Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Fatima Lui - Saturday Fly
The idea of beauty looks different for everyone, but for Tongan business owner Veronica Pahulu, beauty looks like women empowerment and self confidence.
Veronica Pahulu began her career in the beauty industry from the comfort of her own home.
“My daughter Lavika's birth 4 years ago marked a change in my life and I didn’t need to 'settle' for the stable 9-5 life as an office manager. I needed something more, I needed to leave something behind for my children, something that they could be proud of. A legacy for my daughter & her brothers” says Veronica. Setting up the spare bedroom in her house and transforming her garage into a beauty studio, Veronica grew her clientele from very few to very many. So much so, that she took up the opportunity to set up shop inside the Mangere Town Centre, where her business name is proudly displayed for everyone to see: LAVIKA’S LASH HOUSE. “Lavika is my daughter's name. Lavika represents a woman who doesn't settle with what is given to her. A self-empowered woman who uses her life lessons to empower other women. Lavika is a woman who understands that true empowerment starts with financial independence and is something I try hard through my business to advocate to other women. That they have the power to go out & get the life that they truly deserve” Veronica says proudly.
Veronica leads her business with purpose and has done well, however despite the many successes and growing clientele, Veronica is not new to challenges and trials in her business. She says “There's always challenges along the way with business. When something is sorted, another challenge pops up, new levels - new devils, I say! But it's your ability to recognise the problem & act quickly to solve them. Speed is key, especially in this day and age, you need to be able to move swiftly and be adaptable to change or you will be left behind. You also have to be coachable, always open to learn and accept new ideas - whether they are useful or not but always remain open. Always know that with your business the problem starts with you, and the solution is you”.
The passion that Veronica has for her business and for the clients she serves is evident in her energy and the opportunities she creates for other women like her. When women approach Lavika’s lash house, it’s not solely about lashes. It’s about rest and restoration. They’re given a comfortable recliner to rest in, a safe space to share everything on their mind and they walk out looking beautiful - or as young people would say it “with their lashes on fleek”. Veronica has also introduced a business model that enables other eyelash technicians to work inside her salon. She says “Our working model is truly FREE YOUR LIFE. You set your pay targets, pick your hours you work. And basically come do your thing, and go home to live your life. You are truly the boss of YOU. A happy happy workforce, is a productive one. Now we have opened up our education part of our business, and are training up a new wave of women who not only want to learn the art of lashing, but we give them the confidence and tools to start their own lash business. In the process empowering them towards their own financial independence. The best part of Lavikas Lash House for me is that yes it's my business, but I don't ever feel like I'm really working because I get to have fun, do what I love, and empower others along the way.”
Veronica’s Tongan culture plays an important role in her business and there is four golden pillars in Tongan society that shapes her core values in business. “We have four Kaveikoula or 'four golden pillars' in Tongan society. Without being Tongan & holding these core values in how I work, I don't think Lavikas Lash House would be as successful as it is" Veronica says.
The work ethic and drive that Veronica possesses is the epitome of women empowerment. Using a business model that communicates her values and enables other women to create their own work-life balance has served her well in business. She adapts to changes in business and offers wisdom to other business owners. She says “A dream without action is just a dream. Learn your craft & master it. Why settle for mediocrity? When you can be the best! Learn your craft & practise until you are a master. When my "perfect family" had the rug pulled out from under us 15 months ago, I suddenly found myself a single mum of 6 beautiful children. I thank God everyday that he planted the seed of Lavikas Lash House in me a few years prior. It was all I had to fall back on and it's carried myself & my family through the hardest times. That is why I am so invested in my business, I would not have had the strength without it. Which is why I advocate to other women, MAINTAIN your financial independence because you deserve it”.
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Ivamere Nataro
You don’t have to go through the formal education system to earn the “big bucks”. Commercial farmer, Anasa Tawake, knows this.
He did not have the privilege of acquiring formal education, but today he earns more than a white-collar worker would do annually from his 50-acre farm.
While the concept of large scale commercial farming may not sound like a lucrative and sustainable source of income for some, the 48-year-old from Kalabu, Naitasiri, knows the value of the land and its benefits when he invests his time and assets.
ABOUT THE COMMERCIAL FARM
Mr Tawake has been a commercial farmer for 34 years. He has a 30-acre farm in Veikoba, an eight-acre farm in Sakoca, and two six-acre farms in Delaivalelevu and Natila, Tailevu. He plants dalo, ginger and cassava as it’s easy for him to manage compared to farming vegetables. He recently planted 7,800 yaqona plants in Natila, Tailevu. For last year alone, he recorded a profit of $133,000.
“When I harvest my crops, sometimes I earn $27,000 – $30,000 and that’s for dalo alone. For ginger, last year I earned $73,000, that’s from our farm in Veikoba,” he said.
“I sell cassava in bags every day. I can sell eight bags in one day and from that, I earn about $400, which I use to pay my workers.”
