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Activewear startup makes its mark

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A Tokoroa mother’s love for the game of touch has given rise to an inclusive activewear brand.

Ashleigh Hawera founded After Hours in 2017 with no previous business experience, and worked outside of her day job for over four years to grow the hobby into a self-sustaining business. As team manager for iconic Tokorora touch team the Mezcarz, Hawera used to film some of the best game highlights and tries to promote the team on Youtube. In its 25-year history, the team has claimed the title of national Māori touch champions in the mixed division multiple times.

The videos proved a success but fans in Tokoroa were less interested in the tries. The distinctive white team uniforms captured all the attention.

“My partner and I were heavily involved in the team, and because it was so successful in local competitions, we had the idea to design our own uniforms that we could sell,” Hawera says. “Everyone wanted the singlets and gear; we were overwhelmed with requests.”

She made the decision to begin designing her own range – inclusive clothes that would help women of all sizes feel comfortable working out, the sort of clothing she would want to wear herself. With no experience or mentor, she conducted her own research for suppliers and designed an entire range in her own time after her shifts at the plywood mill in Tokoroa.

With its range of high waisted tights and matching sports bras, After Hours is now a self-sustaining business. Hawera attends some of the largest fitness expos in the country, meeting likeminded female-run small businesses that support one another.

“We now attend around six expos a year,” she says. “It’s our main way to get the brand out there. We always sell out of all sizes – we have such a wide range of customers loving our stuff, from crossfitters to women just looking for something comfy to wear. I love meeting the other ladies who run small businesses, it’s a great network of support.”

Operating from her home in Tokoroa, Hawera hopes to continue growing her online store, and is about to launch a new range.

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