Faleasi'u Center secures top spot at annual business women awards
Faleasi'u Bluesky Village Center has been announced the overall winner of the South Pacific Business Development (S.P.B.D.) Business Woman Awards.
The winning center's 48-year-old president, Fesola’i Ruta Tuiala, said the 36-member group was established in 2012 with just 12 members at the time.
"The South Pacific Business Development's loaning scheme is very very helpful to each and every one of us because most of us we started from micro financing loans, and now we are up to small and medium enterprise loans up to $10,000 and $27,000 and that’s how high our center members’ loans are now.
"There are four of us with big loans in our center, three in the $10,000 and I am on the $27,000 so to me it’s a risk but it is important and instrumental in developing our families; building houses, and buying cars, as well as developing our plantations and establishing shops," she said.
She said some of the women have gone off to work while others gave up on the way, when there were 48 of them.
"Some of these women now have better housing and with the South Pacific Business Development's partnership with Samoa Stationery and Books, we now have more opportunities to equip our houses with white ware resources for our homes and families."
Fesola’i said the loan scheme challenges her to be independent and strive to improve and expand their services.
"This is a challenge for us women in business within our center, to me personally this loaning scheme challenges me to not rely on anyone, or give in to anything but rather try to improve and expand, for more markets that may be available for my fruits of labour; like maybe export to overseas markets," she said.
The Center's projects include bingo as well as the collection of any amount of money the women are able to put in to go towards their savings account, which is reserved for activities throughout the year.
"We are all so happy because no one thought we would be the ones to win this, but we thank the S.P.B.D. for this great opportunity they have given us," Fesola'i added.
Fesola'i — who is a mother of four and runs various businesses funded by the money she borrowed from S.P.B.D. — has expanded her business portfolio over the years and established stable markets for her products.
With a $27,000 loan she purchased a car, set up a small shop and funded her plantation, which was developed using her first loan. Her repayments will be completed in August this year.
"My loan is almost complete, in August it will be complete and then I will be moving on to $30,000 but right now I’m on $640 a week.
"For me, I deliver fruits and vegetables two to three times a week to our markets that we regularly supply, including Lynn’s supermarket and Frankie’s supermarket and also the Fugalei market.
"Plus I sell my stuff every Sunday morning at the fish market. And that is the biggest source of income for us, is the plantation that makes up the $640 repayment per week, for 52 weeks," she revealed.
There were eight village centers that were nominated for the category of the best center altogether, including Asau Fou, Pitonu'u 2 Satupaitea, Satitoa Tauatia'e, Manunu, Nofoali'i Fou, Fusi Safotulafai and Aopo.