Mr Tawake harvests dalo eight to 10 times in a year and ginger only once when it is mature. Annually, he would spend $60,000-$70,000 on purchasing manure, contracting workers, hiring machines and paying for fuel and ration for the workers. He pays $150 weekly to each of his 10 permanent workers. In a year, $70,000 – $80,000 is set aside for wages.
“I also raise cows and pigs for both commercial and domestic purposes."
“Sometimes I keep some [cattle and pigs] in cases of family gatherings so that I don’t get to use money as well to buy cows or pigs from other places."
“When I buy a cow, I can get it for $100 – $150, and then raise it because buying from other farmers for our family gatherings would cost me $700-$800 for just one cow.”
BENEFITS OF FARMING
The father of six is married to Sereana from Nasau, Koro in Lomaiviti. It’s through his farm that he’s able to put his children through school, with two already graduated from tertiary studies and now working.
“This year I won the award for the largest dalo farmer of the year from the Ministry of Agriculture."
“I thought I was going to scoop both dalo and ginger but unfortunately I was competing with the Chinese and Indo-Fijian farmers.”
CHALLENGES OF FARMING
“First is the change in weather patterns that damages our crop, second is the manure. A lot of times there’s a shortage but I don’t lose faith because through my farm I am able to financially support my family so I dedicate my time and energy in managing my farm."
“The other one is stealing. This is a problem, especially the young people stealing from other people’s farms.”
Mr Tawake said at times the price of dalo was unfair to farmers.
“Sometime 1kg dalo is $2.50-$3 but when it hits $4 or $5, we are happy because we make money.”
“Don’t depend too much on the assistance from the Government. If the Government helps only once, that’s OK, but the onus is now on you to do the work.”
“I am also helping out my workers in terms of business and I have also subdivided my farm among them. I want them to have cars and houses. It started last year and this year it’s going really well."
“I reinvest my money in growing my farm. Many people, when they earn from their farms, they use their money to buy other things rather than reinvesting their time and money on their asset."
“At one stage I had $70,000 in my bank account and I thought of getting a Land Cruiser, most of us we are attracted by what we see, like me, but then I thought, maybe I will focus on building houses to rent out."
“I have so far used $110,000 in building a house to rent out and I will do more of such in the future.”
Mr Tawake said building and renting out houses were his financial backup plan when there came a time that he needed to retire from farming."
He does not receive assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture, but he helps other farmers by supplying ginger seedlings and dalo tops such as in Ketei village in Totoya, Lau, and Natila village, Tailevu.
“Most farmers go to the Ministry of Agriculture in Nausori for advice and they are directed to me, and when I explain to them about the method and benefits of farming and working the land, many resign from their jobs."
HOW EVERY DAY STARTS FOR TAWAKE
“I am always happy when I wake up every morning because I get to see my farm. It’s just like those who work in the office; they wake up every morning and look forward to working in their office. That’s just like me because I know my farm is earning money."
“When I get up every morning, I pick up my workers and drop them off at the farm by 8 o’clock and then around 10 o’clock or 11o’clock, I come home to have breakfast and then I head back to the farm and do some work."
“My workers get one and a half-hour rest and finish work at 5pm.”
Mr Tawake comes from a family line of farmers. His dad and forefathers were farmers.
“When we grew up in [Kalabu] many of us just looked to the land for a source of income."
“For me, I am the only one in this generation living in this area to be fully utilising the land. I have four brothers. One works and the three of us farm."
“Our elders were not large commercial farmers; instead they sell along the roadside and small markets just to get by in a day.”
Use the land, he said.
“If you work somewhere and you earn less, and if you have a land, just go back to utilising your land. Because nowadays earning $300 is not enough to cater for the high cost of living we are experiencing."
“Government has done great help for the people; the only problem is the individual farmer."
“Don’t depend too much on the assistance from the Government. If the Government helps only once, that’s OK, but the onus is now on you to do the work.”
Even if it’s a vegetable farm in your backyard, Mr Tawake said, utilise the land.
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Cecilia Sagote of Seki Media
Move over Lancome and Pink Clay!...FENIU skincare has arrived!
FENIU skincare; its natural Tongan coconut oil and sandalwood ingredients have a myriad of valuable skincare benefits and anti-ageing properties.
The stunning new cosmetics brand created by 34-year-old Mele Feniu Olivetti of Sydney launched just last month and celebrates Pacific-female entrepreneurship in a competitive beauty industry.
“I wanted to create a skincare brand that empowers and showcases the Pacific Island culture, especially my Tongan culture,” says Mele.
Her business journey began three years ago when she, a single mum of three children, was working full time whilst being supported by her church ministering parents Seini Fifita (Kolomotu’a) & Filimone Olivetta (Navutoka). Mele credits her parents as a driving force in her business.
“I saw my dad break barriers, challenging old school Tongan ways in modern Australian society. His commitment to the community, his unconditional love and believing and supporting my vision inspires me,” Mele adds.
With a Bachelor's degree in International Marketing from Monash University under her belt, Mele knew she had to get her ‘hustle’ on just like her father.
