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Housewife turned entrepreneur

Ilisapeci Tinanisigabalavu
Friday, December 08, 2017

For 31-year-old Tirisa Sarote, being a successful businesswoman has no age limit. The outspoken entrepreneur from Kabara, Lau owns Waqatabu Handicrafts based in the Suva Flea Market she has been running for about two years.

Married with five children, and travelling daily from her husband's village of Veivatuloa in Namosi to Suva, Ms Sarote's business specialises in selling mats, tapa, garlands, wreaths and other Fijian artefacts. She owns two stalls at the Suva Flea Market and she started off by only selling perfumes.

"I used to stay at home and do domestic duties and it was only last year when I bought my first stall," Mrs Sarote said.

I was inspired by my older sister to start my own business. I'd visit her stall on the days when my husband was away and when I saw how good the money being generated from small businesses was, I felt encouraged to start my own.

"I saved up for quite a while and bought my first stall last year and my second one this year. I started by selling the perfumes that my husband sent from Iraq. Then I expanded my products by going to the West for jewellery.

"I was starting off with little things like that because I did not have mats and artifacts to sell at that time and I had no idea how to make handicraft.

"I learnt the art of making garlands, wreaths and mats by looking at the work other ladies here do. I had no idea of how to crochet a mat and do kesakesa, but I saw how these women do it, and I used to go home and practise," she said.

She was also responsible for the masi cloth backdrop, the mats and the ornaments that were used to decorate the drua that was used in the COP23 meeting and she managed to collaborate with the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs with this deal.

"One of my juniors from Ratu Sukuna Memorial School who works for the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs came around the stall and asked if I could make the costumes for the police officers who were participating in the kava ceremony at the COP23.

"My assistant and I managed to do kesakesa designs on eight pairs of the costumes and from there I was asked to provide other iTaukei artefacts needed to be used at the COP23," she said.

Ms Sarote is reaping the rewards of entrepreneurship and explains how it has helped her when her husband is away for work in Iraq.

"I have learnt the value of saving from this business. With the little saving that I put aside, I have been able to keep up with the payments for our car.

My husband receives his wages on a monthly basis, so I have been the sole provider on other days because of my earnings here at the stall and our savings," she said.

She has also been able to provide employment for her younger sisters and relatives. She is slowly teaching the values of entrepreneurship to her children by allowing them to do small jobs around the stalls for pocket money.

"Sometimes our relatives from the village come and want to earn a little extra pocket money to help them on their trip back, that is when I ask them to amend the mats I sell or help me make garlands for some extra cash," she said.

Ms Sarote says that the challenges she faces does not deter her from striving for an even more successful business.

"The only challenges we face is during the beginning of the year because that is when business is slow," she said.

From the months of January to April, the sales are very poor and on some days we are not able to sell at all, this also affects our rent payment because the stalls are paid weekly," she said.

She also explained that nothing should be wasted because everything can be turned into art.

This was evident in the fact that she used old masi pieces to make wreaths.

She used to be embarrassed about selling her products when she first started off, but she is proud of letting go of that mindset and expanding her business.

"Most people are not aware that small businesses generate a lot of income. With running a business like this, you receive money every day, but your dedication and hard work is needed," she said.

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