Value Your Resources, Says Woman Entrepreneur

  When you walk around the island, you can see plenty dilo nuts and coconuts on the ground. “Some people would rake it into one corner and set it on
30 Dec 2017 10:00
Value Your Resources, Says Woman Entrepreneur
Susana Yalikanacea with her products. Photo: Vilimoni Vaganalau


When you walk around the island, you can see plenty dilo nuts and coconuts on the ground.

“Some people would rake it into one corner and set it on fire.

“But they do not realise that it is money,” says founder of Organic Selavo, Susana Yalikanacea.

Originally from Ono in Lau, Ms Yalikanacea has always had the passion to assist in flourishing our agriculture industry.

She started working for the Ministry of Agriculture in 1981 until she retired and ventured into producing home-made virgin coconut oil (VCO).

According to her, copra is Cicia Island’s main source of income.

Her husband owns 200 hectares of land in Cicia Island where she currently gets her coconut supply from.

In 2008, she came across a team from the Copra Industry Development Authority in Cicia who had introduced her to the virgin coconut oil business.

At that time, the coconut industry was a bit slow and was not doing well, she said.

However, she remained optimistic and believed that the industry will thrive in the future despite the slow process.

She continued to receive training from the Authority.

In 2007, Ms Yalikanacea and a group of women from Cicia started a bio fuel project and bought a machine from India to process copra and make crude and coconut oil.

They started selling their products to local and overseas buyers.

However, in the beginning of 2008, the machine had broken down.


New venture

This gave Ms Yalikanacea the idea to start her own business.

She travelled to Thailand and the Philippines to analyse how the producers would value added their products.

It was also through these trips that she got the idea of producing locally made charcoal soap.

When she came back to Fiji, she continued with her business and started making new products.

She also began training other women from other islands and even in Viti Levu.

Under her business, Organic Selavo, she sells virgin coconut oil, curd oil, dilo oil, charcoal, VCO  and curd soap.

According to her, pharmacies sell the similar products but at an expensive price.

Recently, she had refused an offer from a potential investor who wanted to order 3000 VCO soaps.

One of the reasons why she had refused the offer was because she could not meet the demand with her current manpower and coconut supply.

Her intention for the business is not for making money but rather to produce quality products.

“The market is there.

“Even now, normally people go for export market, but I don’t.

“I mostly want the locals to buy my products because I want them to know the value of our products instead of just selling it for cash.

“I would be happy to sell a good quality product and for the locals to buy and benefit from what I do,” she said.

Most of her ingredients are available at home.

“My ingredients are available at home and I do not want them to lay idle,” she said.

She says that she receives a lot of orders from her Facebook page.

Most of her orders come from locals who also send the products to their relatives in abroad such as the United Kingdom, Australia and so on.

She also receives orders from people in other Pacific Island countries.

Currently, she is unable to produce charcoal soap because she had ran out of charcoal supply.

This, she says, is because of the high demand for the product.

After Tropical Cyclone Winston had hit the country last year, she said she had to downsize from 13 employees to one employee.

Not only did the category five cyclone cause her to lay off 12 of her workers, but it had also affected her supply of coconuts.

Despite the tough year, she managed to pick up her business.

She anticipates that the supply of coconut will increase next year.

The courageous entrepreneur strives to improve her business.

She said her aim is to encourage the coconut growers and those in the islands to value their resources.

“If you walk around the shopping malls, you will see that they have frangipani and dilo essence, to name a few, which are imported.

“We can also do the same by using our local or native flowers,” she said.

Last month, she was elected as the president of the Cicia Organisation Monitor Agency.

As an island with six certified organic VCO producers, she says the agency strives to assist the entrepreneurs in the island to further grow their businesses.

The agency is also working close with the Agriculture Department of the South Pacific Community.



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