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