Entrepreneurial excellence wins at Business Network Awards

The first Samoa Business Network Awards held last weekend in Auckland proved to be an enormous success. 

Samoan business owners and entrepreneurs from Samoa, New Zealand and Australia were recognised for their excellence and efforts in business while serving and inspiring their communities. 

The Samoa Business Network was launched to assist a growing trend of Samoan-owned businesses. The awards also marked the network’s fifth anniversary in operation. 

The opening speech by SBN NZ Chairwoman Laura Keil-Hall was tinged with emotion as she thanked her Executive Committee for forming a cohesive and effective team.

“The SBN has been a pivotal network in connecting Samoa-owned businesses across geographical boundaries,” she said.  “This has been a fundamental purpose of SBN and just as important, has been the desire to promote Samoan businesses and their products to our communities.”

Host city Auckland was seen as a poignant tribute to the first Samoan migrants from the 1950’s onwards who were in search of the ‘Milk and Honey’ dream. The work ethic of those migrants was remembered and mirrored in the room full of entrepreneurial talent.

The night began with a prayer by Reverend Tafesilafa’i Lavasi’i and an opening speech by Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell, the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour in Samoa who praised the SBN, describing the night as a testimony to the evolving entrepreneurship of Samoan communities in Samoa and abroad. 

 “This colourful and brilliant atmosphere is a magnificent reflection of the value of business communities that Samoa and NZ governments attach to this event,” he noted. 

“Tonight we recognise, acknowledge and raise more awareness of Samoan-owned businesses and to celebrate the efforts in enhancing business development with strong evidence that they have successfully secured their fair share of local and overseas markets.”

Other dignitaries and representatives of the Samoan and New Zealand government were also present including Hon Aupito William Sio (Labour NZ) and Hon. Afamasaga Fonoti Lepuia’i Rico Tupa’i (Samoa) along with stakeholders, business leaders and the wider Pacific business community.

On his Facebook page, Hon. Aupito thanked SBN’s chairwomen Laura Keil Hall and Afamasaga Jackie Curry for their leadership and acknowledged the evening as ‘an exciting example of Pacific communities creating their own opportunities to generate two-way trade between New Zealand and Samoa.’

Masters of Ceremonies Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong and Tauiliili Alpha Maiava entertained the audience with introductions and comedic insights. Keynote speaker, author and Former NRL star Sione Faumuina shared positive words of wisdom. 

“Your story is so important as it connects to our next generation of Samoan business owners,” he said. “They will look at you and think, ‘If she can do it so can I;  if he can make a million dollars, so can I...running a business is hard. But we are Samoans. It’s in our DNA.” 

He added that it is important for business owners to share their mistakes and errors just as much as their successes as this will help other people who aspire to start a business.

The big winners of the night included a three-award sweep by Samoa Stationary and Books (SSAB) winning ‘People’s Choice Award’, ‘Samoa Based Business of the year’ and the ‘SUGA Businesswoman of the year’ for CEO Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai. 

Shoe company founder Gustavia Lui of Staavia’s Limited walked away with the ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ award.

‘Start Up of The Year’ was awarded to Manutui Alex Talopau for his financial consulting business ARBEZ Group. 

‘Excellence in Hospitality’ went to Auckland and Melbourne Catering company D’Vine Banquets whose stunning presentation in Samoan food has become popular with corporate organisations. 

MYRIVR took out the ‘Excellence in Innovation’ award for it’s popular social services app which has received widespread mainstream and Pacific media attention throughout the year. 

Entertainer Cindy of Samoa delighted guests with her rendition of ‘Simply the best’ which was deemed fitting for the occasion. 

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Keil-Hall emphasised that the SBN team are committed to ensuring that Samoan communities are able to benefit from their collective work. She says the network’s pooling of knowledge and resources are beneficial to budding entrepreneurs as they grow and develop their businesses. 

“Samoa may be a small island developing state in the Pacific but it’s influence is transnational, global and ever growing. Nowhere is this seen more than in the world of business.”

“We would like to thank and acknowledge our amazing sponsors who have been supporting and encouraging our SBN Event Team throughout the last four weeks and on the night of the Event.  Our Major Sponsor Pacific Media Network (Niu FM & 531 PI) for all the lead up promotional support for the Event, promotion of our Finalists on your shows, and the Live Feed on Facebook. 

Our Associate Sponsors, SUGA Magazine, Bluwave, Emotions Events, RISE2025, Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, and Supporting Sponsors EMD Samoa, N5 Consulting, Taumeasina Rentals, Rimani Samoa, Samoa Airways, Eveni Pacific and TV3 Samoa.  

We would also like to acknowledge the following companies and individuals who provided support services which enabled us to produce the Finalist Video Profiles & facilitate the TV3 delayed coverage – Jandal Media (David Unoi), Promo Pictures (Ronette Van Heeswyk) and NetVo Samoa (Togisala Tony Sua Leota). 

Special acknowledgement to Laureen Lees and her team at Rimani Samoa, who worked tirelessly on our beautiful Executive Team Uniform and female MC, Uini Purcell of Jovi Studio for Hair & Makeup services, and Eveni Pacific for dressing our male MC, band and volunteers.

Finally thank you to our Finalist prize sponsors as follows: RISE2025, Taumeasina Island Resort, Sinalei Reef Resort, Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Eveni Pacific, Le Lagoto Resort (Savaii), Sky City Grand Hotel and Levi Plumbing. “

“The delivery of this Awards was truly a team effort”, adds Afamasaga Jackie Curry.  “Our team was working around the clock in unison together across four countries to bring this event to life.  This is an example of how we can pull together as Samoan business people and professionals to create amazing things together, that we would not be able to achieve alone. 

When a Samoan person performs a service for their country they will go above and beyond the call of duty.  As the beautiful Samoan proverb goes “E lele lava le toloa ae maau i le vai”.  Our Samoan business people and professionals will go far out into the world to achieve their business goals, but they will always return home wanting to contribute.” 

Below is a full list of winners for the SBN Samoa Business Network Awards 2018:

1. Excellence in Small Business - WE Accounting & Business Services Ltd (Auckland, NZ)

2. Excellence in Construction & Trades - Levi Plumbing (Auckland, NZ)

3. Excellence in Hospitality - D’vine Banquets (Auckland, NZ & Melbourne, Australia)

4. Excellence in Professional Services - Home Graduates ECE Ltd (Auckland, NZ)

5. Excellence in Innovation – MYRIVR (Auckland, NZ)

6. Young Entrepreneur of the year (NZ) - Gustavia Lui - Staavias Ltd (NZ & Australia)

7. Start Up of the Year - ARBEZ Ltd (Tauranga, NZ)

8. Samoan Based Business – SSAB - Samoa Stationery & Books (Samoa, American Samoa & Auckland, NZ)

9. SUGA Business Woman of the Year (International) - Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai – SSAB (Samoa)

10. People’s Choice Award – Favourite Business (International)

WINNER - SSAB (Samoa)

1st Runner up - Arilei Couture (Samoa)

2nd Runner Up - Staavias Ltd (NZ & Australia)

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