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Our Stories • Volume One

Christian Munokoa

Talofa Christian.

What do you do?

I have a background of graphic and digital design. I studied at Yoobee and was there for two years. Then, I started going off and trying to freelance and find some other income. I went in, got some corporate jobs and then basically started learning a bit more about the industry itself. It got to 2020 and I was kind of sick of the corporate rules. I was like, OK, maybe I'll just start trying to do a bit more bigger freelancing jobs. Then I got to a point where I thought I’m going to fully start this thing. Me and my mate, who also went to Yoobee, we both wanted to start something because we've always talked about it. I said, I’ll start it and you jump in when you’re ready.

In 2022, we got our first big government job and were able to work on a sexual health for Pasefika campaign. So basically, I started Hard Luck Design doing branding and advertising for Pasefika through a Pasefika lens. So we got that job, and we’ve pretty much been working on that and another couple of jobs that launched me being able to leave my [day] job. 

I think what drew me to do this was that I like to combine a lot of the branding and advertising with innovation - thinking about the tools and stuff that we use and ways that we engage with people. 

That’s awesome. Let’s go back. So you did graphics and digital design. Why?

That’s a crack up story. So, I went to Auckland Grammar and I thought I would go to the navy. The main thing was the travel and the idea that I could travel anywhere. I trained for the navy, passed everything and all the tests, but then they didn’t let me in. The position I went for was really competitive, so people that had more qualifications and life experience got in before me. I tried to get into the next one 6 months later but didn’t get in. So, it was kind of stink and I felt like I was putting my life on hold. From there, I thought, OK, well I kind of like doing design. I did it at high school, but only so I could be with my mates and then I ended up really liking it. I was like, oh man this is really fun. So I went into studying for two years at Yoobee. 

My parents wanted me to look at AUT and places like that, but I wanted to go to Yoobee because it was more practical. I’m not the best at all of the theory, so I really just wanted to learn more about the specific programmes, the software and stuff. I had a really good tutor and she’s been a really good mentor for me. She encouraged me to go freelancing as soon as I got to Yoobee. That confidence she had made me feel confident in myself to go out. 

Beautiful. So talk me through the transition from corporate into building your own space?

The moment for me was when I was working at an events company. It was an interesting time because it was right during Covid where things were always getting cancelled and then there was a good part where we had heads of shows and stuff booked again. It came to the end of the year and I felt kind of accomplished. But, I also felt like the work wasn’t rewarding. It’s a lot of work and the stress that you go through is really normalised in the [corporate] space. I was like, alright, let’s start again, what’s next year?

When I left, I wanted to focus on [projects] that were actually close to myself, like the Pacific Island projects. That was the work I wanted to do for ages and I wanted to put extra into it. In corporate, it’s good money, but I don’t really care about that. I want to be able to feel good about the work I’m doing and also help people at the same time. So that led to Hard Luck Design and our first big job with UN Youth. That journey itself has been amazing. I’ve heard so many people’s stories and learnt a lot of lessons along the way. To be able to work on this project was huge and I really dove deep into it. 

What’s your vision for where you’re going?

I guess the vision for the future is just to try and be up there with the big names like RUN. I guess our focus is on the Pasefika side and building our team so that everyone can come on full time, like I’ve done. That will hopefully be next year, and then the year after that the goal is to have our own space. 

We also want to help our community. There’s so much talent in our community that doesn’t really realise that there’s good money and there’s an actual job in this. A lot of parents think that it’s not what you should do. That you should go be a doctor. And so my goal is to try and keep getting good clients, and then always bringing on Pasefika from either college or study so we can help them get started in the space. The bigger we get the bigger the impact. The more projects we do, the more community engagement we can try and get.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?

To do it. Sometimes you have to do the corporate thing to figure out who you are. I found out it wasn't for me and I wanted to create my own thing.  Because I’m such a pessimist, I don’t care, like I’ll just go back and work if it doesn’t work. In some ways I’m like, I don’t mind if I don’t make it. I’ll try and build something while I’m here, and if it works one day then I’ll just do it and keep building from there. 

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