“Combining the knowledge I had with marketing together with working in product development in my own profession, I wanted to create a business with a strong focus on natural products using key ingredients sourced from the Kingdom of Tonga.”
Mele was travelling to and from Tonga to find suppliers but because of her day job, her trips were limited to a few days at a time. She eventually partnered with a youth organisation there in Tonga with a strong agricultural program that included a coconut oil-making sector.
“I am very happy to be working with them and supporting their work too. We have gone through processes of reviving the 'ahi [sandalwood] flavour and fermenting the coconut and 'ahi after it had been cooked for a few days which was one of the trials we did."
“It was important that I was getting the right balance of those ingredients with oils from western culture too that have great benefits for skin. My mum was ultimately the one who decided which balance was best.”
Mele began selling her products online from home when a business proposition came about while taking her orders to the post office before work.
“I was at a cafe getting coffee when I bumped into a friend of mine who is a businessman. He started asking questions about what I was selling. I told him about my product and after seeing my passion for my business, he made an offer and eventually became my business partner. Last year we set up the company Olivissa Pty Ltd and we began rebranding with new premium packaging."
“I wasn’t even looking for an investor at the time. My plans were to continue doing this from home until I could grow the business overtime and hopefully quit my job. I wanted a better work-life balance so I could enjoy being with my children - that was my motivation for starting a business. But this business deal fast-tracked those plans. I am so happy to now be running FENIU full time; enjoying watching my children grow & being happily engaged to my fiance Opeti Manoa.”
Growing up, Mele used Tongan coconut infused oils for her face, body and hair. She describes it being the only form of nourishment for her skin and a common beauty regime in Tongan households in the islands. So it’s no surprise that she decided to explore beauty as a way to start a business. She wanted to create a product that links back to her Tongan culture - one that is rich in organic resources, history and customs and to share this with the world.
“I wanted a brand that encompasses tradition while embracing a new and evolving generation. I also wanted to design a product that was aesthetically pleasing to the eye. With help from our graphic designers, I was able to achieve a premium packaging using the 'tokelau feletoa' tongan pattern within the logo and a clean white and gold branding.”
She named her brand FENIU which is her middle name, passed down through women in her father’s lineage. The name is also fitting in that the word NIU means coconut.
Featuring Tongan models on her marketing material was imperative for Mele. Her friend, Miss Universe New Zealand Diamond Langi, who Mele says has been a great support, is one of the stunning models featured on the FENIU advertisements.
“I want to see our faces represented on beauty billboards and magazines. I asked beautiful Tongan women I knew or had come across to be part of my launch campaign and they have become part of the growing FENIU family. We’ve formed sisterhoods and brotherhoods and I'm blessed with every one of our models and creatives who have given their time and talents.”
FENIU was set to launch in March this year, but due to Covid-19 the launch was postponed. After much preparation last year and a lot of soul-searching, Mele and her team decided to go ahead and launch during the pandemic and accepted that this ‘risk’ may not attract as many sales as they would like. However, she believed that her story and journey could shine a positive light instead during uncertain times and so the launch went ahead on August 8th.
Surprisingly, Mele says since the launch, sales of her products surpassed her expectations.
“I am so glad we launched when we did. Our community around the world have been so supportive. When borders reopen we will be travelling abroad and sharing FENIU with the world. We are currently online and will be looking to occupy retail spaces soon."
“Our hope is to expand FENIU into fashion, accessories and hardgoods made in the islands to help create employment opportunities and much more.”
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Cecilia Sagote of Seki Media
You can take the boy out of the village but you can’t take the village out of the boy.
That phrase couldn’t be more true when describing Managing Director Seiuli Simei Kolio’s approach to his Koko Samoa business.
Seiuli, 30, grew up in the remote Savai’i village of Sasina and is a village boy at heart. And it is his early years growing up there that forms a foundation for the business.
“I’ve just been very blessed in my life,” he says. “I had the best childhood in Sasina. I had the best youth in New Zealand and then moving to Australia at the age of 22, I was able to gain corporate professional experience as well which helps too.”
Now based in Melbourne, Seiuli runs the Koko Samoa business which he registered two years ago, whilst giving back to his beloved village where 14 staff are currently employed in Samoa.
“At the beginning, we had challenges building a team without a lot of monetary resources but I am so happy with our efforts. We have a solid team back in the village and abroad. We have a common goal and understanding and that is critical. It is so important to have the right people on your team and surrounding you.”
His 'Koko Samoa' branding with sophisticated and fun packaging sets his product apart from competitors and also emphasises the authentic quality of the koko. It is this unique packaging that is favourable with many of his consumers who also use Koko Samoa for such things like gift boxes and recipes.
“A lot of information went into the logo designs with the help of my colleagues Delsa Danielson and Reynard Muliaina. Stunna No Limits in Otara Auckland also helped with the final touches.
“We have to cater for the traditional Samoan market that appreciates simplicity while also having an eye popping quality product that is easily recognisable globally and relatable to our younger generation too.”
