Leadership Fiji 20th Anniversary Reflections – Making choices

Crossing with camera gear up in Tokaimalo, Ra. Picture: SUPPLIED

This week we hear from Dave Lavaki a Leadership Fiji 2009 Alumni. Dave is founder, director and entrepreneur of his company FIRST FIGHTER, a video and audio production business which makes commercials, music, corporate videos and documentaries, take photos and more.

Perseverance of an entrepreneur

Fortunately, I come from a family of entrepreneurs.

Some of my aunties and uncles and my own parents are very entrepreneurial people.

They try out all sorts of ideas and things and found a lot of freedom and fulfilment (I like to think) in living this type of a life.

For me it really started a few years ago while working at the University of the South Pacific, I found myself consulting for creative and commercial projects on the side.

Small things like jingles, sound production etc.

This side hustle started to snowball and ended up taking a lot of my time, and at the time I was also working on my Postgraduate Diploma and our son had just turned one.

It really came down to making a choice, because too much was going on. I chose to turn down secure income!

There is a lot that directed my wife and I to choose this business and it involves epiphanies and strange places and advice from young people, praying and lots of discussions and many many other things that I probably can’t get into within this article, but when the signs for what we were supposed to do was clear we decided to take the risk … and FIRST FIGHTER was born.

Creating a soundtrack with the awesome VOU team. Picture: SUPPLIED

I do have an artistic side with music mainly.

Over the years I have learnt that I can’t do one without the other.

I have to keep practising art. It is just as important as exercising and eating vegetables. It brings me balance.

The music and arts side is where I can explore other versions of myself and I can drive my thoughts anywhere without boundaries.

I am quite fortunate that I get to merge my artistic and work side a lot.

COVID has really made business interesting.

We have lost a lot of work, but the positives that we have seen are:

– We have been getting other types of work in response to the pandemic.

– A few corporate clients that would normally hire services from abroad now have to look locally. We have earned a few new clients this way.

– We have had the opportunity to work on ideas that we never had the time to do.

– We had some time to go back and do some upskilling. In fact, I’m currently studying a tutorial.

– It has been unfortunate that some businesses have had to close down, but this also means that there are some skilful and experienced people available to hire.

Fiji 7s star Alasio Naduva checks a shot with the crew. Picture: SUPPLIED

The key has been to adapt to the situation in terms of our services, and to be understanding as it is a hard time.

We also work as much as we can in the little windows of opportunities we get, because when there is a lockdown, we don’t know how long we’re going to be sitting around for.

In terms of community service and assistance.

For a few years now our company has assisted the Be Happy Music Club with video work.

The Be Happy Music Club provides music classes for students with disabilities across quite a few schools in Fiji.

I was also recently made one of their trustees.

I also assist the Patamos Youth Group with the production of their gospel music videos. One of the videos “Eda sa qaqa” has over two million YouTube views to date.

I am also a member of a grog club called Club Spacifik and pre-COVID our club would take on different types of community service projects. We would do a few different ones every year.

For me, my biggest takeaways from the Leadership Fiji program was that I got an insight on how our country works.

The different sectors, ministries, public, private, tourism, sugar, political parties, authorities, charities, economy, prisons and so on.

These Leadership Fiji sessions gave me the opportunity to question and learn from the leaders and experts of the sectors.

I think most of us (in the world) only know about our own sector, our piece of the puzzle and many of us will live our whole lives only knowing about our own sector, which is fine.

Leadership Fiji showed me the other pieces of the puzzle and helped me understand how all our sectors coexist.

I now have a better appreciation and the importance of all sectors and how it all contributes to nation building.

I also respect and appreciate decision making much more now.

Leadership Fiji also pulled me out of my own echo chamber and put me in a space with people that have very different views from my own.

This was a very important exercise for me. I spent a lot of time outside of my comfort zone during the program.

The program really stimulated my thirst for knowledge. The year after I completed the Leadership Fiji program I went back to university.

It took a bit of navigating, but I finally graduated in 2015. Leadership Fiji was that push for me …in many areas of my life.

For my children, I just want them to see that they can be whatever they want to be.

That running a business is possible, that creating art is possible, that getting whatever job in the world in whatever field that they want to is possible.

Coming back to business memories, a couple of memorable opportunities that stood out for me was when we got contracted to go and work in Iceland with Flinch Marketing.

I was production manager on a TV panel discussion regarding the Artic Circle in 2050 for the World Meteorological Organisation.

I went to direct the filming of it and to ensure all the footage were in the right formats etc.

The president of Iceland was part of the discussions too.

That was pretty awesome, random and surreal at the same time.

The other was negotiating and signing our first big government contract (well it was big for us!. In a room of people, I was directly negotiating the contract terms with the honourable Mahendra Reddy who was the Minister for Culture, Heritage and Arts at the time.

Working in the Volivoli caves with the National Trust of Fiji. Picture: SUPPLIED

This was a big deal for me. This project was to create the virtual museum for the Fiji Museum.

That is also why it was a big deal for me because I felt it was important work for the country, and it was the breakthrough for us into working on Fiji’s heritage sector, which was something my friend and workmate, the late Derek Cleland and I had been aiming for.

Derek Cleland was our Digital Heritage manager between 2015 and 2018.

Those are a couple of the earlier memory milestones for me, but I am truly grateful every time we go out to do work because each project is different as we are always learning something new and I get to see so much of Fiji, and pre COVID other parts of the world too.

I’d really like to thank everyone that has helped FIRST FIGHTER grow. Our clients that continue to trust us with their work and every single person that we have been able to work with over the years, with you we have learnt and grown.

Also, I would like to personally thank all the different mentors, teachers and people that I have been able to cross paths with, be inspired by and learn from. Of course, a special vinaka to my wife and my family that have always supported me and my ideas. And none of this would be possible without divine intervention, so thank you GOD!

To view the virtual museum work that Dave and his team did go to http://virtual.fi jimuseum.org.fj/ and for The Artic Circle in 2050 panel discussion video you may go to: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=CohEsmHGgOU

  • Dave Lavaki is the founder, director and entrepreneur of his company First Fighter

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