Fuata’s COVID-19 recipe – Live, love and bake

Jean Tiana Rose Fuata with one of her cake creations. Picture: IAN CHUTE

Jean Tiana Rose Fuata was in her last year of studies at the University of the South Pacific when Fiji
recorded its first case of COVID-19.

Acting on a hunch that the situation in Fiji would be uncertain going into the future, she started baking and selling brownies to help out with meeting some of the costs at home.

Ms Fuata said she entered into the venture at a time when job opportunities began to dry up.

“I started my baking business, Jean’s Treats and Things last year when COVID-19 first hit Fiji,” she said.

“The pandemic really made it difficult for me to find
a job.

“So by starting up my small business and selling to a small group of friends and family that supported me, it pushed me to explore my other talents, helped me financially
and also blessed my family.”

She was due to graduate in April after completing her double bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computing science, but the ceremony was cancelled because of the outbreak.

It was then that she decided to look for a job.

As luck would have it, Goodman Fielder was looking for someone to fi ll a position in their Colo-I-Suva processing plant engineering department.

“I work on software, recording all the machines that function in the factory.”

Living in Lami and getting to work at Colo-i-Suva meant a very early start to her day because a company vehicle picked her up at 5am.

Just as she was settling into her new job, a few workers at the factory contracted COVID-19 and she and many others were told to stay home.

This brought a halt to her income.

Luckily she had her baking to fall back on and she went back to making the things she had learnt at her grandparents’ house.

“My grandparents used to bake a lot and I was really interested to watch them while growing up as a small girl.

“I always loved the smell of homemade cakes and pastries.

“That’s why I think I automatically just tried it, it just seemed like something that came from within and I’ve always been good with my hands so it just seemed to work out.”

She said it was reassuring to have something to fall back, to help her survive when it mattered.

“COVID-19 taught me to not only rely on my job to support myself financially, but brought out my survival skills that also brought money.

“It also taught me to slow down and think of creative ways to earn a living and also to spend quality time with my family.”

She said the work ethic instilled in her by her parents and the support of her siblings was always a reason for her to keep pushing forward.

“My parents always say I need to work hard in whatever I do, and I have always taken heed of their advice.

“I strive to always do my best and finish whatever I have started.

“I have learnt that in business, money isn’t as important as the relationship with the customer.

“My parents pushed me to start my business and they gave me their network to start off with, right from the start they’ve given me ideas.

“My siblings are like my best friends in the world, we were always taught from small to always stick together wherever we went.”

It takes courage to be an entrepreneur or to do anything slightly different from the “norm” but Ms Fuata said young people need to venture out of their comfort zone during this time because of the lack of jobs.

“For young people like me who have graduated and are looking for a job during this COVID-19 crisis, take this time to explore your other talents and see how they can benefit your family.

“Family is very important and they will always be with you.

“Don’t feel upset that you haven’t found a job after you have graduated because if one door closes another will open.”

Looking to the future, Ms Fuata said she would explore work in engineering, but would also continue what she has started with Jean’s Treats and Things.

“I always see myself not only in engineering but having a small bakery or café to sell my products.”

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