The new South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) office in Nabouwalu, which sits on a hilltop, overlooking the sparkling blue ocean was opened on 21 December 2022, will provide easier access to 20 SPBD Centres in the area and their members.
SPBD General Manager, Elrico Munoz, expressed the importance of having a branch based in Nabouwalu, where SPBD has almost 300 members.
“Before we opened this office, all of these areas were covered by our Labasa office. Usually, it takes the members three hours to travel to Labasa and three hours back, which can be a whole day wasted,” Munoz said at the opening.
He says SPBD remains committed to serving its members, even in remote villages through weekly visits. “It’s actually us bringing the office to their village, there are no other financial institutions who do that.”
The opening of the new office brought smiles to the faces of the nearby Centre Chiefs as they gathered for the official opening of the branch. For Sera Naibosanatabe, the opening of an office closer to her village is a welcome feeling.
“We live in a really remote village, and transport can be a real issue for us. When it was in Labasa, we would have to wake up really early in the morning to catch the bus, and we would reach there by midday,” Naibosanatabe said.
The bubbly entrepreneur described how having an office closer to home would benefit her. “This makes things easier because whenever I have any questions regarding my loan or need help with any of my business decisions, I can travel down to Nabouwalu and won’t need to use up half the day just travelling to Labasa.”
SPBD has come a long way since its inception, operating from a hotel room in 2010 and establishing their first office and centre 30 minutes outside of Suva, in the village of Kalokolevu.
With the opening of the Nabouwalu office, SPBD says “all the provinces of the Northern Division are extensively covered within our outreach.”
The Provincial Administrator (PA) for Bua, Jone Manueli, was chief guest at the opening, and stressed the importance of this program for the women in Bua during his keynote speech, noting “The establishment of this office here in Bua, to empower the women in Bua, educating them through your respective program to change
their mindsets in terms of development from their own homes to perhaps eradicate the looming poverty within the province of Bua.”
Manueli continued, “In the Northern Division, it is clear that from the three provinces, Cakaudrove, Bua, and Macuata, Bua is still the underdeveloped province, so I thank SPBD for taking the initiative to help the women here in Bua, because we see the women as the backbone of every family. We see the women as the main development partners in the rural communities; that is evident, as they are the ones that carried development forward at the community level.”
The opening was also an opportunity to present some of the ladies with the SPBD financial booklet.
Munoz said, “Unlike any other financial education program, our SPBD financial education program is an ongoing process. Unlike any other financial program, where you need to receipt once in a while, in our case, you already have the resource with you through financial integration facilitating,” he said. Anil Senewiratne, Head of Marketing at Courts and SPBD’s sponsoring partner, agrees, saying the financial booklet could be the “microfinance bible.”
Senewiratne said, “There are two things you can do when you are starting a business: the first is to use your skill set, and the second is to have financial literacy. This financial booklet is very important, because it outlines so many things very clearly that you can refer to when you have forgotten anything, or even in your financial evaluation.”
The financial booklet includes records for members to input their cash flows, policies, guidelines, and tips for members they can review during centre meetings.
Meet the Members
Bula! Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Vitalina Radinisiwa. I’m from Namosi, married in Sawani, and an SPBD member from Sawani village in Bua.
How long have you been with SPBD?
I started last year, so this will be my first year with SPBD.
What Centre are you a member of, and what is your role?
I’m a member of the SPBD Sawani Station Centre. I’m also its Centre Secretary and my role as Centre Secretary is to collect money from all the groups in my area. I have to count the amount collected and enter it into our books for record.
What type of business do you run?
I run a small canteen in the village. I also offer stationery supplies in the village for students, and when school finishes, I sell small things in the canteen.
How has SPBD helped you?
When I joined SPBD, I felt that some of the things my husband can achieve, I can also achieve, as a woman, through SPBD – particularly in the lives of my family and supporting the children’s standard of education. At times when there is an unexpected emergency within the family, SPBD comes through for us and my business.
Have you applied for some initiatives that SPBD provides?
I’ve already taken out my first loan with SPBD which was F$1,000, followed by a second loan of F$1,500 and a F$1,000 purchase of white goods. I have also been a part of some training with SPBD, particularly in the matter of finances and how to handle money.
How has that loan helped your business and family?
The loan helped me extend my kitchen, and I bought some diving gear for my husband so he can help me pay off my loan with SPBD. The second loan has helped me with the purchase of some household items and some items to help in the running of my business.
How has the training been helpful to you?
I realised when I attended that training, there was a lot that I did not know about money, from saving small amount of money to big amount of money. Sometimes when I hold onto big money, I would be impulsive, using it however I wanted. But through the SPBD training, I realised the importance of saving, from very little amount right up to big amount, in order to watch it grow so I can get what I need when the situation calls for it.
Do you have any advice for other women?
I want to challenge all the women, particularly those that are running businesses; we need to learn the importance of saving in our businesses. Finally, I want to encourage all the women to be of help to their husbands by standing on their two feet and earning money. And that we are capable and we can do it.
For four years, 43-year-old Unaisi Wainibulileka has been a member of SPBD’s Lakena Centre in Suva.
Wainibulileka runs three types of small businesses: selling barbecue, yaqona, as well as operating a dry cleaning service with her husband.
Despite the impacts of COVID-19, her businesses are running smoothly, and she says she’s “taking it one step at a time”.
Wainibulileka says she has received three loans from SPBD so far. The businesses SPBD has supported her to run have her enabled her to improve her home. “I renovated my house with the extension of our veranda and upgraded our kitchen,” she proudly said.
As for the future, she plans to open a cafe and a night club.
She advises other businesswomen to trust in themselves and take it one step at a time. “Don’t rush…You can learn a lot from SPBD when you follow their advice and the [financial] skills being taught.”