A first for small businesses

By Deidre Tautua ,

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GETTING SET FOR THE AWARDS: (L-R) Atuaisaute Misipati, Makilua Puniani, C.E.O. S.B.E.C Alatina Ioelu, Norma Matatia and Susana P. Li’ufau.

GETTING SET FOR THE AWARDS: (L-R) Atuaisaute Misipati, Makilua Puniani, C.E.O. S.B.E.C Alatina Ioelu, Norma Matatia and Susana P. Li’ufau. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

The Small Business Enterprise Centre (S.B.E.C.) has stepped up to take the lead to try and boost the morale of small business operators.

It is doing this by hosting the first S.B.E.C Business Awards, scheduled for 26 May 2017.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, the Chief Executive Officer of S.B.E.C, Alatina Ioelu, said the idea is to lift the confidence of small business operators.

 “We are not only motivating people to be creative, we also know a lot of them don’t take time out of the business to have an outsider’s perspective on how things are done and how it can be improved,” he said.

 “So we thought this can provide an outside perspective for them.”

Mr. Ioelu said they want to encourage businesses to keep improving their products and their businesses.

“We want to make sure that they have a look at their finances and see if it’s going the direction it should go.

We also want to promote the occupational safety health component because this is one of the crucial components in our export market.”

Mr. Ioelu said the idea has been in the pipeline for three years.

 “We have been doing a lot of Trade Fairs and market days.

“However, every time we do Trade fairs we see the same products and nothing really new comes out of that and all we are doing is providing the venue for these people to sell goods but we are not really doing anything for the actual business.

“So we thought we don’t see a lot of our products moving from local supply to export and this is one of the reasons why there’s no development going to the actual product.

“While it’s good that we provide a venue for people to sell their goods for couple of days but that impact is just that.

But we want a greater impact of something that will last longer and we think that doing this will actually enable people to realize that kind of long term impact for their businesses.”

Mr. Ioelu said the cost of pulling off such an event had also held them back.

 “The idea started two to three years ago but we looked at the cost and it was expensive,” he said. 

“So last year we put forward our proposal for our budget to the New Zealand Funds for Samoa and we put it in as an activity for New Zealand and they supported the idea.

“It’s the first and I don’t think it’s going to be perfect but I think for us the main thing is learning from this and then we can improve.”

So who will judge the event?

 “We have our sectors and the kind of businesses that we work with is divided into sectors.

“There are eight sectors and what we did was we looked at the type of business in each sector and then try and identify people who are upwards in businesses in these sectors and the community.

“We mainly look at people that have been in that sector or industry for a long time and have more experience and people we have seen their businesses grow from small to big and businesses.”

As for the nominees, the C.E.O said they are starting with S.B.E.C’s clients.

 “Because the initiative is new and we didn’t want to advertise it to all the businesses in Samoa because we didn’t want everyone to come running in wanting to compete and at the end they fight about who should win and that,” he said.

“We thought we will pilot it off by using the S.B.E.C clients. We have enough clients. At the moment, on our portfolio we have more than a thousand clients so we have enough to pick from.

 “We’ve put in place some criteria for the kind of businesses to compete.

For example they have to be operating for more than three years, they employee a certain number of people and their turnover is at a certain amount and then we came up with the number that we have.”

As of yesterday, some 40 businesses are nominees.

“The whole process is nine weeks. 

“We will then have our Trade Fair on the 25th and the 26th of May and it will conclude with the S.B.E.C. Award on the night of the 26th of May.

What’s in it for the winner?

 “Cash will definitely be in the prizes but we also offer free training for businesses and I am also trying to work with sponsors to see what else they can offer,” he said.

“Most of the people that are competing are clients so they currently have loans with banks and so we are trying to see if banks can offer packages like reduced interest rate for loans or extension of terms and some other things that they can offer that are related to the businesses.

“There are eight sectors that people are competing in but three criteria of the competition, the quality of product of the services, the financial health and the occupational safety and health.”

The Chief Executive Officer of S.B.E.C. said they are looking at holding the event on an annual basis if it goes well.

“We want to make sure there is enough interest from the business community for that to happen and also in what level that this can happen at,” he said.

“So we are hoping that a lot of businesses will actually improve on the areas that we want them to improve on but we also hope to get a lot of interests from the business community for this to move on to a fully fledged business award not just businesses but will become bigger on all the businesses.

“The two main things that we want expect from this is for the current businesses to improve under the programme to reach what we want them to achieve under the award and to get that interest from the community not only to compete but to actually support and contribute to actually moving this forward.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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