Doing business in a place like Samoa, it’s easy to assume everyone knows everyone.
But the opportunities and ideas you come across when you get out of your usual circle of friends and business colleagues might surprise you.
That’s the message from Afamasaga Jackie Curry, who is the representative for the Samoan branch of the Samoa Business Network (S.B.N.).
After being launched by the Prime Minister in November, S.B.N. Samoa had its first business networking event at Tanoa Tusitala Hotel on Wednesday night.
It is the first international branch of the New Zealand-based organisation, which began as a forum for connecting Samoan business people in Auckland. While several businesses have already signed up as members, Wednesday’s event was open to all.
“We want to give everyone the chance to connect with like-minded individuals and collaborate for business and professional success, whether they well-established or new businesses,” Afamasaga said.
She said S.B.N. Samoa had memberships available for businesses, not-for-profits, individual professionals and even students and youth.
“One person who came along told me he’d never been to anything like this before, but he’s recently started offering niche tours, and I immediately said ‘oh, you should meet so-and-so, he’s serving a similar market, you could collaborate!”
“I witnessed several connections like that being made over the evening. There are so many opportunities for business people here to share ideas and work together, but sometimes we just don’t know what others are doing.”
One of the main goals of the Samoa Business Network’s international expansion is to connect Samoans living all over the world.
After living in New Zealand for seven years, Afamasaga felt drawn back to Samoa last year and said a lot of others are in the same position. At some point in their professional careers, Samoans want to come home and “give back” to their country.
“So many of our people gain qualifications, experience and connections overseas, and have a desire to use them to contribute towards Samoa’s development.”
“S.B.N. is particularly focussed on facilitating those links, tapping into the expertise of Samoans all over the world, connecting, sharing ideas and collaborating.”
The keynote speaker at this first networking event was a New Zealand born Samoan who has also made the move home to lead an exciting new project funded by the NZ government.
Moananu Tyrone Malaesaili Laurenson was born in Auckland, but his late father hailed from Lufilufi and Lepea, and is late mother was from Vaimoso.
He spent 25 years in the New Zealand Police Force, where he was the first Samoan to attain the rank of Inspector.
In the late 1990s he moved to Samoa where he took up the posting of Registrar at the National University of Samoa, before a stint working for AusAID and then two years as the Assistant Vice Chancellor at the Oceania University of Medicine.
Moananu is now leading the recently-established High Tech Youth Network Project in Samoa, which will teach young people skills in graphic design, video production, animation and more.
He showed attendees at the SBN event several videos which had been made by young participants in the program elsewhere in the Pacific, as well as a video which Samoan students made themselves, in which they gave the audience a tour through the new High Tech Youth studio.
Moananu said he’s currently looking for people with relevant skills to work on or help out with the project.
The S.B.N. event was also attended by New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner Mike Walsh, who said facilitating international business connections was often a large part of a diplomat’s role, and he welcomed the establishment of S.B.N. in Samoa.
He is a member of the Kiwi Expats Association (K.E.A.), which has networks of New Zealanders in cities all over the world. He recalled being part of one of these networks in Johannesburg, South Africa while he was working there, and he found the opportunity to network with other Kiwis invaluable. “Sign up now,” was his parting advice to the crowd.
The S.B.N. Executive Committee would like to thank and acknowledge support of the sponsors for this event - Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Taula Beverages and Liquor Planet.
For more information about Samoa Business Network, please contact Afamasaga Jackie Curry on 20984 or 7667444 or email email@example.com. You can also find them on Facebook or visit their website www.samoabusinessnetwork.org