Over 56 remarkable women successfully completed a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) preparation workshop, along with pre- and post-training coaching in a graduation ceremony on 30 June, 2023.
This transformative training, held across the northern, western, and central regions of Fiji, was made possible by the dedicated efforts of South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), Financial Management Counsellors Alliance (FMCA) and Vision Investments Limited (VIL).
The chief guest for the event was Esala Masitabua, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji. The event was held simultaneously in Savusavu for SPBD members in the Northern division.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Lagi Fisher, FMCA National Coordinator, explained: “The SPBD SME preparation workshop is a comprehensive one-day training programme, specifically designed to equip women entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools to succeed in their respective business endeavours.
“The pre- and post-training coaching sessions provided personalised guidance and support, enabling the participants to navigate the challenges and harness opportunities in their entrepreneurial journeys.
“By supporting and promoting women’s economic participation, we pave the way for sustainable development, gender equality and a brighter future for Fiji,” Fisher added.
“MSMEs contribute 18-19% of Fiji’s economy by producing goods and services,” Anil Senewiratne, Head of Business Development of Vision Investments Limited, told the graduates.
“As microentrepreneurs, you represent the heart and soul of the business world. You have turned your dreams into reality, creating opportunities not only for yourselves but also for others in your family and communities. The journey you have undertaken has been filled with countless challenges, but you have faced them head on, never losing sight of your goals,” Senewiratne said.
One of the graduates, Asinate Waicala, runs several SMEs, selling food packs, and runs a small canteen and an internet shop in Korovuto village in Nadi. Asinate said she began with the canteen business and then opened the internet shop two years later, thanks to SPBD’s support.
“I joined SBPD in 2017. The following year, I took an SME loan of $15,000 and that’s when I opened up my internet shop,” she said. Asinate opened her internet shop in Korovuto village because she had thought of its convenience. “There are a lot of people, especially students, in the village and it will be easy for them to access and do some printing, research work and play simple computer games here instead of going all the way to Nadi town to access one and do just that.”
Asinate said her businesses are going well: “Every Friday, I deliver lovo orders to tourism workers at Rosie Holidays and Fiji Culture Village at $10 per pack.
The former SPBD Businesswoman of the Year said being part of SPBD has helped her in many ways. “I paid off my first loan in a year and then I took another loan of $20,000 in 2019 and bought a car. I thank the Lord for the knowledge and the wisdom that I managed to save a lot of money and pay off my loans through SPBD.”
Another graduate, Riteshni Devi, acknowledged SPBD for the prosperity of her business. “I started my business as a market vendor where I would sell suki and suluka (dried leaves consumed as cigarettes) at Labasa market. After struggling for four years as a market vendor, I came to know about SPBD’s microloan schemes and how it would help me to grow my business.
“I first started with SPBD by getting a $1,000 loan. With this money, I was able to purchase more products like oil and spices to boost my sales, and I was able to pay back my loan within six to seven months. After getting another loan of $8,000, I started doing wholesale products. Now, I’ve [entered] into a SME loan [cycle] of $11,000 and in July, it will be $15,000. At the beginning stage of my business, I was managing it with the help of my husband. But now, I have four employees to help me carry out the work.”
The Centre Chief of SPBD’s Nailawa Centre said she aims to continue her business on an even larger scale and provide employment to more people.
Western Financial Education Facilitators Attend ‘Improve Your Business’ Training in Rakiraki and Lautoka
“We can learn about doing business till we die but it is of no use if we are unable to put whatever we learned about business into practice,” says Aslam Khan, Business Advisory Manager – Central Division, of the Fiji Ministry of Trade, Cooperatives, SMEs and Communications (MTCSMEC).
Khan and his team have been conducting ongoing training for women entrepreneurs across Fiji.
The ‘Improve Your Business’ training is an initiative founded by microfinance company South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), and is supported by the MTCSMEC. Following a twoyear hiatus, the training resumed in April this year, beginning in Suva.
Recently, the team travelled West to Rakiraki on 11-13 July and Lautoka on 18-20 July, and assisted 52 businesswomen who are Financial Education Facilitators (FEFs) with SPBD. They were equipped with invaluable financial knowledge and skills which will serve as a solid foundation for their businesses.
