September 26, 2021

The Matriarchal Business Is A Pacific Island Woman’s Indigenous Marketing Framework

The origins of The Matriarchal Business are best explained through two stories, the first being how founder Clarinda Braun was raised. Clarinda, 33, was born in New Zealand the year of the 1987 military coups in Fiji, to Samoan and Fijian parents that had escaped what they perceived to be an unstable situation just two weeks prior. 

In New Zealand, her mother worked in the “immigrant entrepreneurial” style, Clarinda says, meaning “whatever it takes to provide for the family—that’s what we’re doing.” Her mother worked as a university lecturer, a facilitator, a social worker, in sales, in hospitality, and cleaning. She baked cakes to sell and learnt how to build greenhouses to then teach others. In island-style family members, and especially the children, are brought along so that from a young age Clarinda saw her mother at job interviews and presentations, during private conversations and consultations. “Nothing was out of bounds,” she says. And so she learned through osmosis.

Clarinda’s mother had similarly been exposed to the family business from a very young age. She watched her father treat patients at his pharmacy in Lautoka, Fiji, and was brought along to banquets and other events when he became the mayor of the city. “Culturally we all know we can bring our kids to all cultural functions and feel safe and welcome, but my mum and grandpa both pushed this boundary in colonial/non-cultural settings,” she says.

Early on she was drawn to sales. She worked alongside her mother, recruiting sales representatives for Avon at the mall, making calls, and doing event prep. By the age of 22 she was teaching courses, training, and consulting salespeople on public speaking. This is how The Matriarchal Business began.

The second story is about becoming a mother.  Clarinda gave birth to her son at home in Hawaii, with the support of a midwife and doula who approached birthing from a native Hawaiian perspective. Watching these two women assist her in the process of giving birth was transformative. “It made me think differently about how we consult, how we create, how we bring anything into fruition without direct force,” she says. “The way we think things need to happen are not the only way.” 

In watching these women work Clarinda recognized the presence, and the underlying societal structure, of matriarchal entrepreneurship. Clarinda offers workshops, individualized consulting, classes, and extended courses, “based on my experience growing up in a culture led by women, led by the values of the maternal.” The framework of matriarchy is not about gender, though. Clarinda describes it as a “system that supports sustainability, collective growth, and longevity.”

For the business owners and entrepreneurs that Clarinda consults, which have included Olympic athletes and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the whole framework of business must be deconstructed. Capitalism and colonialism are brought up frequently, as part of a mindset that Clarinda wants her clients to question deeply. How can we reconceptualize ownership as stewardship? “Ownership is not a requirement of abundance or health or wealth.”

The need for marketing should be understood as the need for storytelling, which holds a completely different meaning. “We must relearn Indigenous tools that teach us to influence through storytelling, through modeling, and through encouraging community involvement in every aspect of our businesses,” she says. With each of these lessons, the idea is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners think about business differently, in a way that is more sustainable, personal, and ultimately enriching. 

“The nature of that business must be social, must be interconnected with community members. It’s not transactional, and there is no hierarchy, no power dynamic.”

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