Dare to be Different!, by AVgifts
“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving”- Mother Teresa.
Footstep following has always been the norm and has served as a guide for many as a latter to success. However, following in society’s normalities with its everyday format can, overtime, prove somewhat too repetitious. To brave the storm of judgements and being scrutinized, the courage to stand on a separate track and run a separate race can bring more finger-pointing than a helping hand.
Young Entrepreneurs, Alizae Kiteau (24) and Viliami Vakata (23) started their online business from unplanned but humble beginnings. The simple act of giving whole-heartedly to help family and friends through gifting of gift boxes or baskets led to an overflow of positive feedbacks which resulted in Alizae and Viliami merging the first letters of their names, forming their business on May7th 2021 AVgifts. Hesitant at first, Alizae admits that she was scared at the idea of running a business, not knowing what the unknown would present let alone its sets of challenges. Conducting a business transaction face to face is one thing however, dealing with products online, unbeknownst to her and her partner Viliami who would be on the receiving end of their products is quite the opposite is just one of those fears. Alizae is strong willed and an unrelenting entrepreneur who, it be safe to say, a perfectionist.
The love for giving has always resided with Alizae, making of small gift bags/baskets for small functions. She explained how she relishes seeing her family and friends being over joyed with this simple act of kindness, not knowing how she was already laying her business foundations and in a few months expanded to bigger functions such as weddings, birthdays, family reunions etc. The inception of their business in early may has received, so far, positive feedbacks. Like any other business, there are rules or purchase policies and Alizae stresses the importance of understanding their purchase policy which is “Deposit/Pay” first before an order can be put through.
The lockdown of boarders has most certainly complicated the access of certain commodities, crippled economies, in addition, forced businesses to the brink of bankruptcy. It may force people to explore different avenues to put bread and butter on the table often leading them to opening new opportunities and blessings. Such challenges will require one to find their “WHY” or should I say motivation for especially during the tough times.
Traditionally, the role of an entrepreneur is best suited for a seasoned worker who has dedicated his/her life to the study of this craft of business, acquiring the tools necessary to be better equipped and well versed in this arena of Entreprenuership. It is laudable to perceive the existence of young entrepreneurs in our midst, a steady outpouring in this positive trend certainly deserves to be eulogized from the season veterans in this arena of entrepreneurship. In addition, a guide and a mentor to these young warriors of the trade.
Following the same business format is all too common here in the Kingdom, selling almost identical products, or similar ways of product advertising however, taking up the banter to pave new pathways and be a trailblazer is an innovation on its own. Alizae challenges and encourages the young warriors of this business trade “to be unique and different” and “Dare to be different”
"Whatever that you think is your passion or talent, start utilizing it", Vasa's Beauty Space
I started my little beauty space, to occupy my time and escape reality with peer pressure.
My name is Vasa Selupe, I started my small beauty service when I was 17 years of age (2018). I am a sole trader in the business world, and this is my youth entrepreneurial story.
My childhood wasn't the same as other kids when I grew up. I was adopted, and grew up in what I would call an 'abusive environment'. My grandparents raised me together with other grandkids, and personally, I felt like the odd one out. I say this because the rest of the grandkids had their parents present, and then there was me and my younger sister whose parents weren’t.
Later in my teenage years, I had trouble with my education. I experienced getting expelled from several high schools due to me falling out of track because of peer pressure. I knew I was doing well in school, but because of my troubled ways involving peers, I’ve experienced being put in different schools due to it. However, even though I had my struggles in high school, I still managed to pass my examinations, and for that I’m grateful.
While studying, the idea of doing make-up came to mind. To be honest, I enjoy the process of doing it, even on myself. I always loved the feeling of getting glammed up and looking different from others.
When I was in form five, that’s when my household knew what I do as a business. I practice make-up on people, myself, and I also practice through online tutorials on YouTube. As I progressed from then, I earned more income with what I did, then I started to bring in clients to my house. I did this as a way of showcasing to my grandparents what I do to earn money. It was a way of proving myself to them and letting them know that the money I have is hard-earned, not stolen.