These FEFs had the opportunity to learn the best practices in budgeting, preparing a cash flow statement, as well as knowing how to price, sell, and make profit from their products and services, among other things. They play a vital role at their respective centres as they regularly assist their members with business plans and tips.
One of them is Lusiana Lotu of SPBD’s Nakorokula Centre in Rakiraki, who says the training taught her many valuable lessons.
“The customer is the boss of my business,” notes Lusiana.
“Sometimes, I treat my businesses like they are secondary things and sometimes, the pressure of handling these businesses would affect me. I learnt that as business owners, we are supposed to be calm and patient with customers, and also be aware of certain risks as some in the village are running the same kind of businesses and sell their products at competitive prices.”
The determined 37-year-old single mother has been growing her canteen and baking businesses since she joined SPBD in 2021.
“For my baking business, I sell banana puddings in four villages. I sell my puddings at $2 each. Yet, after this training, I came to learn that I was not earning as much profit and that I needed to sell it at $3 each.
“After attending the training, I have been bookkeeping diligently to better track my income and expenses.
“For my canteen business, I sell canned stuff and other things my community usually needs.
“Right now, I am using one cupboard in my home for my canteen business. But I want to build a separate building next year for my canteen business.
“I also plan to sell kerosene and benzene as most people in my village have boats and they have to travel to Rakiraki town just to get refills. So, I hope to provide this service in two years’ time.”
Litia Muavesi of SPBD’s Ratabu Centre 2 in Nadi, on the other hand, says the training which she attended in Lautoka has helped her prioritise her commitments.
“I enjoyed the training from the beginning to the end. It was motivating. I now know how to make a proper budget,” she said.
“I learned that I get a lot of money. And, you know, as an i-Taukei, we have lots of commitments. So, I really learned a good lesson that I should [allocate] certain amounts of money for my pay and [the rest] for my [business],” she added.
The 60-year-old is a familiar face at Nadi market, selling delicious pastries and hot drinks every morning, from Mondays to Saturdays.
“My business is going very well! I also sell vakalolo (Fijian dessert) on Fridays, and my red and pink ginger flowers on Saturdays,” she said.
As her business progresses, Litia says she hopes to have a nursery, as well as a taxi business in Nadi.
Meet the Members
Seini Tagivakatini, SPBD Velovelo Centre
In the bustling village of Velovelo, a trailblazing entrepreneur named Seini Tagivakatini has been leaving her mark on the community since she joined SPBD in 2011. A proud member of the Velovelo Centre, Seini’s diverse business portfolio includes second-hand clothing, a grocery canteen, and her own line of home-made body oils and charcoal soaps.
What sets Seini apart is her commitment to sustainability and supporting the local economy. She sources local resources for her body oils and soaps, promoting environmental stewardship and community growth. Her industrious nature and unyielding determination have made her a role model in her community, inspiring others to dream big and work hard.
With the support of SPBD’s loans, Seini has transformed her life and that of her family. She utilised the funds to renovate her home, creating a comfortable and welcoming space for her loved ones. Additionally, she now owns a car, which has not only provided convenience but also expanded her reach and business capabilities.
Seini’s dedication to continuous learning and self-improvement is truly commendable. Beyond her involvement with SPBD, she actively engages in various business trainings, striving to enhance her knowledge and skills further. Her recent certificate of participation from FRCS on business recordkeeping is a testament to her commitment to excellence and professional development.
The 51-year-old’s advice to her fellow women entrepreneurs echoes her own journey: “Keep working and don’t stay idle.” She embodies the spirit of perseverance and the drive to never settle for less. As Seini’s businesses continue to thrive and make a positive impact on her Centre, she remains an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs, proving that with hard work, determination, and a commitment to growth, anything is achievable.
Teresia Rosi, SPBD Uciwai-Momi Bay Centre
Teresia Rosi’s inspiring journey as an entrepreneur began in 2018 when she became a member of SPBD’s Uciwai-Momi Bay Centre. At 39 years old and with two children to care for, Rosi was determined to create a better future for her family through her businesses. Drawing from her ancestral knowledge, she ventured into three distinct trades: kava, Fijian tobacco, and the ancient art of mat weaving (a skill she learned from her beloved grandmother).
