Businesswoman optimistic in the face of downturn
A local businesswoman from the village of Asaga in Savai’i is not throwing in the towel in the face of a multitude of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The 56-year-old owner of Netta's Cakes and Cafe, Netta Hartin, revealed in an interview with the Samoa Observer that her business has not been spared in the onslaught of the coronavirus’ economic downturn.
But she remains optimistic that things will go back to normal in “God’s timing” and is a great believer of faith, prayer and hard work.
"We are in difficult times, yes, it's been tough to keep business going. But there are always ways that we can make things work,” she said.
"You can't just complain about living a hard life and not do anything. As a Christian and as a mother, I am a true believer that faith, prayers, and hard work make anything in this life possible.
"Although businesses and the economy have been greatly affected, for me, I am okay. I have not reached a point where I find myself being depressed because of my work and business.”
It is all in the mind according to Mrs Hartin, who is of the view that if you become depressed it will happen.
"But if you get yourself busy with work and do whatever it takes to make things work, it will work. I have a lot of obligations to do aside from being a businesswoman.
“And I try my best to make sure that I do whatever is expected of me. I have duties as a mother, I am an advisor for our school's committee, I also have a huge part to play within my family and village."
So what is the strategy in terms of keeping her business going? Instead of going up she goes down, in terms of her prices.
"What I do is, I put down the prizes for my cakes, pies, fish and chips, pizzas and everything else.
"The idea is to make it affordable for everyone on the island. The quality is there, I make and prepare everything from my heart for our people.
“But when it comes to the prices, I make sure they are cheap so our local community can afford to buy from me.”
As an example Mrs Hartin says her chocolate prices start from $2.50 and fish and chips or mixed fish and chicken and chips go for $6, which she indicated strives to ensure the customer keeps on coming back.
“And what I've noticed is if a new customer comes in and buys two pieces of cakes today, they will return tomorrow or the next day and buy 10 pieces of cakes.
There is no use in putting up the prices because no one would want to buy it. That's the same for my pizza. I try my best to make sure to give something extra to my loyal customers.
“For example, I get a lot of orders from our people overseas. Because of the lockdown, most of them could not make it to some special occasions and celebrations for their families here in Samoa.
“Therefore, they order from overseas, because we are Samoans and even during hard times, we always have it in our hearts to give to those we love.
“So every time people order a cake for a celebration here in Samoa, I always prepare a complimentary cake for the faifeau (church minister) who will be leading the service for the event.
"If they order pizzas, I always have an extra small pizza for them. Yes, I need to make some profit and no I am not rich.
“But I am a true believer that as a local businesswoman if we keep our customers happy, they will keep coming back for more."
Mrs. Hartin is also a true believer in the saying that the more you give, the more you earn and it is a mantra that ignites her heart of giving.
"Even for the kids in the village. If I see them roaming around, I would offer them free cakes without asking them to pay. I don't have the heart to ask a young boy or girl to give me their .50 sene.
"As a Samoan and as a Christian, I am a true believer that the Lord will continue to bless you if you give without expecting anything in return. God will bless your heart, if you do everything and live your life in love.”
Mrs Hartin says she can still afford to her off her loans and save some money for the family fa'alavelave and the children from her small business’ takings.
And she does not rely on her children who are living abroad as she says she is not like that.
“I am strong and can still work to provide for my family and my business,” she says.
"I do everything on my own here with the help of my younger children. I don't have workers because I don't make enough to pay for people and because I prefer to do things on my own.
"I am a mother, and it is my duty to work hard for my children and family and not give up."
And her challenges as a businesswoman do not only come in the form of the COVID-19 inspired economic downturn, but the rise of Chinese-owned businesses and supermarkets on the island is also a cause for concern.
"Small local businesses on the island are struggling at some point because of the many Chinese-owned supermarkets opening up in the country,” she reiterated.
"But that does not and should not stop us from working hard. I think we should all learn one or two things from this lockdown and COVID-19.
“The lesson I learn from this period is that we should not rely on others and wait for others to step in and help us. We should do our part by working and helping ourselves first.
"Remember, God helps those who help themselves. You can't just get on your knees and pray to God to bless your family and provide things for your children and then just sit in your house and do nothing.
"We have lands that we can work on to provide food and money for us. We are blessed to be living in this country and on this island.
"To me, there is no place I will rather be. Samoa is the safest place to be during these tough times."