SPBD Members Participate in SME Preparation Workshop

Members who attended the workshop in the north

SPBD Fiji recently held a series of one-day SME Preparation Workshops Fijiwide. The workshop was held in Savusavu on 24 March 2023 for its Vanua Levu members for branches in Labasa, Savusavu and Taveuni. On 31 March, another workshop was held in Suva for branches in Suva and Levuka while the third workshop was held in Lautoka for branches in Rakiraki, Lautoka and Sigatoka on 5 April.

The training is tailor-made for SPBD members who are earmarked for SME loans and those already on SME loan threshold. The workshop is designed for SPBD members who are looking to take their micro-business to the next level and grow into a small business to be funded by SPBD’s SME Loan Programme. The objective of the workshop is to equip the members with the knowledge and tools to upgrade their businesses, increase their revenue, as well as build a solid foundation for future growth. Members who complete the workshop are also eligible to apply for the SPBD Fiji Bloom Accelerator programme.

More specifically, the objectives of the workshop are to:-

  • Understand the difference between a micro-business and a small business
  • Develop a growth strategy and action plan
  • Discover marketing techniques to expand customer base
  • Explore best practices to manage and grow a small business
  • Learn about simple financial projections for a small business
  • Learn how to apply for a loan from SPBD Microfinance

Financial Management Counsellors Alliance of Fiji (FMCAF) conducted the workshop with trainer, Mr. Lagi Fisher and his team of coaches. The coaches were professionals who were very experienced. In Lautoka, Mr. Aisake Radu was the coach who has over 30 years of experience in business management and development banking experience. Mr. Josese Visako was the coach for the workshop in the north with 30 years’ experience in business operations/management and development banking. Mr. Maika Saladromo, a Fiji Rugby Union Certified Referee/Coach and a former high school teacher was also the coach for the northern branches. In Suva, Mr. Apiame Cegumalua (entrepreneur and food technologist) was the coach.

The SME Preparation Programme included a pre- and post-training coaching session. The pre-training coaching session was conducted a few days before the scheduled training dates as the coaches and SPBD members met to discuss the overall business operations and to complete the Business Diagnostic Chart (BDC) and Personal Entrepreneurial Competency Diagnostic (PECD). These diagnostic exercises provided the members and the coaches with a snapshot of the health of the business and the entrepreneurial competency of the members. This baseline scenario provides a platform for the enhancement and expansion of the business. The next step is to build on the baseline scenario to assist members develop appropriate strategies and best practices to bridge any gaps, as well as equip members for the SME ecosystem.

Mr. Fisher and his team of coaches delivered the workshops in a simplified manner to enhance the members’ learning without diluting the underlying business concepts and principles. In particular:-

  • The training was designed for adult learning with simplified tools
  • Delivery was in both vernacular (i-taukei and English) for clarity
  • Basic English was used for clarity and translated to i-taukei where necessary
  • Group work and idea sharing and presentations were used to enhance members’ understanding
  • Pre-training interviews were conducted to collate data for business planning, diagnostic and personal diagnostic tools

A total of 56 members attended the workshop (Suva – 24 members, Savusavu – 17, Lautoka – 15). These members will now be eligible to join the SPBD Fiji Bloom programme. Mr. Fisher was pleased with the outcome of the workshops. He said, “Despite being from different centres and zones, the participants were fully engaged and enthusiastic. Members participated and contributed openly and freely shared their views and experiences”. The post-training sessions will provide an excellent opportunity for the members to further refine their learning and implement practical and actionable business plans. Mr. Fisher is of the opinion that “the members are now better prepared and well positioned to work and thrive in the SME domain”.

These workshops have also provided networking opportunities and fostered a supportive community of women entrepreneurs in the SPBD Family. Mr. Fisher hopes that the training “will inspire and empower women entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and contribute to the economic growth of Fiji”.

Feedback from the members was encouraging. Some of the comments extracted from the feedback forms were:-

“trainer is very informative and helpful”
“learnt a lot and appreciated the training”
“learnt how to upgrade my business”
“will now market my product through social media”
“I now need to record everything”
“conduct more training”

A group presentation from our western members
Members from the north presenting their case study

Mr. Fisher (right) with members from Suva and Levuka

Members from Suva and Levuka
during a group discussion
A group presentation from Suva and Levuka

SPBD Fiji Bloom

SPBD Fiji Bloom is an initiative of SPBD Microfinance (Fiji) Pte Limted which has an active membership of over 7000 women entrepreneurs. The initiative aims to pave a new pathway to help informal women-led microenterprises (MEs) grow and transition into thriving, formalised small medium enterprises (SMEs).

