Mr. Panikeke; The mind behind your favourite "seki hoops"
Who is Mr Panikeke? and what does he have to do with the new Pasifika statement hoop earrings trend going around social media?
You might take a scroll through Instagram nowadays to see girls pridefully wearing hoop earrings with the words “TokoUso” in the centre or a chain necklace with the word “Taro”. The trend of modern Pacific fusion jewelry has taken the market by storm as more and more people look for ways to express their heritage in the way they dress and accessorize. This form of fashion expression has often contained solely seis and elei but with this new generation of urban Pasifika youth, there has been a rise in the popularity of Pacific hoops and chains. If you ask many people where they've gotten these eye-catching statement accessories the answer is often the same… “Panikeke”.
In the heart of South Auckland, you’ll find the colourful Panikeke store containing gems of the Pacific, from “Teti” hoops to woven handbags. You might have a browse of the store and think it belonged to a big brand chain. When in fact it belongs to a 23-year-old Entrepreneur that built his business from the ground up when he was only a Teenager. Kiteli Keith Toma started his business back in 2016 with one soap made using pacific coconut oil & pure nonu juice. He started selling his soap at the Otara Flea Markets and at times would make no sales, but still dreamed of one day owning his own shop. Kiteli, also known on social media as Mr. Panikeke described his journey to his panikekes (what he calls his supporters) by saying “I’ve always believed that there is so much untapped potential in our natural pacific resources, our cultural designs and that yes our people really can do business! Panikeke has been a 5 year journey. I’ve been through all the ups and downs of starting a small business. From the Otara flea market with my one soap, one lotion and one style of earrings to the Papatoetoe night markets. Now it's a growing Panikeke brand with accessories galore and a whole range of beauty products. Panikeke has just been an intense labour of love. Creating a space for our Pacific people that I’ve always dreamed of!!”
Panikeke is a Pacific Term for ‘Pancake’ and you might be wondering why use this name if the store doesn't actually sell food. The meaningful story behind it might just be more heartwarming than the name itself. Keteli shared “I named my business PANIKEKE based on my upbringing, growing up struggling in south Auckland. When there is nothing to eat, what do you do? ‘Cook PANIKEKES (pancakes)’ and this is what my grandmother Siliva taught me. She said when there is nothing to eat in the cupboards ‘Go cook some panikekes’ because there would always be flour and sugar in the cupboard and water in the tap! Creating something from nothing is not new to our Pacific Community and is what connects us! Looking at the massive PANIKEKE sign makes me so thankful to all the panikekes who have joined this journey with us. It's what makes us so passionate in serving the pacific and creating a brand that represents us!”. A beautiful story of never letting scarcity impact creativity is the driving factor behind this business.
Like a true young Entrepreneur, Mr. Panikeke keeps up with the times and is innovative in his business marketing. You might recognize his face from TikToks or Instagram Reels in which he promotes Panikeke. The trendy and captivating videos fall in line with this new age of social media marketing. Panikeke does it well and that is probably why you've seen those famous “Seki” hoop earrings pop up on your feed.
So the next time you scroll through your feed or come across a cousin wearing a Panikeke piece we hope you remember the touching and inspirational story behind the items. More importantly, we hope Kiteli’s story of his Pacific hustle inspires more young Pasifika entrepreneurs to follow their dreams. One day you could be a teenager selling one soap and the next you could be the name behind one of the hottest trends.