Another unique element in the business is the use of a membership selling model in addition to traditional retail selling and wholesale orders. The advantages of having a membership model include customer retention, regular income and predicting profits.
“My biggest priority at the moment is building our memberships of those that want to be a part of what we stand for and what we are trying to accomplish and that includes creating opportunities, especially employment, for our community in Samoa.
“For 12 dollars a month or 144 dollars a year, we will send you 12 Koko Samoa throughout your membership as well as other bonuses. We are working on exclusive footage of what becomes of the contributions our members are making. We have a collective goal and a collective effort to contribute to the progress of our Pacific people.”
Seiuli says his faith plays a huge part in the business’s strategy.
“Reaffirming my strength in ‘let go let God’, I’m a big believer that we are capable of way more if we don’t let fear or uncertainty dictate our actions. That is something I always try to remember.
“And taking that leap of faith - that leap being work. You must do the work.”
**Seiuli would like to dedicate this article to his late beloved relative Tui Tiupita Samuelu, one of his biggest influencers whom he credits for his constant encouragement throughout the years.**
For more Information about Koko Samoa visit www.kokosamoa.com.au or email email@example.com or drop into their business centre and have a cup of koko at 1278 Heatherton Road, Noble Park, Melbourne, VIC
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Cecilia Sagote of Seki Media
When Ama Hemana, 26, started university years ago, she wanted to get into law, then politics, then journalism. She finally settled on studying business.
When she studied her first marketing paper, she was intrigued.
“I was blown away by how much information was immediately applicable to anything,” she says.
At the time, her sister Venna had started her own beauty business LashFix, the perfect ‘guinea pig’ for Ama to put her marketing theory into practice.
Six years later, Ama’s marketing style has been credited as a big factor in LashFix’s success in Australia.
“People often ask me ‘who does the marketing for LashFix?’” she laughs.
“My sister and I are both in a place in our business where we are happy and growing considerably and now we are both teaching our own ‘trades’. So it was natural for me to offer marketing as a service.”
Ama has named her brand, ‘Ama Zin’ Marketing, a play on her own name - one that she believes her business can live up to.
Before Covid-19 hit Melbourne, Ama had started teaching her sold out workshops in Auckland and Melbourne.
“I was so nervous,” she laughs. “My first workshop in Auckland was face to face and I was sweating like crazy. I kept shaking and stuttering and then I did the same during my first online workshop!”
“It's a scary feeling to say you're good at something and to try and stand out especially as a Polynesian woman. We're taught to be humble and quiet but when you're running a business and need to get clients, you can't do that staying quiet.”
She adds that a little prayer before her workshop does wonders. As well as stepping out of her comfort zone with a ‘just do it’ attitude.
“The feedback has been amazing so far, especially around the topic of clarity and how one can operate as a business on their own terms.
“My workshop is based on marketing your business as a reflection of who YOU are as an individual not what you think your business is supposed to be like. If you have a look at LashFix we are not and have never been your typical beauty bar and that’s what has helped us stand out from our competitors.”
She is using this Covid lockdown time to co-ordinate more mentoring workshops for small businesses as well as improving on her popular video “lives” on social media which her followers tune into - something she continues to try and master confidence in.
When asked to offer advice to other start-ups, Ama hones in on some common errors she notices other businesses do.
“A lot of businesses are posting on social media just to post or just to grow their follower count, which can be helpful for business but without a strategy or lack of direction and it's ineffective. We're too busy worrying about popularity instead of converting our follower count into dollars.”
You can book into the amazing Ama Zin Workshop here: https://lashfix.com.au/products/ama-zin-marketing-workshop?variant=32148716126257
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Cecilia Sagote of Seki Media
George Tofa of Melbourne understands first hand how Pacific culture can play a significant part in families finances.
The 33-year-old Samoan whose parents are from Saipipi, Savai’i and Vailuutai has been running his Liberty broker business for four years and has a growing portfolio of diverse clients.
As he services people’s financial needs as well getting them into their first homes, the certified finance and mortgage broker has one rule of thumb when building his Pasifika clientele in particular.
“I want people to feel empowered and to ‘go against the grain,’” he says.
“A lot of our people think working in a comfortable job or becoming a footy player are our only options which is great but I also encourage them to look beyond the status quo because I know a lot of ‘over qualified’ people in their respective industries but are comfortable where they are.”
He is a big believer that Pacific families will benefit greatly if financial literacy is taught in the home especially from an early age.
“Finances are not always talked about openly in some families and not everyone gets a say."
“When I was growing up, the usual family meeting was called and we discussed things like fa'alavelave. But a common old school mentality is this hierarchy. For example, the dad says something and everyone else listens rather than going around the table.”
He says democracy in family decision-making is key.
“I want the new generation to have a different approach. Start conversations with mum and dad and openly talk about money. Yes we have the standard emergencies from Samoa and there’s nothing we can do about it, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. We can still make good decisions on the amounts we give, set goals and work around these.”
Surprisingly Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise financially for some Pacific families in Australia who have managed to access superannuation funds and spend more time with their families, however George admits he is missing the human interaction with clients.