With her strong family ties, Teresia was able to secure a reliable supply of kava from her uncle in Taveuni, enabling her to offer a premium product to her customers. Moreover, her expertise in mat weaving not only preserved her cultural heritage but also allowed her to create unique and intricate pieces that found a market among locals.
The support of SPBD was instrumental in transforming Teresia’s life. Through the loans she received, she invested wisely in expanding her home, adding a kitchen, sitting area, and proper toilet and bathroom facilities. This improvement not only enhanced their living conditions but also enabled her to conduct her businesses more comfortably.
Teresia’s husband, a taxi driver, stood by her side as a pillar of support throughout her business journey. Teresia is grateful to SPBD for instilling in her the value of saving, a practice that has not only helped her grow her businesses but also provided a safety net for unforeseen circumstances.
Above all, Teresia attributes her success to her unwavering faith and belief in God. She encourages others to put God first in everything they do and trust in Him to make the impossible possible. Teresia’s story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the incredible outcomes that can be achieved when faith, hard work, and family support come together in harmony. As she continues to build her businesses and create a brighter future for her children, Teresia’s journey serves as an inspiration to her community, reminding everyone that with determination and faith, anything can be accomplished.
Makelesi Satala, SPBD Namoli Centre
A dynamic and enterprising businesswoman from SPBD’s Namoli Centre. With a passion for cooking and baking, Makelesi has successfully established three thriving businesses in her community: a pastry shop, a pre-packed food, and a variety of refreshing chasers. Leveraging the power of social media and word-of-mouth referrals from her extensive network of friends and relatives, Makelesi efficiently takes food orders through her popular Facebook account (Magles Satala).
Driven by her dedication to her family’s well-being, the 43-year-old utilised her most recent loan from SPBD to
invest in her husband’s carpentry tools and acquire a brushcutter, further expanding their income streams. With four school-aged children and a supportive husband by her side, Makelesi’s entrepreneurial ventures have become instrumental in achieving their shared dream of building their own home, providing them with a secure and comfortable living space.
Makelesi’s inspiring advice to her fellow women members in the community is to maintain a positive mindset. Believing that anything is possible with the right attitude and determination, Makelesi has shown how optimism and hard work can lead to success. Her unwavering spirit and ability to balance multiple businesses and family responsibilities serve as a shining example to others, motivating them to pursue their aspirations and strive for greatness.
Sereana Kavoa, SPBD Vunitogoloa Centre
In the quaint village of Vunitogoloa, a determined and enterprising woman named Sereana Kavoa embarked on a transformative business journey. At the age of 42 and a devoted mother to four children, Sereana joined SPBD’s Vunitogoloa Centre in 2014 with a burning desire to create a better life for her family.
Sereana’s business insights led her to establish multiple ventures that catered to the diverse needs of her community. She skilfully managed a thriving grocery canteen, a sought-after kava business, and proudly preserved her cultural heritage by engaging in the traditional art of mat weaving. With her husband working as a farmer and seasonal worker, Sereana’s businesses played a vital role in supporting her family’s financial well-being.
Through the financial support of SPBD’s loans and her own disciplined savings, Sereana achieved a significant milestone – the construction of their very own 2-bedroom house. This newfound stability not only provided her family with a safe and comfortable home but also instilled a sense of pride and accomplishment in Sereana.
Sereana’s thriving businesses allowed her to meet her family’s obligations, ensuring her children’s education and furnishing their home with essential white goods. As a testament to her honesty and integrity, Sereana expressed her gratitude to SPBD, emphasising that being truthful and trustworthy is the key to success with the organisation.
As Sereana’s businesses continued to flourish, she became an inspiration to her community, demonstrating that hard work, honesty, and smart financial management can create a brighter future. Her story showcased the transformative power of microfinance and the positive impact it can have on individuals and their families, encouraging others to follow in her footsteps and pursue their dreams. With unwavering determination and support from SPBD, Sereana proved that anything is possible when one sets their mind to it.