and all that kind of stuff with with keen to support. And then Te and Ben just looked at himself. We're like, dog. Like, just just, like, yelling in the car though, like, punching the roof and all that kind of stuff. because it was kind of the 1st Ma. You know? It was kinda like just, like, Yeah. Understanding that we was we we school dropouts. We didn't do well at all. You know? I'd say we go to school to have our lunch, but we didn't have lunch either. So so So we we're kind of 2 guys that were misfits growing up. The ones that people see would never do anything good and all that kind of stuff literally multiple times. And so to now move into, like, a power space and then now move into a philanthropic space and do things that But you talked about authenticity. We never had to change who we were to to do what we were doing. We never had to wear different clothes. We never had to talk differently. We can always just we could just be ourselves and and obviously learn and progress and get better at human beings. But, essentially, we we we would true to isn't being enrolled. And so when when that call came through, it was kind of one of those other moments where I was like, holy crap, you know, of Well, either really good or really, really good lives. You know, it's it's it was quite a lot of those situations. We're actually driving past our our old high school at the time because I looked like they were high school. Okay. And we're just looking at, like, man, do what I thought. We just got 2 little mommy boys driving in the car going, this is can't wait to tell the Auntie, so it's it's kind of that kind of a whole lot of emotions in one moment. But then Ben Ben's always good because he said, okay. Now it's time to get back to work. You know? So we we celebrated hard for, like, 5 minutes and then, you know, we we're back into now. Okay. What's next? sort of thing. So --
Craig Pollard [00:47:18]:
That's amazing. And that that moment of celebration and that sort of that that high, and then the feeling all of a sudden is just like, Wow. What does this mean now in terms of what what else we have to do? And it it's incredible. You know, I think you're you're so such a fantastic example of someone who who who's built something from from scratch, something that's making such an amazing impact, and and the authenticity, and and I love that what you said about you're still exactly the same person, and you haven't had to change. And and this there's such pressure, I feel like, in sort of industrial fundraising and the nonprofit, the social enterprise, whatever space you label it. there's an external pressure to to be a certain way and to and and to to to, you know, to cross Te Reo shiny. And and it's just it's just really refreshing to hear that you've built something so phenomenal, so impact also inspiring and and that you're exactly the same person as you always were.
Ezra Hirawani [00:48:15]:
Yeah. It's easy for us because it's hard for us to do the other stuff. like, the spell check and all that stuff. So we we we can't have no other option. So we just kind of I mean, now chat t p t's out. We can just get it to edit all our stuff, but You know, it's kind of, yeah, easier for us to just get on with what we'd and and we've never really been people that ask for things. And so that's that's probably always been a you know, if you say you're gonna give me $20, I'll come will come by your lawn. you know, it's not it's not something it's not something that we can -- Okay. -- then do it easily. Just receive something for for nothing or or even ask for things.
Craig Pollard [00:48:58]:
And so -- What what's behind that? What -- I don't know if this is the week. Is that is that your is that is that parents that sort of cultural? Is that sort of just values? Is it what what's behind that?
Ezra Hirawani [00:49:13]:
I think it's it's probably parents and and and culture, I'd say. Like enough, I've had I've got multiple deep memories of people coming and staying in our house, and my parents just giving up the the best room for them. or the best blankets, you know, that they've always treated our Ma to your guests, almost as gods. You know? And it's not out of wanting anything. It's just, oh, these people are coming over. You can spend a behave. You know? I don't want any checkout either. There's there's that level, but then there's also you know, Te the vehicle is always nice, and they always have the room extra warm. And and in the when the family would then if they stayed for an extended amount of time. I've seen the family give my parents money. And then for my parents to put the money in the envelope and then throw it under the seat in their car. and then wait for them to get to wherever they're going and say, hey. Look. I appreciate the gesture, but, no, thank you. The money's under the car. So I've and I've I've seen it happen like many, many times. And and Ben comes from a similar upbringing and and and we're all the same. You know, we we didn't our parents never had much at all. but there was but they had love and they made sure they gave them space. And so going out, it's really difficult to ask for probably money more than anything. Like, it's it's easier for us to ask for support. I can't help us out, bro. Like, grab a shovel and let's get into it. You know? But like that little Kiwi ad, you know, give us a hand with the job set day. I don't know if you've seen that one, but They've been a little queue for you. So you will come around. And so we're kind of grown up in that mentality that we all we just all have a feed and get stuck in and by, you know, asking people for money and asking people to support us in in that particular way. It is a foreign probably because money wasn't abound in our lives. it it just kinda wasn't. Yeah. We never spoke about it and never never really talked about it at all. We kinda just used each other in what we had. to make ends meet and to do the things we need to do to solve any issues or problems we had. And so a lot of it's probably come from there. It's now probably turned into our strength because we don't really ask for or if we do ask, we've already done 90% of the work. And so we're just like, oh, we've we've got a bit of a short way. Can you can you help us out and all that kind of stuff. And it's just a case of just from just writing it up and -- Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the the other ones that we're working with at the moment haven't been that simple, but you know, in terms of effort, you know, with -- Okay. No. If we you've gotta have more than 2 meetings with them, we're kind of like, oh, no. You're probably probably not keen Te which kinda use what we have. And then -- Yeah.