“Building rapport in person is easier than building rapport over the phone or on zoom,” he laughs. But for the father of two, it’s an opportunity for him to manage work and family life even better.
He outsources marketing tasks to a specialist so that his social media posts are frequent, informative and relevant.
Like any other business, his first year of operation came with it’s challenges such as building partnerships and a network of referral partners - trying to obtain business from them as well as from his own clients.
Four years on and he has established himself as the ‘go-to’ Pacific broker in Melbourne’s West and continues to sign on delighted clients and even sponsor local Pacific events.
His easy-going personality and a genuine interest in helping people better their situation plays a big part in his business going from strength to strength.
“I help people who are knocked back from their banks and as a broker I am able to offer them a whole lot more options and a personalised approach.”
Contact George to discuss your financial needs:
Melbourne: 0432 725 244
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Cecilia Sagote of Seki Media
Owning a steady business is one thing. But to maintain a business and to constantly be innovative is another.
That’s what Melbourne-based Pasifika business LASHFIX have been working on in the last year as they closed up their brick and mortar salon in the trendy suburb of Port Melbourne to focus on a ‘giving back’ method to build their brand.
And it’s a move that is working for them.
For six years, sisters Venna, 33 and Ama, 26 operated their popular beauty business which saw a stream of diverse clients coming in and out, from social media influencers to international female sports stars.
The trials and errors they experienced in running their shop have been valuable for the duo’s business growth.
“Running our beauty salon definitely took up a lot of time and energy,” says Venna.
“It wasn’t easy but we learnt so much. Like what it means to have a budget and work within it. It’s crazy thinking back to how we were able to pay wages every week, pay $7000 a month to rent and keep the lights on plus tax. We learnt so much about ourselves but it wasn’t always rainbows and fairies. We were stretched so thin.”
They remind other entrepreneurs that doing what you love doesn’t mean it should drain you to the point that you are compromising other important areas.
“It is crucial you are looking after your mental and physical health. If you are constantly running on passion alone and not nurturing the other parts of your body and your life, you will feel drained. This is something we learnt the hard way.”
Now with Covid-19 taking over Melbourne and putting enormous dents in small businesses everywhere, the girls say that the pandemic has instead given them time to reflect on their business goals.
“To be honest, Covid came at the perfect time for us. We were just about to renew our lease but because we were forced to close down in March, we had time to be with our family and just enjoy being in their presence. It gave us the time we needed to re-centre, refocus and shift our perspective on what we value.”
And part of that re-focus is working on a new dimension of their LASHFIX brand: Teaching.
Last year Lashfix had orchestrated training workshops in Auckland and Melbourne leading up to the closure of their salon. The girls are grateful that they have managed to run a few training workshops in Melbourne as their sole focus for business just before Covid hit.
“We have always wanted to offer lash training. A lot of the high school clients here in Melbourne are NZ citizens which meant that they’re not eligible for student loans or government assistance.”
“I remembered them saying things like, ‘I wish I was able to do this or that.’ They felt like their only option was factory work which isn't a bad thing. Our parents worked in factories so we are not bagging factory work. We just want to create a different pathway for young Pasifika women.”
And with valuable lash experience under their belts, they are able to command $2000 - $5000 per person for their courses. Lashfix also offer the Afterpay option so that students can pay in instalments and alleviate any debt.
“The most common feedback we get from our training courses, is that we are warm and inviting. The space we have created is open, safe and comfortable.
“A lot of the time, our students are surprised at how much there is to learn about lashes and the business side. We've even had girls come to us after training elsewhere looking for more intense training.”
Book your lashfix course and start your career in beauty! www.lashfix.com.au
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | By Anau Mesui-Henry
“One of the most important things in our lives is the bringing forward of Indigenous knowledge and
countering the dominant knowledge of things." Sonia Fonua
Fire and Sonia Fonua are the creative couple behind ‘Koloa Jewellery’. They are passionate about the process of ngatu (tapa cloth or decorated bark cloth) making, the history that it holds, and reimagining ngatu when it becomes unusable as koloa (treasure or gift). The passion behind Koloa Jewellery stems from a love of the Tongan culture and a desire to see it shared with their children. Not tucked away under a mattress or in the basement of the Auckland Museum.
So, who are Fire and Sonia, and where did the inspiration to create these beautiful pieces come from?
Fire, was three years old when he moved with his mother to Aotearoa. Hailing from the villages of Fasi and Kolofo’ou, Fire lived in Mangere until he was ten years old, then his family moved to Glen Innes where he, Sonia, and their two young sons still reside. Fire comes from a hospitality background, having managed various restaurants and bars, but now works from home to be there for his children.
The second part of the Koloa Jewellery equation, Sonia, who is of Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English
descent, was born in Aotearoa. Currently working at the University of Auckland, Sonia has just finished her Ph.D.exploring successful Tongan science learners and their experiences in Aotearoa and Tonga's science education.