The SPBD Fiji Bloom programme provides capacity building events that are carefully tailored to the unique needs of women-led Micro SMEs. The three core programmes include a formal business formalisation service, an SME preparation programme and Fiji’s first ever accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs. Business Formalisation is intended to assist the members to become part of the formal economy by registering their businesses with the Register of Companies and Fiji Revenue & Customs Service, as well as obtaining the necessary business license. Business Development Services is when the micro-entrepreneurs are linked to existing reputable business development services providers and SME Preparation Workshops, to help them prepare strategies for their growth.

To carry out this bold initiative, SPBD Fiji Bloom is creating strategic partnerships with aligned parties and designing programmes to be financially sustainable for long-term sustainability. SPBD Fiji Bloom will bring together local non-profit shareholders and agencies that are all committed to serving and supporting women-led MSMEs across Fiji.

SPBD Fiji Bloom can be contacted using the following details:-
Telephone/Mobile: 331 1169/997 6354
Email: fijibloom2022@gmail.com
Facebook: Fiji Bloom Business Hub

Meet the Members

Waikete Centre Chief, Fipe Tikovakaca

Originally from Sese village in Vanua Levu, Fipe Tikovakaca has made Waikete village, Tailevu her home for several years.

And the village is more significant to her now since she joined the South Pacific Business Development’s (SPBD) Waikete Centre in 2016.

The former employee at Mark One Apparel says she joined the microfinance company after hearing from neighbours that they were able to meet their needs through SPBD’s support.

“In the past, I wanted a loan from the bank to start a business but what deterred me were the many bank requirements. Unlike SPBD, their loan process is very convenient, not many questions are asked. What SPBD requires is your honesty,” Tikovakaca says.

The 36-year-old businesswoman started her entrepreneurial journey selling kava but that didn’t do too well, she said. “I also tried running a canteen but that too didn’t earn much. But through those times, I continued to work on my sewing skills,” she adds.

That’s right. Tikovakaca did not leave the garment industry entirely; she is in fact operating her own sewing business from the comfort of her home, thanks to SPBD.

“I found there were not many people offering sewing services in my area so I kept pursuing it by sewing shirts and then just last year, I was finally able to sew dresses. Running a sewing business has been really profitable for me compared to my previous businesses. I earn enough and I earn from home, so I feel relieved,” she says.

“Right now, my sewing business is very busy,” she said. “I have many customers from Waikete and other places who want their clothes sewn by me.”

The new product Tikovakaca is working on is ‘lacadrau’ or quilt. The skill of making quilts was taught by her aunt and former Waikete Centre Chief who is now based in American Samoa. “Someone has ordered that I make a set for them. My Na Levu has been teaching me to perfect my skills in making quilts by hand,” she said.

Last year, Tikovakaca was promoted to the role of Centre Chief at Waikete Centre where she oversees the socioeconomic welfare of her more than 20 members.

“I was selected Centre Chief last year and I was definitely not anticipating it. When the selection was made, I consulted my husband about it because he’s like my main backbone in everything I do. He told me, “I don’t want you to take up the role because you’re the youngest there. The rest are older ladies’’. I find it hard to delegate tasks and speak on behalf of them. The older members insisted that I become Centre Chief as the Centre needed a leader. Then my husband said, “If you’re willing, then take it! Remember, that role comes with great responsibility. So I said yes to the call,” Tikovakaca revealed.

Leadership is definitely one of Tikovakaca’s strengths as she ensures that her Centre members get the support they need.

“Some of our members are market vendors at Nausori Market. Some do ‘lawa sua’ (catching crabs using traps made of plaited magimagi (coconut fibre string)) to sell on Saturday markets while others do ‘kesakesa’ (printing designs on cloth materials),” she said.

Waikete Centre Secretary, Sovia Maria

Hoping to establish a new supermarket at Waikete village in Tailevu is South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) member, Sovia Maria.

The 46-year-old businesswoman is currently running a small canteen selling daily necessities such as canned food, biscuits and the like.

“My canteen business has been going well. Yet gaining customers is quite a challenge as many are doing similar businesses around here. I hope to develop my current canteen into a supermarket for my people living in Waikete,” Maria says.

She has been an SPBD member for 11 years. “I joined SPBD because I was certain that they would help me improve the livelihood of my family. My husband is a farmer and I was a stay-at-home mom taking care of our kids at the time. But now, I run a canteen,” she said.

Her husband, who farms cattle and root crops, has been her motivation. “My husband is very hardworking, tending cattle and planting dalo and cassava, and I wanted to further support him in taking care of our children,” she said.

As a businesswoman, Maria says learning how to manage her finances has been the most valuable lesson. “SPBD has taught me how to manage money wisely by depositing my earnings at the bank regularly and also paying off my loan when due,” she said.

Maria says SPBD has changed her life for the better. “I’m able to run a canteen and at the same time support my husband and school-going children. One of my sons is in Australia taking part in the Pacific Labour Scheme. I’m so proud of him. He has been a great help as well”.

“Without God and SPBD, I wouldn’t have made it this far so I’m very grateful for all the support,” she added.