Pacific Mentors Return To Samoa

David has just returned from a week with Pacific Mentors supporting small business growth initiatives in Savai'i. David volunteers his time to Pacific Mentors, an organisation funded by New Zealand Aid. His role is to help small business owners identify opportunities to grow their businesses and to provide constructive challenge around how they manage aspects such as their finances and sales activity.

David has been to Savai’i on three occasions and is now seeing strong evidence that the mentoring programme is not only working, but bringing real change to the lives of business owners and their families. He said “for mentoring to work really well, a business owner needs to be ready and willing to make changes, to experiment, and have a determination to succeed. The clients in Savai’i are embracing that philosophy and achieving positive outcomes as a result.”

The economy is Savai’i is relatively fragile and with average wage rates of around NZ$1.50 per hour, family budgets are constantly under pressure. David is always looking at ways for business owners to create new income streams and, in their own small way, lead their market through new products or services. One great example is Faafetai Pauli who owns a typical small store outlet in the Port area of Salelologa. Since David’s first visit Faafetai has reconfigured his shop, made changes to the stock for sale and opened an ice cream parlour. These changes have boosted trade and profits significantly to the extent he is now building an additional storey above the shop to create a stock room and some accommodation for letting.

Another success story is that of Viola Tauvao. She was struggling to make a profit at her small rural store. She expected to have to close-up soon as her investment was threatened and continual losses were eroding her savings. With David’s help and direction she created a simple BBQ area and within only three months has turned her business around. The BBQ stall provides basic, but nutritious, meals to families and school children in the immediate locality. It has become a social hub for the village and has the ancillary benefit of generating additional sales at the store. Viola said “David encouraged and inspired us to take some positive steps which have really improved the way our business operates day to day”.

Savai’ian businesses can struggle to achieve fair prices for their export goods such as coconut oil, taro and bananas, as a 'middle man' tends to step in and take control of the export trade process. The creation of collaborative groups within Savai’i is beginning to gain some support and with the assistance of the Samoan Chamber of Commerce and other affiliated organisations, the ability to demand better prices for bulk export produce may yet be an achievable goal.

David works to a simple theme “helping businesses do the things they do every day, better”. It has certainly been a successful approach for a number of the Savai’ian businesses community and there is now a steady flow of business owners eagerly coming forward to join the Pacific Mentoring programme.

As you can see in the photo, the transport may have been a little different to the way David generally gets around for business - but the sign on the front of this bus brought a smile to the face: "Never say never"! The positivity is contagious...

A version of this article was also published in the Marlborough Express' "Saturday Express" on the 7th December 2013.