Building on quiet strength

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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LEADING THE WAY FORWARD: Jennifer Ula Fruean.

LEADING THE WAY FORWARD: Jennifer Ula Fruean. (Photo: Chikara Yoshida)

Great leaders are made, not born. 

While some are born with the natural ability to be confident and articulate, newly appointed President for Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jennifer Marion Ula-Fruean, found herself out of her comfort zone when she began her journey of growing into the leadership about 10 years ago.  

The eldest daughter of Tunumafono Fa’alata and Maria Ula and the late Jennifer Marion Lincoln Ula, graduated from Vaipouli College in Itu o Tane District in Savai'i. 

Throughout her college years, she was not particularly confident in public speaking or taking lead roles, preferring instead to play a supporting role.

Eight years ago, she joined the Chamber at 30 years old feeling daunted at the prospect of engaging with and working alongside prominent business leaders. 

With the help of experienced women from the private sector, Mrs. Ula-Fruean began her schooling in leadership by learning from the best. 

“I think back to when I initially joined the Chamber, it was really the women leaders who were there that were promoting it to me to come along, in the likes of Sheree Stehlin, the late Peseta Margaret Malua and Tuiloma Sina Retzlaff that encouraged me to join the S.C.C.I. executive council some 10 years ago. 

“Making the first move is always naturally the most difficult decision.This is often with us women, I think a lot of us take a step back when it comes to these sorts of roles.  In taking up the presidency role for the Samoa Chamber of Commerce, I was fortunate to have a wider group of support from both female and male business leaders who encouraged me to take the nomination.”

Over the years as a member of Chamber, Mrs. Ula-Fruean was the keen student who listened, learned and applied the knowledge gained from the business leaders in the organisation. Slowly but surely, Mrs. Ula-Fruean began to make her way to the front as she gained confidence,  

“I was privileged to be among business leaders and to learn from them and in the initial couple of years it was about listening and learning from them. Then slowly I took one step at a time and came out of my comfort zone by talking and articulating in the decision making process. 

Part of gaining confidence is you also need to do your homework a lot. It was tough for me, but the more you do it you get better.”

Taking the lead in 2018, Mrs. Ula-Fruean has identified the needs and challenges that face the private sector.  

“The private sector seeks for an enabling business environment that supports and stimulates business activities,” she said. 

“A tax base system that supports the development needs of our country, equitable and fair and incites opportunities for business growth. The cost of doing businesses is another area of interest private sector promotes at all opportunities.” 

Fruean’s vision going forward is to be the organisation that leads and facilitates the empowerment of business potential growth as a key partner to Samoa’s private sector development. 

She hopes they can be the organisation to advocate, facilitate and foster sustainable development of the private sector through effective leadership and meaningful dialogue.  

Ultimately, looking back on her own journey, Mrs. Ula-Fruean knows that encouraging women into leadership roles begin from the simplest of things. From encouraging young women to take up any opportunities in public speaking within our communities and also to never forget our natural inclination as women to lift up each other. 

“Some people are born natural leaders and some are not. I think it’s a talent that you need to develop through that phase so you really have to kick yourself and stand in front of people. 

“I think it comes down to the small things like pushing your daughter to be a reader at church. Whatever opportunities that a young girl is able to get through the journey of life to be able to stand up in a crowd of people, its these types of experiences that have a gradual impact on creating that confidence in people. 

“There’s been a lot of great work been done in this whole space promoting and empowering women, but also  women who are really inside leadership roles need to continue to put down the ladder with our other colleagues.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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