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.”