However, as a youth entrepreneur, I do come across challenges with what I do, and one of them is people underestimating me. With what I do, people think that I don't do much, but they don't see the skills and knowledge behind it. They don't know what I am capable of and the reasons behind doing what I do.
Moreover, negative comments can sometimes get to me. Yes, I know people will always have something negative to say. Sometimes they say that I do 'too much', sometimes they say I don't do what they're telling me, but from these mistakes, I take it as a learning objective. I use their feedback to better myself for future clients.
Also, make-up equipment's can be costly here in Tonga. People would put up ridiculous prices for make-up equipment's. But that's okay, as time goes, I'm still getting more clients and that wouldn't be a problem.
On the other hand, I have rewarding moments of experience in my make-up business. The most rewarding for me and the experience I’m most happy about is the opportunity to do one of the Royal family’s make-ups. At the moment, I am doing the Hon Lupepau’u Tuita’s (the eldest daughter of Princess Pilolevu and Noble Tuita) make-up. I would always do her make-up and that's how my small business skyrocketed from doing her make-up.
I’m also grateful that, not only that I got to do Hon Lupepau’u Tuita’s make-up; I also gained the opportunity of doing her sisters make-up in the past. With that being an incredible feeling already, I was also blessed enough to once did the Princess Royal Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita’s make-up. I am just so grateful and happy that I even got to that level. I am thankful that people accept me and what I love to do. It is also a rewarding feeling as a youth entrepreneur make-up artist to see clients happy with the make-up that I put on them.
Nevertheless, every entrepreneur needs the motivation to keep going. For me, there’s a lot that motivates me, but on top of the list is ‘home’. I always look back at home with the thought of 'providing'. I am the only one from my family that managed to finish high school and at the same time, have a small make-up business going. Resulting from my make-up business, I managed to pay for my form five and form six school fees during high school.
However, I also do what I do, for my future. I want to break the cycle of depending on others in my family. I want to take action now by practising being independent so that I may be able to take care of myself one day. Maybe, when the time comes, when I’m no longer depending on my household, I would manage to help someone else.
At the moment, I am studying business at Tupou Tertiary Institute (TTI). My course will finish in 2022, and I would then focus more on what I do. Maybe I would get a job for the experience, and do this on the side. We’ll see how it goes. But for future goals, I’m saving up to have my own shop for make-up clients.
My advice for youths out there that is starting a business, or even thinking about starting is to just START ALREADY. Whatever that you think is your passion or talent, start utilizing it. Just take small steps, such as myself. Once I had the idea of doing make-up, I started doing it with what I had at the time. I didn’t have much but I started. ‘Starting’ is the most important part. Don’t delay your dreams, and don’t listen to what people have to say. Everything is possible, you just got to have a little faith in yourself and do what YOU want to do.
"Doing graphic designs gives me a wholesome feeling of purpose", Paula Hartwig Johansson - Graphic Designer
I started exploring designing 11 years ago when I was 13 years of age.
I am always passionate about anything that has to do with arts, and that includes graphic designing, creative arts, to even performing arts which led to me being involved in doing dancing and a bit of theatre work as well. I've always been an art person growing up; I've always occupied my free time with drawing/sketching.
However, later in the years, I found out how to explore more of my artistic skills on a computer. Learning to do art on a computer was natural for me because I fell in love with doing it. Ever since I started graphic designing on a computer, I’ve been glued till today. Anyhow, throughout the years, I've been learning and trying to perfect my craft and I highly believe I'm at a level where I'm satisfied with where I'm at.
Today, I like to design a lot of things for people. I design clothing's, billboards, banners, business cards, handbook covers, and many more. I am currently working at MOT Enterprises Ltd, and I do this type work for them (Figure 2).
Eleven years later from when I started, I now feel confident with the skills that I hold with designing. I feel ready than ever, the knowledge and skills that I have are all that I need. I am currently selling my services on the side, but the goal one day is to do design work full time.
