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From stranger to whānau – with the help of Lightning Lab Tourism

16 August 2019

A need to give back to the community and paying homage to whānau is what inspired a local Christchurch trio to kick-start their business and participate in the Lightning Lab Tourism programme.

AMIKI is a whānau owned business which aims to showcase Christchurch’s hidden gems on foot, in a way that incorporated Māori and European heritage through storytelling.

Speaking with co-founder Cate Grace, she said the idea for AMIKI was borne out of a love for Christchurch and wanting to share the city’s unique heritage with the rest of the world.

“Recently we have been inspired by watching Ōtautahi reinvent itself and we are drawn to sharing the stories of the past and present to shape the future.  We have been connecting with the whakapapa of the city, researching the local history of the area to add depth to these treasures,” said Grace.

She added that the other two co-founders, Riwai Grace and Lou McLeod shared similar thoughts.


And then one day, they joined their ideas together. They asked themselves how they could come up with an idea that gave back to the community and honoured whānau, and how it could be a viable business option. It was following this that AMIKI's unique walking tours of Christchurch began.

After some trial tours in 2017 and 2018, their A-Z catalogue grew bigger than they could imagine. This prompted them to go along to a Lightning Lab Tourism (LTT) roadshow, which helps early-stage businesses in the industry access a multitude of services and mentors.

Inspired by the idea, they wanted in. Luckily, they were one of ten businesses out of over 60 applicants chosen to participate in this year’s three-month business acceleration programme.

Grace said the programme has been extremely helpful in developing their business and has been a safe environment to make mistakes and come out the other side feeling stronger.

“We have been able to use an incredible process with Lightning Lab Tourism– to take an idea, create and test it which meant we can feel confident that Amiki is going to be here for a long time"

Cate Grace, Amiki co-founder

“We have been able to use an incredible process in LLT – to take an idea, create and test it which meant we can feel confident that AMIKI is going to be here for a long time,” she said.

AMIKI have been working with LTT on how to increase visitor nights in Christchurch.

“We know that people are choosing to come to this part of the world, and when they choose [Christchurch], we are hoping to link them from the airport to the CBD and the city’s unique attractions,” said Grace.

ChristchurchNZ is an industry partner of LLT and has provided business support and mentorship.

ChristchurchNZ Destination Development Manager Anton Wilke said the partnership with LLT fits with ChristchurchNZ’s goals to promote the city and encourage visitors to stay longer.

“Christchurch is re-establishing its place in the market and part of this is encouraging visitors to stay longer and soak up all the city has to offer. We’re excited to work with all the participants of LLT to build a strong and sustainable tourism industry,” said Wilke.

It seems AMIKI are well on the way to help achieve this, with the tours encouraging people to experience Christchurch differently and connecting visitors with local business.

Or as Grace put it, “At the end we share over kai. You have arrived as a stranger and leave as a friend or as our whānau member.”



AMIKI will be pitching their business concept at the Lightning Lab Demo Day.

When: Tuesday 20 August, 5.30pm to 8pm

Venue: Christchurch Town Hall, James Hay Theatre, 86 Kilmore Street

RSVP here

Read more about Lightning Lab Tourism and the participating ventures.