Proud Fijian trailblazer
31 March, 2018, 12:00 am
WHEN you hear of someone being listed and ranked on the international business magazine Forbes, you may automatically picture A-list celebrities, millionaires and billionaires including some of the world’s iconic figures.
It is rather rare that you hear of a Fijian or someone from the Pacific for that matter to be recognised on this global annual ranking platform.
But now a first for Fiji, 30-year-old Australian-Fijian Litia Kirwin was listed in the annual Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 List of trailblazing entrepreneurs that are set to shape our world over the next 50 years.
In its third year now, the Asian list is a continuation of the global expansion of the Forbes 30 Under 30 franchise packed with innovators and disruptors who are reshaping their industries and changing the region for the better.
It’s a franchise that has had amazing alumni such as Palmer Luckey from Oculus, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy from Snapchat, LeBron James and Kendrick Lamar to name just a few.
Ms Kirwin, who has maternal links in Lau, is an environmentalist, humanitarian and founder of Loving Islands, a grassroots social enterprise which helps to identify sustainable economic development opportunities, such as land, in the remote islands of Fiji that has the potential to be farmed organically.
A true and proud trailblazer with a zeal for change and entrepreneurship, Ms Kirwin started the organisation in 2015 with her father and has since assisted many farmers in Matuku through their organic farming project.
Ms Kirwin spent much of her early childhood days on Matuku with her grandparents and often made time to visit after she went on to complete further studies in Australia.
She works alongside communities and NGOs to help regenerate natural environments and facilitate the sale of economic output, such as organic produce.
Her team has also facilitated projects, particularly around the niche organic sector, working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Embassy’s Regional Environment Office.
But for Ms Kirwin, the freedom and challenges that come with being an entrepreneur is what she loved most.
“There is a sense of adventure into unchartered waters that engages all your skill sets meaning every day can be different and you’re constantly learning and growing as part of the processes,” she told this newspaper.
“Meeting and connecting with amazing people across different industries, geographical areas and walks of life is still the biggest inspiration as it strengthens the belief that we can make a positive difference in our world and for our future.”
Ms Kirwin was listed after sifting through thousands of nominations, Frobes Asia short-listed nominations for vetting and final selection by a high panel of judges.
The judges included Kai-fu Lee, Hiroshi Mikitani and Kris Wu with the social entrepreneurship category including blue-ribbon experts Paul Ronalds, CEO of Save the Children, Sally Begbie, director of Crossroads Foundation, Binod Chaudhary philanthropist and chairman of the Chaudhary Group.
After months in the making, successful nominees were notified personally with the launching of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List — Class of 2018 earlier this year.
“This is an incredible yet surreal feeling. Not to mention we still don’t know where the nomination came from!” Ms Kirwin said.
“It is truly an honour to have our work recognised and listed among such an inspiring calibre of young individuals and companies that have vision and courage to start making moves and paving the way for our generation.
“Working within the ‘social enterprise’ space has been nothing short of complex as we constantly seek the balance between financial, social and environmental outcomes that lead to a viable and progressive means of doing business in the future.”
Ms Kirwin also hopes this recognition would inspire Pacific youths to aim high and to believe that they can be successful entrepreneurs and business owners if it is their interest.
“My greatest thanks to our project partners, the communities we work with and the many friends and advisers that have lent their support along the way,” she said.