“They pointed to a huge Tongan ngatu wrapped in plastic, explained it, but no one could see it because it was wrapped in white plastic. Ngatu is put under the bed, and no one sees it, our kids don’t see it, our koloa only comes out in a katoaanga (special occasion)”, Fire reflects.
While on a basement tour of the Auckland Museum, Sonia and Fire were surprised to find a large amount of beautifully designed and crafted Tongan koloa. The tour was part of a museum plan to engage the Moana Oceania community more widely. However, it only left the founders of Koloa Jewellery with more questions: Why aren't these Tongan koloa accessible to the public? Why did European ornaments and artefacts get displayed in abundance above while these incredible Tongan items were kept in the basement and only accessible on special tours? "Some of this beautifully designed ngatu were 30-40 meters long and some close to 100 metres", Fire shared.
“That’s when we thought we can make it more accessible. Bring more life to it, bring it to life. Look at
details you would never look at”, Sonia commented.
This experience inspired Fire and Sonia to start creating. Before they knew it, Koloa Jewellery had been formed with Fire's enthusiastic mother assigned to design approval.
Why did they choose the name Koloa you might be asking?
“The name Koloa is because of what it is collectively named and because it is koloa too. It is part of Tongan history, it’s a treasure for our culture to have it. When you start thinking about the people who made the koloa and the occasions it’s been used as a gift, it’s a koloa to have people in Tonga still being able to make it”, Fire enlightens me.
Fire shares fond memories of the taovala (traditional waist garment) his father had worn for years, occasions the taovala had been to, and how his grandmother had lalanga (weaved) this taovala. There is a whole history in each piece of koloa, like Fire’s father’s taovala. To discard these taovala, or any koloa, is not just discarding a piece of deteriorating traditional garment or cloth, it is throwing history away.
"We have the Tongan village here," Fire laughs.
Fortunately, Fire and Sonia share their home with a large extended family, which enables the support they need to run their business, manage a young family, and ensure their day-to-day needs are met. The collective support of communal living allows Fire and Sonia the flexibility they need to create Koloa Jewellery pieces. They are very thankful, especially for the support of Fire's mum, who is their number one supporter.
“Our advice is… Just do it…Don't overthink it, just do it", - Fire and Sonia.
What strikes me about Fire and Sonia is their can-do and creative attitude towards creating Koloa Jewellery. Just do it. After the Auckland Museum basement tour, Sonia decided she was going to make jewellery. She ordered some resin online and started creating. Sonia and Fire brought various tools and equipment and experimented with different styles and looks.
Additionally, Sonia’s mother in law, Lavinia, would happily provide advice on the aesthetic of the pieces and so the creation process was shaped.
“We appreciate what the koka'anga does, and we want to help these businesses in Tonga," says Fire.
Koloa Jewellery will be taking a portion of its sales to support various koka'anga (the process of joining tapa and applying the kupesi) in Tonga. In fact, this process was supposed to start this coming July, but plans were halted due to COVID-19. While COVID-19 may have paused the project, Fire and Sonia still anticipate being with the koka'anga once border controls open in Tonga.
Each Koloa Jewellery piece is unique. These beautifully designed pieces of jewellery are not perfect because they aren't machine-made, but this adds to their beauty. Like a Tongan woman's individual koloa that's kept stored under the mattress, they are made from ngatu that have been handprinted by women who took time to design and share stories of the kupesi (patterns) that they painted. In the lines and details of the kupesi, Tongan culture and its history are embedded. Designs that are imperfect but perfect by the history that underpins them. Attaining a piece of Koloa Jewellery is not just a purchase, but a commitment to preserving history and heritage.
This dynamic duo is passionate about Indigenous culture and ways of being. “When we sell to non- Pacific peoples we get to explain what ngatu is. I am teaching them a part of my own culture that they would have not known or paid attention to”, Fire shares. Sonia adds, “I sold some earrings to someone I knew who is Maori and she said since buying them she doesn't buy anything that doesn't have an Indigenous culture behind it”. Wearing Koloa Jewellery is wearing history, heritage, and culture.
Koloa Jewellery can be ordered online. Please follow the links below to access your very own unique
piece of Koloa Jewellery. By the time this article goes live, I would have happily picked up a pair of
beautiful Koloa Jewellery earrings to add to my collection.
Published by The Pacific Business Hub | Written by Anau Mesui-Henry
What stands out about Pauline Haunga from Marie and Pauline Events Decoration is her contagious enthusiasm and upbeat personality. Pauline is persistent, resilient, and is solution-oriented. There is always an answer to the challenges that Pauline faces.
Originally from the Kingdom of Tonga, Pauline was born in Aotearoa and raised in Tonga by her loving grandparents in the village of Fasi. At the young age of a month old, Pauline’s mother, a solo parent at the time, had her sent to Tonga. This tough decision was made out of the desire for Pauline to have the best upbringing possible.
In 1985, at five years old, an attempt was made for Pauline to return to Aotearoa, but her doting grandmother, attached to her granddaughter, insisted that they stay together in Tonga. It would be ten years later when Pauline would make the journey back to Aotearoa and attend Wellington East Girls College.