The only thing I know I need right now is the right qualifications for graphic designing. Unfortunately, there are no such qualifications offered here in Tonga for graphic designing. In spite of that, the closest that is offered is Information Technology (IT) hence why currently I am also taking courses of it at the Tupou Tertiary Institute (TTI). All of this combined, with work and school, are building blocks towards my dream of building a brand of graphic designing.
Nonetheless, it’s quite challenging trying to balance my time management with everything going on around me. I’m occupied with work, school and also trying to manage my side hustle as well. It's a challenge for me to tackle. Even so, I'm focused more on finishing my studies and then start working fully towards my goal.
Recently, I've charged people for my design services. The reason behind it is because throughout the years when you've been doing designing for a while and when you've been doing it for other people; I’ve always been the person ‘behind the scenes’ through it all. I’ve done graphic works for the government in the past, as well as big names here in Tonga, such as Tonga Communication Cooperation (TCC)(See Figure 3), Tonga Red Cross Society (TRCS)(See Figure 4), and many more.
I’ve always been hidden with what I do and others would use my work of design and get the credit for it. I wasn’t selling my services then, but now that I’ve put value to my skills and knowledge of graphic designing, I charge people for it.
Nonetheless, my driving force with what I love to do would be the passion and the enjoyment I consume when I create art. Sometimes, I would look at newspapers or others designs here in Tonga and would notice that it's not up to standard. I find it motivating for me, personally because, I know in Tonga, we can do better and reach that certain level of quality graphic designs. One day, I want to see Tonga reach that great level. I know we are capable of it here but we just lack the right guidance from the right people.
So far, in terms of graphic designing here in Tonga, we're evolving, but not yet up to bar as I can see. In spite of that, when I reach my goal of developing a graphic designing brand, I wish to coach or teach those that are interested in that field of work. Our people are talented, we can train them and that's also a driving force for me with what I'm doing. I want to showcase that we're capable of creating quality graphic designs; we don’t always have to ask Fiji or other foreign countries to do the designing for us here in Tonga.
Additionally, what’s rewarding for me it’s simply the opportunity to create and express myself through digital media. Second to that, is helping people bring their ideas to life. Doing graphic designs gives me a wholesome feeling of purpose (See Figure 1-13).
However, I want to let youths who are thinking or already evolving in business know, that you will come along a lot of obstacles along every journey but don't let that stop you. That's just how life works, you get thrown into situations you wouldn't want to be in but you have to adapt to whatever environment life throws at you.
Learn to grow where you’re planted. With whatever situations or wherever you are in life, learn to adapt and grow from it. That’s how you can get somewhere in life, you have to grow through situations in which you’re not comfortable in. You have to do the work as well, you have to do the hard yards, there’s no such thing as shortcuts. So just suck it up, count your blessings, and pull through if you really want what you want.
To sum it all up, my advice for youths would be to ‘don’t rush’. Take time to do your research, network with people that’s in the line of field you’re in, and invest in your skills. Take time to learn and perfect your craft. Also, get into a 9-5 job so you can learn and understand how businesses function.
Over and above that, you either commit 100% to what you want to do, if you’re not 100% committed, then there’s no use. It’s either you’re 100% in or you’re not. Most importantly, you have to take risks. Personally, I’ve always been a shy person and that was one of the factors that used to hold me back. I later learned to break out of that by interacting with people and just throwing my services out there so that people are aware of it.
Don’t be afraid, but most of all, just BELIEVE in what you do.
"The dream is to one day manage a vanilla weigh-in business", Ms. Malia Kakala Vakapuna – Vanilla Grower
My name is Malia Kalala Vakapuna, I am 28 years of age, and I hail from a village called ‘Lapaha’, Tonga. I have seven siblings and I’m the second youngest, but the youngest out of the girls. I am currently employed by the ‘Tonga Airports Limited’ (TAL) going on 8 years now.
As I am part of the Mafoa ‘a e Ata Youth Innovation Challenge Program, there was a task given this one time about ‘overcoming one’s fear’. For me, I have this fear of losing my ‘desk job’. This is because I grew up with the mindset of studying and settling with an ‘office job’. Sometimes I would overthink it and fear creeps in that if I lose this ‘office job’, I would struggle.
