Slow and steady wins the race for business woman, Maria Levi of Safotu.
Yesterday at the prestigious South Pacific Development Bank (S.P.D.B) Business Women awards, Mrs. Levi won the top award for Best Small Enterprise Business Woman award for her shop and bakery businesses.
Today, 65 year old Maria and her husband run two successful businesses in Safotu after starting from very humble and small beginning.
Mrs. Levi’s business journey began ten years ago when she opened up a small shop in her village of Safotu and a year later decided to add a bakery to her small shop.
“I thought there should be something else to compliment and support our small shop,” she said.
“I talked to my husband about starting a bakery to make bread. We started with a 44 gallon commercial over which only fit 20 loaves of bread which wasn’t enough to meet the demand so we needed to look for funds to buy a bigger oven.”
“We had some savings and we also went to S.B.E.C for a little financial help to buy another oven that was bigger. That new oven fit 170 loaves of bread and all the shops in the area were our main buyers, the demand grew even higher and we found that we needed to make more bread to satisfy our clients and all the other businesses. We started to bake 250 breads a day.”
As other bakeries around the Savaii started to close down, Mrs Levi saw the demand for bread around the island increase and began to save their profits from the bakery in order to purchase a vehicle for a delivery service.
“Then people from other villages came to us saying that there was no one baking bread in their area of Savaii anymore and if we could deliver. At that time we didn’t have a car and we couldn’t add that service to our business. We looked at our savings of $10,000 made from our bakery and I said to my husband , lets save a little more to get a good car. Once we got to $17,000 , we went to Singapore motors and we bought a car for $16,000.”
Showing great vision and and shrewd financial skills, Mrs Levi invested her left over savings and applied for a S.P.B.D loan which she then used to buy another commercial oven and expand the shop.
The business has grown from strength to strength with more demand from around the island and Mrs Levi was able to buy a big delivery van which now delivers all day on the Itu Tane side of Savaii.
Because of her hard work, discernment, and patience - Maria is proud to say that her business has made it possible for them to send five of her children overseas for education and work.
“I have six children and thanks to our business we were able to send five of them overseas and we have one still here helping us with the business. I told them, don’t stay here - go out and find the lumanai because my husband and I are strong enough to run the business.”
Mrs Levi plans to expand her bakery again to add other bakings such as keke puaa, doughnuts and moon pies.
The overall best small business enterprise award winner was over the moon with the acknowledgement and said she has some advice for aspiring business women in the rural areas
“My only advice to my sisters out there is ‘try your best’ don’t sit around, keep your brains ticking, not only for now but for the future.”