Village entrepreneurship

By Sharlene Tanuvasa ,

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COLORFUL DISPLAY: Local arts and crafts for sale.

COLORFUL DISPLAY: Local arts and crafts for sale.

Tapili Family sets the bar for Arts ,Crafts and Souvenir store in Leulumoega Tuai 

When one thinks of the word entrepreneur, one tends to think of large corporations run by multimillionaires, sitting in their towers looking down upon the city, marvelling about their success and the fortunes they have built. 

We admire their hard work and we could be forgiven for thinking that we (mere mortals) could never amass success at that level nor even dare to think of ourselves as having entrepreneurial skills.

 That silly notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

Google defines an entrepreneur as:  A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

So with this in mind, the term entrepreneur applies to anyone setting up their own business at the risk of possibly losing money, in order to make some. With a natural sense for business, Samoa has many entrepreneurs who make a living from self-run businesses, irrespective of whether it will become a profitable corporation or not. 

They push forward to succeed in whatever capacity they can.  Not content to sit back and beg for money or depend on welfare from overseas funding, they work to the bone and pursue sustainability for themselves and ultimately their families.

Everything is done with the focus of the future and bettering their lives, carrying on with a smile whilst oozing charm and optimism with every sale that comes their way.  

For Fagafua Vaiao Tapili and his family; this is a part of everyday life for them. With a small business in Leulumoega Tuai selling local crafts and souvenirs, it is their pride and source of income. 

On this main road leading from the airport to the capital, the village of Leulumoega Tuai has 5 main stores. These stores sell day to day products that are easily accessible for customers who choose not to travel to town to get them.

Of the 5, some will sell souvenirs, but not to the extent that the Tapili family store has. If one would like variety, they would need to venture to Apia to visit other stalls but the Tapili family have cleverly capitalised on the opportunity and offer those same goods; closer to home.

Opening up at 8:00am, Fagafua Vaiao Tapili and his daughter Bernadette Tapili set up shop ready for what the day brings. Traffic busily passes by them on this warm Thursday morning and the day has already started.  

Packed buses make their way to Apia and school children beat the pavement to make it to class. Situated on the land Falesama, this store built by the hands of Fagafua himself is a decent sized store, measuring perhaps over 3 metres in length. They work diligently to display items, a few purchased from overseas, some by neighbouring locals sold to them to re-sell to the public and the remaining goods crafted by the Tapili family themselves. Necklaces are hung on nails and line the bottom of the roof overhanging the front of the store. Miniature replicas of Fale Samoa are placed delicately on the outside shelves for passers-by to admire and hope to buy.  A large bunch of green banana’s sits on a vegetable stand waiting to be sold and Samoan flags fashioned to resemble ticker tape covers the front of the store.  

It is already promising to be a good day for sales as a gentleman comes forward after set up to inquire about the Ula Fala and as Fagafua deals with this customer Miss Tapili sits down to speak about the store.

Approximately 5 years ago, Fagafua’s sister Bernadette Addison set up a similar store at Tagomalala, (still in the same village), but situated on the back road of Leulumoega Tuai leading to Lefaga. 

The store selling similar items to what is here in Falesama was started with the goal of helping to build a better future for the family. Encouraged by this store, 2 years later, Fagafua built the Tapili Store in front of their house as a means of supporting his immediate family and being able to provide simple luxuries for his mother. 

Having seen the success of his sister’s store, it only made sense to set up where more traffic was likely to pass through with the intention of not just attracting locals but tourists as well. The craftsmanship and dedication put into the goods has ensured that many stop by to purchase something whether as a gift or for their own pleasure.

On the outside of the store, pot plants are placed to welcome in visitors and the front gate is open for those who choose to venture inside to see more merchandise.  

A large Ie Toga hangs in the back for purchase and wreaths are inside against the window. A stand is strategically placed on the inside counter with beautiful bracelets and hair accessories to enhance the beauty of any female. Some of these are local, some are imported from overseas.  Many of the crafts are made by Fagafua, his sister Bernadette and his wife Hana. 

The beautiful pale fuiono that greet you at the entrance glitter under the sun’s ray were made by his wife and on a back wall in the store are beautiful handcrafted rosaries made lovingly by his sister; an appropriate item to sell seeing as they live so close to the main Catholic Church. 

For those looking to decorate, black steel vases are available which can be used to store flowers. Ideal for use in jeuging up your church, weddings or any other social functions, the vases are not available for sale but are rented out for only $5, per vase, per day. 

A marvellous idea to spruce up your décor for those special occasions and to make the difference in delivering the WOW factor for those on a specific budget. Other items in store are bottles of Samoan coconut oil (locally made), flower garlands, sei (assorted flowers for your hair) and an assortment of necklaces. The Ula Fala would have to be the most popular item in store. 

Costing $20 per necklace, they have been made specially by Fagafua. Using the pandanus fruit, the pieces are first dried and then instead of painting them, Fagafua spray paints it to achieve a proper covering of the red colour on the dried pandanus. This is then formed together to make the necklace. 

Hugely popular with locals and tourists alike keeps Fagafua busy making up to 25 of them on an average week.

Opening six days from daylight to sunset, the Tapili family would like to add more goods to their current supply in the near future to cater to a larger target audience .The addition of Elei (printed material) being  first on this list as the demand for it is high as well as more handicrafts made by the family. The idea of having a store in the upcoming new flea markets in Savalalo is also a possibility, although for now, the family is happy with the progress earned from this store.  

Miss Tapili and her father Fagafua continue on with the task of selling items. 

A school girl passes through looking for an item and Fagafua goes to serve her. The conversation isn’t audible but she looks content to peruse through the goods on offer and Fagafua is happy to answer any questions she has. 

A warm family, they invite all to visit their store, the upside being that buyers are putting back into the country by supporting small local businesses and local families.  It may not be your typical empire that one may associate with an entrepreneur, but it is the beginning of a steady incline of Samoans looking after their own wellbeing. 

With the minimum working rate capped at $2.30 (tala), it is only a logical step that locals would look to venture out and take the risk to dream bigger for themselves. For the Tapili family, this is a living dream that looks only to progress further and we wish them the best for continued success.

*The Tapili family Store is located in Leulumoega Tuai, ten metres from the entrance road of the Basillica of St Anne.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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