“I knew at the age of 18 years old that I wanted to be a businesswoman,” Pauline shares.
I am not surprised at this sentiment. The more I talk to Pauline, the more I realise that business is in the fabric of her makeup. Embedded in her being are layers of moments where she watched her grandfather, ‘Anitelu Kaulave, run multiple falekolas (shops), and her aunty run a successful business.
Pauline grew up in Tonga, working in her family's shops, and as such, business was a natural instinct. Her elders had forged a path that Pauline now stands on proudly, adding her mark to the industry of event decoration. The saying that ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants’ is true of Pauline’s business journey.
“I started the company seven years ago…I love to decorate, and when my first child was born, my husband was the only one working while I stayed at home…Out of the struggle of living on one wage, I started the business,” Pauline recalls.
To help raise her young family, the resourceful Pauline began throwing around ideas of how she could generate money. When Pauline’s friend suggested starting an events decoration business, she did not hesitate. With the help of her husband, parents, and grandparents, she set off to pursue her dreams.
Marie and Pauline Events Decoration Limited registered as a company on the 15th of May in 2015, and the rest is history.
The company offers services in hiring props, decorating venues, funerals, weddings, corporate events, small events like baby showers, and lastly, graduations.
“To be honest, managing a family and running a business is not easy,” Pauline comments.
The road to establishing the company has not come with its challenges. Pauline advises that “sometimes I would work until 3am and not sleep”. Additionally, it was a challenge with the spouse who, at times, would perceive Pauline as putting business before family.
However, as Pauline describes, the dream is right there within her grasp. She can see it, feel it, and taste it. And, for this reason, Pauline fervently works on her business with the dream in sight. Pauline is single-minded about reaching her goals and shares that if you believe in yourself, then you will get to where you are going to no matter what obstacle is thrown on your path.
This strong-headed, tenacious entrepreneur is set on what she is out to achieve, and there is no doubt that her determination will see her succeed. This mindset is refreshing, and I am all for it.
“Believe in yourself and take action. You have to work for the dream,” Pauline comments.
Believe in yourself and take action. You have to work for the dream
“The hardest thing in the business is needing to know how much you want to charge people and how much people are willing to pay”, Pauline advises.
Although Pauline faces challenges with her pricing and over-spending due to a desire to make her customers happy, COVID19 has been a blessing in disguise.
During the lockdown period, Pauline has been honing into these two challenges and taking practical steps to improve. While she will keep what I coined the ‘Pauline Model’, where she asks customers whether their event is price or quality dependant and charges accordingly, other things in the business are also getting a revamp.
What is this exactly? Mindset. “My mindset is starting to change, and I am starting to overcome,” Pauline says about her business strategy.
As a result of Pauline’s heart to see her customers happy and satisfied with her service, often, she goes the extra mile, but at her expense. However, Pauline is resilient and is a quick learner. Instead of resting during COVID19, she is busy mentally positioning herself for post-pandemic business growth.
“One of the proudest moments of my business journey is meeting the customers’ expectations. I want to ensure I can create what these customers desire and achieve this within their budget. I am so proud of meeting people’s needs and visiting a venue empty, and I can transform that space into something beautiful.”
It is apparent that Pauline loves nothing more than seeing customers walk away, smiling, and happy with the event decoration service provided. A happy customer is a happy Pauline. This hard-working and vibrant entrepreneur is sought after in the community, and it is no wonder. Not only does she have a can-do attitude, but she also goes the extra mile by providing complimentary items to make customer events even more special. During the whole customer experience, right from the moment when Pauline answers her phone to pack-down, she ensures that her customers feel welcomed, heard, and cared for.
“Get up, stand up and never give up,” Pauline quotes.
Pauline ends our interview by telling me that it is never too late, there is always a solution to every challenge in life, especially in business. I see the resolve and grit in Pauline and ask her where she gets that from.
“My grandfather, ‘Anitelu, who is now 85 years old. He was a businessman in Tonga. He worked for AFa Cocker from 1951-1963. He planted peanuts, and in 1963 he went to America Samoa to sell his peanuts there. In 1964, my grandfather returned to Tonga and opened his first fale'koloa (shop) in Fasi. It was successful, and so he opened two and three, by 1968 there were five shops. That's how I adopted my mindset because I was around it growing up," Pauline reminisces.
Lastly, Pauline acknowledges that she would have not been able to do what she does without God’s love, wisdom, and knowledge.
Watch this space. Follow Marie and Pauline’s Event Decoration’s journey below on social media because this is one entrepreneur that is certain to make a mark in the event decoration industry in Aotearoa!
Phone: +64 21 0229 1821
SAMOAN OWNED MULTIMEDIA BUSINESS
The story of the man behind the Apple Mac of Bluwave is a true testimony of how following one’s passions and turning what you love into a career, coupled with perseverance and hard work - is the best recipe for success.