Later, I took that fear as a challenge for myself. As I grew out of it, I later examined and compared that fear to my current situation right now. That is when I reminisce about my journey in life.
I got an opportunity to go for further studies overseas. I left in 2017 abroad and then came back last year, 2021 when my studies were completed. When I returned home, I reminisced back in time to when I grew up. Both of my parents did not have a job. My dad would go to our cropland and grow crops solely for the purpose for us to eat from. But if we ever had financial needs, he would then sell what was harvested.
On the other hand, mum would weave mats and make tapa. It was a good income for us with what she did. People would always come to her to purchase the mats and tapa that she was making.
Anyway, dad used to grow vanilla, and that is how it started. While I was studying, his vanilla garden would bring in money for us and it helped a lot with paying for my school fees. Some days I would even have some pocket money for myself from dad’s vanilla garden.
However, I returned home from my studies when I completed my Bachelor of Aviation Management abroad. I learned that the vanilla garden didn’t grow for 3 years which was during the time I was away for further education. Adding to that, dad was mostly ill as well so he wasn’t able to look after the vanilla crops.
I returned home around February 2021. I had a few coins left on me and I came over with it to my dad and had a talk as we made an agreement on our vanilla garden. I asked him to lend me the vanilla farm and I will look after it while he stays home and prioritize taking care of his health.
Moving on, I was fortunate enough to share my story about my vanilla journey with Lusia Latu-Jones, TYEE Director. Doing this, it helped me overcome the fear that I have mentioned earlier. It made me realize that income can come from different sides instead of just a desk job. It has been an eye-opening experience for me. Every time I need to clear my mind, I visit this special place of mine, my vanilla garden; it makes me appreciate nature more.
Our mind-set here in the islands growing up, they usually say that farm/crop work is for males only. I am here to prove that it can be anyone. It can be either male or female and I hope my story reaches out to our young youths who are female and think that only males are supposed to go and do agricultural work. You can too!
With that being said, I want to encourage young girls, to believe in themselves and be more confident in what they’re doing. Find time to get yourself out of your comfort zone, get out of your shell and explore. The truth is, the opportunity is out there and it is up to you to go and grab it and when you do, then you can see what good it gives you and what good you can do to others.
Mind you, this is all a new experience for me. I learned that the vanilla orchids must be hand-pollinated for it to produce vanilla beans. Yes, I didn’t get it right the first few tries, but I never gave up. I kept trying and at the same time, I’m learning from my minor mistakes while doing this. After many failed attempts, now I am glad that I have mastered how to successfully pollinate and maintain a vanilla plant by myself.
However, I want to acknowledge the Mafoa ‘a e Ata Youth Innovation Challenge program. This Youth Innovation challenge program really influenced a lot of things in me. Chris from the Mafoa ‘a e Ata highlighted the importance of being ‘creative’. From my side, being creative is going and doing the hard work at my vanilla farm. I enjoy it so much, definitely out of my comfort zone, but I can say I am happy that I am learning every day and getting good at it.
Dad used to tell me, that vanilla plants normally would only bare 3 vanilla beans from a branch. He thought that it is impossible for a vanilla plant to produce more than 3 vanilla beans. He was super surprised when he came over and found that the vanilla plants that I grew produced 8 vanilla beans growing from a branch (see Figure 5). That’s just how I do what I do. People would tell me to follow this, and I would always be eager to do more and try new things. Just as how dad told me that vanilla plants can only bare 3 vanilla beans on a branch, and here I was experimenting and risking it to know the ‘what ifs’. Super happy to say it was a success.
Anyway, the thing that keeps me going till now is that I have learned and grown to love the vanilla garden. It gives me a sense of refreshment and peace when I visit it. However, knowing the financial struggles that I went through, I wish to offer 2 scholarships for next year (2023) to two ‘Takuilau College’ students (experiencing similar financial struggles) once my vanilla farm gets harvested and sold this year. What I’m doing might be not much, but I like to think that this is the beginning or baby steps of giving back to the community. I am grateful for it all.
TYEE Innovation/Admin and Media