Labelled as an eyesore as a small flea market in downtown Apia, over two decades where the Accident Compensation Authority now stands tall, Samoa Loko Style had a telling story.
From those humble beginning and struggles, the business has blossomed to be the only Samoan distributor of local traditional wear and Samoan printed t-shirts in the United States is a telling story.
It has the ingredients of a Hollywood movie script. But for Taulapapa Tivia Sosene Feagai and his wife Karen Michelle Chan Chui Feagai, feel that if there is a story to be told it should be about small Samoan businesses ingenuity like them.
And it should also represent the sacrifices and hard work from their two families as a motivational drive for future small business investors.
For more than 20 years, the couple with the support of their families have toiled to develop their Samoa Look Style brand. Over the years, the company has slowly but surely grown to secure a foothold in the money-spinning markets in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and beyond.
In the United States, the company’s original Samoan contemporary designs that include a wide range of Puletasi, evening wear and gowns are selling like hot cupcakes. Printed t-shirts promoting Samoa as a tourism destination is doing exceptionally well.
Samoa Loko Style by the way is the sole Samoa Made fashion infiltrating markets in San Diego, the Bay Area in San Francisco and Orange County.
Back at home and ironically now based 100 meters behind the ACC building, where it all started two decades ago business is good.
“We now have over 20 employees on the payroll compared to five staff when we originally started the business as a family oriented investment to make ends meet,” says Samoa Loko Style’s Clayton Simamao.
“Our business structure includes four divisions from the seamstress to printing embroidery, sales and marketing and two retail outlets in town and at the Faleolo International Airport.”
“Our latest business strategy is opening up our export doorway to businesses like the Taula and Vailima Beer to use our printing and market outlets overseas to promote their products,” added the Cardiff University graduate with a Masters in Infrastructure and Human Resources.
“Staff development is a priority.”
“We are grooming and training staff to learn the basic skills to start their own little business investment.”
And Tala Lome, a former Samoa Loko Style seamstress is one of them.
Mrs Lome founded Wendy’s Designs outlet by herself in 2013 and to date has five employees on her payroll.
Wendy’s specialises in elei printing and creating her own designs and outfits for her local and overseas clients.
“Samoa Loko provided the pathway and the will power and I am beyond grateful to my former bosses for investing their time and energy to get me off my feet in business,” said Mrs. Lome
“We are basically new in the industry and like any new business competition is tough but we are determined.”
Like Samoa Loko, Wendy’s Designs has also picked up momentum on the global market with the help of her face book page and the social media.
“I am shocked with the respond from overseas clients on our face book page,” she said. “From men’s wear to women’s Puletasi, the reception from outside Samoa is beyond my expectations.”
And for their inventiveness, Wendy’s and Samoa Loko Style will debut in the Miss Pacific Island Pageant later this month Apia as two of Samoa’s fashion designers to showcase their ingenuity with Miss Samoa Priscilla Finally Olana as model during the week of the pageant.
“It’s a privileged to be part of an event profiling and benefiting Samoan designers and Samoa as a country,” says Samoa Loko’s Simamao.
“Every little publicly is a great injection for small businesses like Wendy’s and we owe the exposure to the Samoa Event’s Incorporated for giving up the chance to show our pride in our work,” added Wendy’s Founder.
“Overall its enormous leverage for Samoan fashion designers and not just the selected five designers for the Miss Pacific Pageant.”