‘He creates all things beautiful in his time’ is a verse for Mailelani, whose 20-year business journey was recognized at the Samoa Exports Award on Friday evening.
Held at the Taumeasina Island Resort, the skincare company from Vailima won the Best in Innovation award and also the Woman Exporter of the year award.
Mailelani co-founder, Sylvia Salanoa and Marketing Director Tailani Salanoa were present on behalf of their family run company to accept the awards. According to Tailani, the moment was an overwhelming one for her mother who remembers their humble beginnings two decades ago.
Sylvia said: “It’s been a long journey and I never thought that one day we would get this far, but I guess we might as well continue now and get bigger so the dream is to be able to give more jobs. Mailelani is handmade and we want to keep it this way, so we want to make more space so we can get more people to work and I want to thank the farmers in Savaii for making the coconut oil because without them there would be no Mailelani or any other businesses that use the coconut oil.
“I want to thank you all for your support. We are very thankful for your encouragement over the years. It has been a very long journey and we want to keep on going.”
“My mum cried, she was so emotional,” said Tailani. “It’s been 20 years; the verse for our company is ‘he creates all things beautiful in his time’ that’s really how it all started in a nutshell. It started with one soap and now we have 52 plus products.”
“We’re from Samoa and our products are all over the world. It’s crazy when you think about it. That was my parents vision when they moved to Samoa and you can see it happening and it’s a blessing to be a part of it.”
Tailani points out that her mother, Sylvia, is the “brains” and her father, Kitiona, is the “hands” behind the success of Mailelani. Having watched the creation and evolvement of Mailelani throughout her life, Tailani eventually came on board as the Marketing Director as she came to realise the truth in her parents faith that their venture would flower into an export success.
“It was never forced upon us and for me, I never wanted to be a part of it at first, so my parents just let me be, but then I just realized over time that what my parents were doing was actually pretty cool and I think their heart for this was passed down to me and I want to keep it going.”
As part of the criteria for the Innovation Award, the Mailelani group submitted a creative packaging model in their application.
“We submitted an oil bottle that my mum came up with. Coconut oil solidifies in cold weather so we created a wide neck bottle so you can fit the size of a teaspoon through there.”
Sylvia also won the Woman Exporter of the year award, which was a category that was specially added this year to recognise the role of women in exporting.
“My mum actually didn’t know why her name was being called out,” Tailani said. “She was just sitting there when she heard her name and she was so surprised that she didn’t know what to do.”
After 20 years of successes and challenges, Tailani said the Samoa Exports Awards was an exciting and humbling experience for them.
“The evening was quite exciting and very impressive for sure. It was humbling as well when we got called up to see and feel the support from everyone. It felt like it was a Samoan product and that everyone felt like they were a part of Mailelani - that was the best feeling ever.”
“Also to know what it takes to have the community involved with the success of Mailelani because we wouldn’t be where we are without the farmers in Savaii and the retailers around the island. They’re the ones who got us to where we are now.”
Mailelani received $14,000 tala in prizemoney from PHAMA, which couldn’t have come at a better time because the Samoa cosmetics company looks to certify their products to meet the standards of the European market and eventually take over the world.
“We already have a distributor in Europe. We just need to get the standards with the cosmetics, which is quite a big job so that’s what we are working on at the moment. There is demand in South Korea and Japan as well. We are already in New Zealand, Australia, and America. So we’re just trying to push for all of that.”
“Next year I definitely want to have a distributor in both New Zealand and Australia because that’s the hardest part. A lot of retailers are interested, but it gets expensive shipping directly from Samoa. If we have storage there and we can do our own distribution within the country that’s what we need. Then that will make it a lot easier to ship to the Asian and European countries. In five years’ time, we would like to have secure markets.”
Mailelani Samoa was also a runner up in the value added category:
The Winners of the eight categories at the Samoa Export Awards are:
1. Best Agriculture and Fisheries Award sponsored by PFL
1st runner up - Wilex Samoa Ltd.
Winner- Pacific Oil/Serendi Coco Samoa Ltd
2. Best Value Added Export Award sponsored by Government of Samoa (MCIL)
1st runner up - Mailelani Samoa
Winner- Krissy Company Ltd
3. Best Export Support Services Award sponsored by Digicel
1st runner up - Samoa Tradition Farmers and Growers
Winner- Pacific Oil /Serendi Coco Samoa Ltd.
4. Best Emerging Exporter Award sponsored by ANZ
1st runner up - Wilex Samoa Ltd.
Winner- Samoa Tradition Farmers and Growers
5. Best Innovation Award sponsored by PHAMA
Winner - Mailelani Samoa
6. Best in Export Marketing Award sponsored by SAME
1st runner up - Samoa Shipping Services
Winner- Krissy Company Ltd.
7. Women in Export Award sponsored by PHAMA
Winner - Sylvie Salanoa of Mailelani Samoa
8. Overall Exporter of the Year Award sponsored by PFL
Winner - Krissy Company Ltd