Craig Pollard [00:51:59]:
But but that's that's that's another interesting idea. The fact that, you know, like, screening people, you know, if if it's too much effort, like then that you probably if you don't see us for who we are, if you don't accept for who we are and what we're trying to do, if you're not in this with us, if you don't share our worldview, you're probably not a good investment of all time. because it
Ezra Hirawani [00:52:03]:
I mean, they'll give us a not yet. I mean, we never really take no as a no. It's more like, okay. It's not really. And so there's a there's a bunch of objections that come before them saying the words. We don't have funding available or, you know, it's just not gonna work out and all that kind of stuff. And so we've had some experiences where we've basically come back as looking different. For example, there are people that didn't support us. And then as as it all could Te 1 year in calendar of the year. And then all of a sudden, they wanna be best friends. So it's it it it was kinda okay. Well, sure. Yeah. I mean, what do you what do you wanna do? You know? And then and then now the the ball is now cool. And so it's kinda so that's that's how that's where our editor come from. So we'll ask once. We're not gonna beg you. And if you if you don't see value in all good -- No. -- it's a not yet. somewhere else down the journey, you'll be like, oh, this this place Te aligned now. So let's talk now.
Craig Pollard [00:52:56]:
That's super generous of you, though, because then all these people sort of come to you and sort of but but I guess, you know, ready ready. Maybe they've gone that part of the journey to start walking alongside you. And what what what impact did sort of winning new young New Zealander of the year last year have on on you and Nau Mai Rā?
Ezra Hirawani [00:53:17]:
I think it it was probably just the exposure, really. Like, it really got us out there, like, people start to take us a little bit more seriously. which I never really quite understood. But, you know, funny experience Te when we when we whanau. I still didn't know how much money we got. And they they were asked, it's not about that. And I was like, well, it is to me. Look. And I'm okay saying that. Like, you know, we've we've got a business Te Rahul got a cohort to support. We've got people to support. Like, Thank you thank you doesn't pay the bills. You know? Pets on you know? I can pay you a pencil in the back. How many you need? because of a 1000. So it's kinda and then we got into this little tussle around them saying on, because I was like, woah. How much do you get paid? And then they're like, oh, well, this is my job. And I was like, well, this is my job. You know? So then I mean, you know, what shouldn't the recognition go to you for being the guy that did all the advertising for the young for the Kiwi bank, New Zealand during the year awards. But you can put that on your CV, and that looks good. We don't have a CV. So, I mean, Yeah. So, I mean, yes, it did help, but the more the exposure to to increase our credibility because then we we got on TV and Yeah. Got in got into the press and all that kind of stuff. You know? And and and get going on TV and all that stuff helps with other skills. and I'm probably more grateful for the skills you learn about how to get onto you there to present yourself, how to how to prepare some media, all that kind of stuff Aotearoa the action setting on the couch on the brake pusher because it's that that that that that -- Yeah. -- personal development probably did more for us than than anything else. So and then on me personally, like, I think it just got me out of dishes for a week or something. Give it every every time.
Craig Pollard [00:55:10]:
All sorts of up Yeah.
Ezra Hirawani [00:55:13]:
Every time, I go to the shop and they give me the price, and I'd say, do do you know who I am? And just I never got someone who said, yes, I do. No. Sorry. Brilliant. But then people are and, you know, my friends would call me, and then I'd answer the phone, like, killed Asia speaking Te young New Zealand around the year. And And just like, we we just had fun with it really. We we we probably could have done more with it, you know, just promoted a little bit more to get more credibility and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, we Te always we always hear from the start, but we'll we'll be known for our actions rather than, you know, all the -- Yeah.
Craig Pollard [00:56:02]:
But, exactly and this is this is the thing. What is credibility. Right? Credibility isn't, you know, isn't the media stuff. It's the credibility comes from what you're doing and who you are. rather than what, you know, being on the couch or doing an interview.
Ezra Hirawani [00:56:06]:
Yeah. That's it. That's it. So because then the media kind of plays off what they wanna put out anyway. So and we learned that quickly.
Craig Pollard [00:56:17]:
Yeah. Ez, thank you so much for your time today, mate. It's been an absolute pleasure to to catch up with you again. Not all good. It's it's been good to catch up with you too. Massively appreciate this. And thanks and and just inspiring to hear the amazing work you're doing and and just where it comes from. I think that's a lesson that everyone can take from this session. I hope you enjoyed meeting Ezra today And that our conversation has made you think differently about how social impact is evolving and who can make a difference. Ez and Nau Mai Rā aren't just disrupting the energy sector here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. They're creating a new model of social impact that is founded in values and thoughtfully balances business and financial sustainability with deep social impact. They're also building a carefully balanced community and shifting people from being 1 dimensional customers to becoming engaged citizens, leveraging their energy consumption to make a social difference. There are lessons here in how we approach this shift from customer to citizen with our own communities of donors and partners. This conversation is also about finding the spaces for collaboration where incentives and motivations overlap. If we can understand what motivates individuals and groups to action, then we can leverage commercial products and behaviors. And that means we can build organic movements, nurture, and grow social impact, and we can transform customers into citizens. And then together, we make systemic change possible. For me, there's something powerful about the equity and respect within the Nau Mai Rā community, the citizens, whether they're living in power poverty, or they're purchasing power. They're all part of the extended community that the whanau of Nau Mai Rā. But this isn't just about patiently and thoughtfully solving power poverty in partnership with others. It's about shifting how we think about community and how we engage and mobilize citizens within our society to deliver and achieve equity. Now all of this takes deep confidence. The sort of resilient confidence that can only root and grow in the most powerful places. Those places where our causes overlap with our convictions. I hope you've enjoyed listening to this episode of The Fundraising Radical's podcast. And that this conversation has challenged informed and maybe even inspired you and your fundraising leadership practice. Please do check out the show notes subscribe to the podcast on the platform of your choice and do visit fundraisingradicals.com Te find out all the ways in which we're working to empower, equip, and engage fundraisers all over the world.