Salome’s evolution as a street vendor

Salome Suliveta Leone has come a long way—to evolve from a street vendor to a business woman. 

She was invited to speak recently at the annual review process of the Community Development Sector Plan 2016 – 2021, which was facilitated by the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development recently at the TATTE Building.

Salome, a mother of 14 children, was one of the beneficiaries of the Samoa Women Shaping Development initiatives—which was funded by the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development and various partners. 

She is currently a small business owner who creates plastic flowers (sei’s) and printed materials which she then sells.

“I was a street vendor and I survived solely on selling items so my family could earn a daily income. 

“In my determination for my children to have a proper education, and not to go through what I went through, in reference to my background—not having any education in any form, I wanted to be a good role model to my children,” she told the conference participants. 

Salome thanked and acknowledged the Ministry for giving her the opportunity to share her story, and made special mention of a six-week training she attended. The training was done in collaboration with the Small Business Enterprise Center. 

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She later applied for grants through the Samoa Women Shaping Development Program and received $2,500 as seed funding.

Using the funding she set up small shop and saved enough money to buy a taxi for her husband. 

“Due to not having any educational background before it was for me to understand what they were teaching.

“I have learnt new words such as alcohol and drugs. I have learned so much from S.B.E.C. but the highlight for me is discovering that most businesses in Samoa have bad customer service.

“An example was when I visited one of the local shops to purchase some tape to make my plastic flowers that I sell,” she added.

But the journey was not easy as she faced many challenges as a street vendor and was often rudely refused service. 

“One of the female employees told me that I was disturbing them with their jobs in serving customers, but I told her I was a customer.

“I also told her that I will be the reason she will see her boss and the reason she will be fired.

“All the knowledge that I have gained has helped me in understanding the importance of customer service and serving customers well,” she added.

Salome is still undergoing training and is aiming to receive a certificate at the end of it. 

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