SUNBIZ

From A Hobby To A Business Venture

A hobby for gardening and landscaping has formed the base for a couple’s company that is slowly making its mark around Suva. Studying in Australia between 2004 and 2013, Vilimoni
02 Sep 2019 12:32
From A Hobby To A  Business Venture

A hobby for gardening and landscaping has formed the base for a couple’s company that is slowly making its mark around Suva.

Studying in Australia between 2004 and 2013, Vilimoni and Salote Waqainabete did not realise then that their romance at university would one day see them operate their own company, based in Cunningham in Suva.

“We were both studying in Australia and we met there in Brisbane. I was at the University of Queensland while Vilimoni was studying at the Australia Catholic University,” Mrs Waqainabete said.

The couple returned to Fiji in 2013 and married a year later.

She said they started a small business, Garden Weavers, in Australia doing the same work.

“I saw Vilimoni, who was my boyfriend at that time, he wasn’t really enjoying some of his part-time work which he was doing apart from his studies. But he enjoyed gardening and landscaping

“So we decided to run such a business.”

Mr Waqainabete said he started doing some private landscaping jobs apart from his part-time job to gain experience.

The couple, upon return, started to put things together and registered their company in Fiji in 2016, but business operations began in 2017.

“In terms of trying to get ourselves established we had to work really hard,” he said.

“Two years back, landscaping was usually done in hotels and villas.”One of their biggest aims was to actually bring the expertise they received from Australia to the local scene and make it more real.
She said: “We started using man-made materials, and the other is garden maintenance, water blasting, maintenance, and other things.
“In terms of policies and licenses, rules and regulations, one of the first thing we did were to find a network who knew about small businesses.”

The couple initially reverted to Youtube and Google most of the time to try and master their business.

Then they decided to check with the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and joined the Young Entrepreneurs Council.

“The two challenges were information and having a group of people.

“From there we started to develop a small network of entrepreneurs, who would like to get their small businesses going,” Mrs Waqainabete said.

From left: Vilimoni and Salote Wqqainabete.  Photo: Charles Chambers

From left: Vilimoni and Salote Wqqainabete. Photo: Charles Chambers

Mr Waqainabete said even though some of their clients were business owners, they were able to share with them their struggles and they were offered insights into business operations, strategic planning and marketing.

“Those were the kind of skills that we really lacked. We knew our vision and our goal but getting there was hampered by the lack of professional knowledge and guidance.
“Later we received professional knowledge and guidance through the programme offered by the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation,” she said.

“Before we had smaller projects, which included a fencing project with a recent project involving decking with lighting and the construction of water features.

The couple soon built their business slowly and soon they started importing some materials that were used in their work.
“We also use materials made in Fiji, and we recently went into materials which were recycled,” Mrs Waqainabete said.

“For the construction of decking, we use timber and concrete and at the same time developing the greener sides of the business.

Mr Waqainabete said they were now more confident about their business and product and the direction they were heading too.

“We have gotten more clarity and more drive and a lot that we are able to implement in terms of learning.

“We really encourage any small business to try and get into this programme at the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation.

“Even though you are investing a little of your money into it this.

The couple completed the nine-month programme paying $3000 which included mentoring.

Mrs Waqainabete said one of the things that they have realised was their value and what their company could deliver in this niche market.

“This courses also has helped us to become aware of where we are positioned in the industry in terms of who are the people we are delivering too,” she said.

“In terms of future, we might not be big as Heritage but that is not a problem and we know where we belong and that is the understanding that we get and where we belong.

“We currently have partnered with one of our competitors doing sub-contracting.

“Our mind wasn’t like that before, like when we see competitors as being our business partners.”

Mr Waqainabete said for the future, they would push for more landscaping work which would add value to the properties.

Feedbackcharles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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