Fiji’s first business accelerator program for micro-entrepreneurs successfully graduated nine businesswomen in a simple ceremony last November.
An intensive six-month program, which combines formal training sessions with onsite business coaching, South Pacific Business Development’s (SPBD) Fiji Bloom Program has three main components:
- Business Formalisation – this is intended to assist the informal business sector to become part of the formal economy by registering their businesses with the Register of Companies and Fiji Revenue & Customs Service, and by obtaining the necessary business licenses.
- Business Development Services – the micro-entrepreneurs are linked to existing reputable business development services providers and SME Preparation Workshops to help them prepare strategies for their growth.
- Business Acceleration Program – aimed at guiding the entrepreneurs to successfully face the challenges of their growing businesses.
Hours before their graduation, participants had to present and defend their growth strategies to a Panel of Judges headed by Lorraine Seeto and assisted by Api Kurusiga (Lapita Investments) and Semi Bilitaki (USP Career Centre and Services). Mereamo Lalakobatiki (Dreu na Leba Investments) of Ucunivanua Village, who operates a canteen, catering, fish trading and taxi business, was awarded the top prize.
The other graduates are Vani Vakacegu, Merewalesi Muaniwaqa, Ulamila Bera, Milika Rokomada, Susana Rolewatu, Vasemaca Aditukana, Viniana Loloyavura and Mareta Koro.
MEET THE MEMBER: MEREWALESI MUANIWAQA
“My name is Merewalesi Muaniwaqa. I’m from a village called Sote in Tailevu. I live in Caubati Stage 2. I cook for the students of Gospel Primary School; I cook their meals, their lunch, snacks during recess time. That’s the business I’m doing.
The business was doing well before COVID-19. But when COVID-19 came, business was falling as the school closed so there was not really much to do. [So] I stayed home and made lovo and posted it on Facebook then the orders came; from customers, from offices in Suva and from other residents where I live. I also deliver fried fish with tavioka.
The third one is ibe (mats), the i vivivi. I take a picture of it and post it on Facebook and I earn money. That is also a business I was able to do.
After accomplishing that, I took a loan from SPBD and bought a car. This same car is used to deliver the food that is ordered.
Fiji Bloom [SPBD’s business accelerator program] is an eye opener, for me to see, to see long term other opportunities to keep the business going.
Nowadays, I always watch shows on tv about businesses. I saw something [recently] about flowers, pot plants. I’ve learnt and know a bit about flower arrangements and I’m thinking of that, to expand my business. These are some of the things I’m doing that keeps me motivated and going.
When school resumed, sales dropped and I had to find other means to keep my business afloat. Before, the kids used to come and buy things from me directly. But now, the teachers come. They take the orders from the kids and then come to me; I give them the orders.
I don’t quit easily; I look for other things to keep me going. That’s just some of the small business I’m doing.”