A local businesswoman is calling on the government to provide more assistance to allow small businesses in Samoa to realise their true potential.
Susana Ah Wong, of Susana o Samoa, says there are not enough opportunities for small businesses to export their products, allowing them to earn much-needed revenue.
The interview with the owner of Susana o Samoa was conducted as part of a training for journalists in Samoa, on how to improve news reporting on the economy.
According to Susana, business is very slow.
“I don’t have enough cash flow as business is getting slower every day,” she said.
“We need some industrial machines available in our country. I have some old industrial machines, but we need to have some mechanics to fix the machines as well.”
“Government can help us with the tax, and expenses. Every time we run out of supplies, we always have to buy the stuff from overseas.”
Susana o Samoa started in the year 1998. It started off as a shop which sold clothes from the United States. Four years later, Susana learnt how to sew and she transformed her old shop into what it is today.
“We have different areas of businesses,” she said. “This is a unique business, but as we’ve seen over the years, more and more people are starting up their own businesses as well which is not a bad thing. It shows that a lot of people in Samoa are passionate about their love of our Samoan designs and materials.
“But there are not enough markets available for us to sell our products overseas.”
Moreover, Susana believes that there should be more fair trade to expose our handicrafts and hand-printed materials to the outside world.
“We do get the opportunity to go overseas, like the Trade Fair in Guam and other countries and participate in the trade fair. It’s a very good way of exposing our businesses and we brought back good money after the trip.
“But we need more marketing trips and fair trades.
“I have some friends overseas, but I can’t open up a door by myself. It has to come through the government. We need to go out to sell our products and materials, and the way to do it is to go overseas and sell it. We can’t just always stay here and wait for people to come. We need to get up and find ways to sell our products and expose it.”
Said Susana, her business is like any other business out there. They struggle sometimes and they have their good days and bad days.
“The money we get every week after we pay our rents, taxes, and wages varies from time to time. Because we have some good days and bad days as well, but we keep trying to get better each and every day.”
However, she believes that with the help from the government, small businesses such as her business will improve and be able to contribute more into the economy of Samoa.
“Before we used to have a PSSF (Private Sector Support Facility) that supported us with our projects and businesses, but not anymore,” she said.
“I was able to get a loan from Small Business Enterprise Centre, but till up to now, sales are slow, we can’t move up if sales are slow.
“We’ve been asking aids from the AusAid and NZAid as well. But I was told that they can’t provide funds or financial support to individual business owners. They only support groups.
So I have a group of friends with other business owners, and we call ourselves the Samoa Mamanu designs. They will only help when you are in a group. But then it’s really hard to apply, there are a lot criterias to meet and things to do before you get an approval.”
According to Susana, the kind of business she has is also part of the tourism industry.
“Our handmade products are what our tourists take when they go back after visiting Samoa,” she said.
“And it’s good exposure for our country as well. People will be able to identify where we come from and our culture once they see you wearing an elei material and other handicrafts. I know there are a lot of businesses similar to my business in Samoa, but I think we need to develop in terms of market so that we can export our materials to overseas markets.
“I reckon that these kinds of businesses have a brighter future,” she said.
“Because our hand printed materials and Samoan designs (mamanu) are very unique.”
Susana o Samoa, has also participated in some of the fashion shows and fair trades held overseas. And Susana said that they are also looking at participating in one of the fashion shows which will be held in Hawaii later on this year.
“But the main challenge is that I have to provide funding for the trip,” she said.
“The government pays for some trips,” she said. “I do go to New Zealand sometimes, and participate in the Pacific Arts Festival, but the trips are very expensive as well.”