The name Bluwave (blue wave) or galu moana in Samoan, was a tribute to Martin’s daughter, Vaimoana and his love for waves (galu). He combined the two and came up with Galumoana, which was translated to Bluwave (minus the e) for the non-Samoans who found it too difficult to pronounce Galumoana. When asked about how he started, Martin laughingly mimicked the late Biggie Smalls, “It all started with a dream...” Yeah, nuh. Lol. Let’s fast forward a bit.
Meet entrepreneur Martin Anae - videographer, photographer, graphics and website designer extraordinaire. Quiet, humble and so, so polite, Martin is the most easy-going, friendly and helpful guy you would ever meet. He is a perfectionist when it comes to his work. His talent for producing digital media content and attention to detail is impressive to witness, and his commitment to delivering beyond client expectation is hi obsession, which is demonstrated through the quality of his works.
Born and raised in Samoa, Martin had no idea he would ever be pursuing a career in Digital Media.
In fact, he was in Auckland studying something completely different, when he discovered graphic designing through one of his long life friends, Hylda von Dincklage who was studying Graphics Design at UNITEC. Martin would tag along to the study sessions of his then girlfriend and now wife Sahara, he would sit there for hours watching over Hylda’s shoulder disturbing her studies with questions after questions on Photoshop. It was here, that Martin knew what he would love to do for the rest of his life.
But it wasn’t to be an easy path especially with the fact that Martin was studying Marketing and Communications, NOT Graphic Designing. So, Martin took every opportunity to learn photoshop and photography from wherever he could. Even after returning to Samoa, Martin never stopped learning. He learnt photography, videography and editing from some of the best on the island. He had found his passion and there was no turning back.
In 2010 he moved his family to Auckland and had decided against doing the 9 to 5 rather, he will commit all his energy on establishing his Bluwave brand. It hasn’t been an easy road though.
Being self-employed meant less income and making extreme sacrifices to name a couple. Bluwave did not have a start-up capital and his loan applications were constantly declined by banks. Martin then decided to stop asking the financial institutions for help and go at it by himself.
Thinking back of when he first started out, Martin says he would do videography gigs and graphic designing at rates as low as $50.00, to help his wife with the bills and to put food on the table, he would work at the Sanford fish market in the city sorting fish at $12.50 an hour and working the back of the rubbish trucks for $11.00 an hour. Martin laughed and explained that his younger brother Peter would hate picking him up from work because he smelled like fish and rubbish. "Fun times" he laughed.
In 2012 he was able to afford his first camera, The Canon 7D M2 and with that camera he built Bluwave. With every job, he would put aside money to buy the equipment he needed.
Their family living room became his office space - every corner was occupied by desks and computers and a giant whiteboard filled with his schedules and plans, now replaced the family TV over the fireplace. The basement garage was converted into a makeshift studio for his photography, and his backyard became a shooting location for some of his best photoshoots for modelling, short video skits and even YouTube music videos for his clients. Even though it was not an ideal working space for a multimedia business nor his family, Martin’s ingenuity and perseverance, and with the support of his wife and family, Bluwave flourished.
Companies such as G-Mana Wholesale Autos and PacificEzy were his first real clients where real progress started to take place. Then SSAB Sei Oriana and Seki Works joined the Bluwave family became long term clients and friends.
In joining the Samoa Business Network (SBN) in 2012, this brought in more clients that now covered government departments and private businesses. The workflow expanded and flowing steadily. But as Martin’s reputation and clientele steadily grew, so was the need for a proper working studio.
Around the same time, the Pacific Business Hub (hereon known as The Hub) had just opened, offering affordable workspaces. Through the SBN Martin had connected with Laura Keil-Hall who is the Owner and Founder of The Hub, who encouraged Martin to move the Bluwave studio into The Hub. It would be a conversation and decision that Martin has marked down and one of the biggest blessings in his life. Bluwave was one of the first companies that made The Hub its office. But immediately after moving into The Hub, Martin realised that this was not just an office. Laura would encourage him daily to push on and never give up. Sometimes Martin was slow with rent, Laura would always brush this aside and made Martin feel like, “no you are not in The Hub because I need your money, you are in The Hub because I see potential in you”. Seeing such a positive and strong woman, Martin used that to add more fuel in his drive to keep moving forward. With an awesome Owner and the people who have now occupied The Hub generating good vibes and positive working environment, Martin feels like that God love him the most for blessing him with a true home away from home. And Sahara, his wife, is finally enjoying having their living room and family space back!
True to his humble nature, Martin wishes to acknowledge and thank all the businesses and individuals who have supported and stood by Bluwave throughout the years: Laura Keil-Hall, Faimalo Allan Stowers, Galumalemana Tai Galumalemana, Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai, Rasmus Pereira, Melissa Stanley, Maria Malaki, Talai Junior Lene and Peseta Sio Isara of Digicel, Agnes Saili Kerslake of SkyEye, JP Adams. For those who Martin have missed, he wishes God good blessings upon you all.
Published by The Pacific Business Hub
Authored by Melania Wulf of Wulf Publishing