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'If I can, you can'

Filipe Naigulevu
Monday, February 27, 2017

THE many challenges and struggles to keep her business afloat was a daunting reality for Teresia Salote, a micro-entrepreneur from Savusavu.

But despite the challenges and not having enough formal education, she persevered and committed to ensure the success of her business.

She now operates a small canteen at her Nukubalavu Village home which sells basic goods, confectionary and pounded grog.

Her efforts were recognised as she was announced the South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) Businesswoman of the Year on Saturday night.

Ms Salote was among the hundreds of micro business women from rural areas in Fiji who converged at the Vodafone Arena in Suva for the 6th SPBD Businesswoman of the Year awards night last Saturday.

The SPBD, a network of microfinance organisations, holds the awards event annually to honour the exemplary rural business women whom they assist.

An emotional Ms Salote said she was thankful and blessed to receive the award and encouraged women to strive for such achievements.

"If I can do it why can't you," she told rural women entrepreneurs at the awards event.

"I encourage women here today (Saturday); let us motivate each other, if one woman can do it, why can't the rest of us do it as well.

"We should not look at one's weaknesses and criticise; it won't bring you any good and let us think positively in moving forward."

Ms Salote said she had aimed to one day receive an award after attending several SPBD awards event over the years.

She was short-listed as a finalist along with four other micro businesswomen for the main award by a panel of five judges.

"I started off with SPBD in 2012 and became an active member at Nukubalavu," she said.

"In 2013, while attending the SPBD awards ceremony, I was touched and inspired when I saw the awards being given to women.

"Then I told myself, if those women can achieve that, why can't I?"

With the financial assistance of SPBD, Ms Salote said she was able to successfully operate her canteen and purchase a boat for her fishing business.

"My future plans are to rent out a house which my husband and I have started building to help me expand my business," she said.

Ms Salote added that the challenges she went through did not dampen her spirit to progress with her business.

"I mixed up my business cash with my household cash.

"It was just haywire and I struggled for a time to keep my business afloat.

"Not being able to have proper records for the inflows and outflows of cash was also a huge letdown for me."

With the assistance of SPBD's financial literacy initiatives, Ms Salote said: "Now I know how to handle such situation in which I need to have a future plan for my business.

"Thanks to SPBD for the training's that they have taught me on how to be a successful businesswoman."

Meanwhile, the awards event was a chance for the more than 1000 women from various SPBD centres around to network with one another.

The colourful attire donned by the women added to the merrymaking, dancing and entertainment during the night.

Chief guest at the event was Fiji's Roving Ambassador to the Pacific region, Litia Mawi, who acknowledged the spirit of entrepreneurship from the women members of SPBD.

"Thank you for igniting and nurturing that spirit of entrepreneurship," she said.

SPBD president and founder Gregory Casagrande said SPBD had so many women micro-entrepreneurs who were doing so well with their businesses.

"We're just enormously proud of all our SPBD women micro-entrepreneurs who make significant efforts daily," he said.

"I'm so proud of them for making their lives and families better."

SPBD also celebrated the sixth anniversary of their existence in Fiji at the awards with the special cake cutting ceremony.

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