The Vodafone Arena in Suva last week was full-packed with radiant businesswomen celebrating their efforts at the 12th annual South Pacific Business Development awards.
SPBD Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Greg Casagrande, commended the women for their extraordinary determination and courage, stating: “Those qualities have helped each of you to endure and to pull through to where you are today.”
He continued: “In the SPBD family, you will find lots of opportunities to build relationships with other aspiring, hardworking women, micro entrepreneurs. All of modest means, but large ambitions.”
Casagrande revealed after more than 12 years of operation in Fiji, SPBD has helped over 13,000 women build and maintain successful micro businesses on Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Ovalau.
“We have provided them with nearly FJ$100 million of unsecured credit,” he highlighted.
Across the broader SPBD microfinance network in Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, Casagrande said the company has provided over US$260 million in unsecured financing in the form of 315,000 microloans to over 100,000 women micro entrepreneurs.
“Whether it is here in Fiji or elsewhere in the Pacific, these are investments into women who are investing in their businesses, in their homes and in their children’s education…. building a brighter future for their families,” said Casagrande.
“When women are given the tools and the opportunity to earn their own income, they are more likely to reinvest their earnings in their businesses and their families,” said U.S Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu, Marie Damour, who was the chief guest for the event.
“Successful women entrepreneurs are critical components for a healthy growing economy… As families rise above the poverty line and micro businesses expand, entire communities benefit.
“We applaud SPBD’s goal of celebrating inclusive excellence and recognizing women’s achievements in business,” Ambassador Damour added.
39-year-old Teresia Rosi was recognised at the event for her hard work, becoming the SPBD Businesswoman of the Year.
The mother-of-two said she joined the SPBD Uciwai Momi Centre in 2018. “I started with a canteen and kava business, before I branched out into two other businesses in fish selling and handicrafts,” she said.
Rosi said SPBD had “tremendously helped me in looking after my family and knowing how to run a successful business.”
After five loan cycles with SPBD, Rosi said: “I’m aiming to upgrade my business into an SME”.
Other commendable winners were:
Centre Chief of the Year Award: Lusiana Valetabua – Serua Island Centre, Sigatoka Branch
Centre of the Year Award: Nakavu Centre, Lautoka
Centre Secretary of the Year: Mereseini Vakatalai – Tacirua Centre, Suva Branch
Financial Education Facilitator of the Year Award: Lalai Vugakoto – Northland, Korovou Centre
Centre Saver of the Year Award: Suva Market Vendors
Best Saver of the Year Award: Kartika Raman
New Centre of the Year Award: Navitilevu Centre, Rakiraki Branch