Sewing from the heart

Taina Veitoka Seru sewing at her shop. Picture: PAULIASI MATEBOTO

TAINA Veitoka Seru lives by the motto “practice makes perfect”. The mantra has helped the Lakeba, Lau, woman during her 30 years in the tailoring industry.

With limited knowledge from secondary school home economics classes, coupled with an appetite to learn to sew from her mother, Ms Seru began sewing small garments. She never thought she would turn it into a career.

“It was from home economics classes and my mum, she was a tailor, so I used to watch her and tried what she did by myself,” the 52-year-old said.

“Then when my eldest child was born about 30 years ago, I started making dresses and other small clothes with my mother’s machine.”

She said her initial efforts were dismal, and she found the sewing process “stressful and hard”. However, she learned the work required patience and attention to detail.

“So slowly I learned and over time I became confident and enhanced my sewing skills as I was able to do fancy designs and other more complex styles.”

Her career as a tailor then slowly grew from being a small home-based business where she tailored garments for people within her neighbourhood to taking large orders from church youth groups worth thousands of dollars.

Ms Seru said as her customer base started to expand, she decided to take the next step. She said luck was on her side as finding a stall was not as hard as she thought it would be and she was able to secure a stall at the Suva Flea Market last September.

“I had saved some money, so I was waiting for applications for the flea market stall to open so I could apply.

“A friend of mine assisted me with the process and I immediately applied for it, knowing that there’s a lot of people interested in the vacant stalls.”

She said she used her savings to pay the deposit for the stall along with the first month’s rent and with her husband’s assistance, they purchased a bigger and more modern sewing machine.

“It was quite a risk that I was taking – to open a shop here.

“I was worried about whether I would get new customers or if I would get the same response as when I operated from home.”

As the doubts continue to dampen her enthusiasm, she tried her best to not let it stop her from progressing towards her goal.

“The only professional education I got was a course on how to start a business and one of the things I learnt from there was to start a business during peak periods.

“So, I opened my stall here in September last year, so that was in time for Fiji Day, Pinktober, and the Christmas rush, so I was blessed with that.”

The mother of four said she went head-first into the businesses because she knew she had to step up in her role as a mother and helped her husband in providing additional income for their family.

“As our children grow older, our expenses and needs and wants also increase – so I had to find a way to support my husband as he was the sole breadwinner for the family.”

Ms Seru said as a woman she felt the need to set a good example for her children and grandchildren and decided it was never too late to come out of her comfort zone and venture into the unknown.

“You know women like to be perfectionists. We like to ensure that everything is done perfectly, and nothing should be lacking.

“That’s why I decided to move my business away from home and do it professionally here.”

She said dealing with the different types of customers daily was challenging, as a few would fuss over price, but kindness and patience was the way she dealt with it.

Ms Seru said everyone born into this world has a purpose and with hard work and sacrifice, they could fulfill that purpose. She challenged women who were uncertain of what to do or what the future would hold, to not let their current struggles deter them from achieving their purpose in life.

“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, so whatever you are going through, have patience and pray for it. You will surely
see sunshine at the end.”

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