SUNBIZ

81-Year-Old Super Mum Runs 27 Hot Bread Shops

Being a businesswoman has been very rewarding for Mere Samisoni. Being a mother is also a wonderful experience for the politician and founder of Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK).
09 May 2020 13:17
81-Year-Old Super Mum Runs 27 Hot Bread Shops
Hot Bread Kitchen Fiji Director Mere Samisoni on May 8, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Being a businesswoman has been very rewarding for Mere Samisoni.

Being a mother is also a wonderful experience for the politician and founder of Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK).

Today, 39 years after establishing the first Hot Bread Kitchen outlet at Sunderjees building opposite MHCC, Suva, they have 27 shops throughout Fiji and employ 750 staff.

The 81-year-old trailblazer would like to be remembered as a fair, kind and trusted person.

Her greatest achievement, she said: “Gender equity in HBK at staff, executive and board levels.

Hot Bread Kitchen Lami shop staff, (from left)Lanieta Tukitoga, Salute Mafi, Katolina Nakita, Vakaula Mateyawa and Vika Loce on May 8, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Hot Bread Kitchen Lami shop staff, (from left)Lanieta Tukitoga, Salute Mafi, Katolina Nakita, Vakaula Mateyawa and Vika Loce on May 8, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

“If I was not at the helm this would not have happened because in a Patriarch society the culture needs focused attention.”

Below are excerpts of an interview with Mrs Samisoni:

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Lauan of Fijian, Tongan & British descent.

My father is Fijian, my Nana is Tongan and British.

Her Great Grandfather was Dr Reverend George Henry Miller who was the Ship’s Surgeon on the “Elizabeth”, a whaling ship. This explains my Christian spiritual beliefs, values and purpose in life.

I attended the Levuka Public School (LPS) to Form 6 Level. In those days that was as far as LPS went.

In 1956 I boarded the MV Tofua to Christchurch, NZ, to study as a Nurse at Christchurch Public Hospital (CPH) and Essex Maternity Hospital (EMH) where I graduated as both General Nurse and Maternity Nurse. Then I returned to Fiji for experience in the Free Maternity Annex (FMA).

What an experience that was after an average of 2 births 24 hourly at EMH to 16 births 24 hourly at the FMA.

But I enjoyed the learning experience and especially working with our local nurses who have a “natural caring style for their professional calling”.

I went on to complete my Midwifery Training at St. Helen’s Midwifery Hospital, Wellington, Maternal and Child Health, St Paul’s Terrace, Brisbane, and Diploma in Nursing Administration at the College of Nursing, Brisbane, Australia.

I was the First Fijian Nurse to be accepted to the Royal College of Nursing Australia (RCNA).

I enjoyed my Nursing Career that taught me the difference between Team Building Leadership for integrity and change as Technology changes and Management skills to manage that change through the value of working as Teams efficiently and productively.

Tell us a bit about your role at Hot Bread Kitchen?

In the past I was the Operations Manager, in charge of setting up new shops, when due to demand, I set up three Hot Bread Kitchen Outlets per year for 10 years to a total 30 shops.

I was also responsible for Training and Orientation, Cleaning and HR department.

Then the coup of 2000 occurred when six shops were closed due to drop in revenue.

Since then HBK has slowly been growing again to a total of 27 shops today.

HBK is a family company and I want to keep it this way.

I have sent the family, to be educated to at least baccalaureate degree with corporate responsibility level.

I have moved to Chair the Companies at board level so, I don’t get a wage only a sitting allowance which has greatly reduced my income.

We are also opening more shops and employing more staff and created an executive level that took over all my operation work and more today.

At Board Level I use the 2015 Companies Act, Articles of Association (AoA) Company Code ot Ethics, Franchise Programme Policies and Manuals to link with 10 year Strategic Business Plan (2026) and I keep a very close eye on Board Meeting Dates, Agendas, Minutes, and Communication style and standards. I ensure also that the integrity of the Board is processed.

Has your professional background also shaped your role as a mother?

Yes, balance work and family life.

How does it feel to be a Mother?

Being a Mother is a wonderful experience.

Giving life to a creation from the making to the birth, to teaching, loving and growing with your children in ways that allow their identity, talent and ability to grow into people of good character just as my Nana, father, grand parents and their parents molded our human values to give back to the community that gave us so much to live our lives to the full surrounded by the wonder of nature’s biodiversity flora, fauna and interdependent systems.

I grew up in Levuka and enjoyed the freedom, security and safety of that beautiful little town where everyone knew each other, helped each other in times of need and celebrations.

Hot Bread Kitchen Fiji chief executive officer John Samisoni (left) with his mother Mere Samisoni at the family home on May 8, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Hot Bread Kitchen Fiji chief executive officer John Samisoni (left) with his mother Mere Samisoni at the family home on May 8, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Businesswoman?

Being a business woman has been very rewarding.

Even though I was trained and orientated as a Public Health Administrator, what was learned at home from my parents and siblings, school, Nursing career and University Education at both USP for my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and Doctorate as a Distant Student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Mooloolooba, Queensland, Australia all integrated holistically and at process levels.

These have, indeed, linked up well to serve my company mission that ensure standards of service delivery to the public customer and staff or internal customer are empowered with information that sustain their loyalty.

I have four companies today, Samisoni Enterprises Pte Ltd (SEPL), Corporate Management Services Pte Limited, Solar Pacific (Fiji) agent for Nokero (SPFaN) and Samisoni Farms (SF).

Today we are diversifying into the green and brown economies while similarly addressing climate change pollution issues and corvid-19 pandemic clean up for food security.

We do this via our new product Karyon Technology, a bio-organic soil conditioner which works on the microbes and ecosystem in the soil using nature to change nature away from using too much chemicals in fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.

The result of this is the food that we eat are making us sicker and hence the increase in non communicable diseases like, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune disease is a condition arising from an abnormal response to a normal body part. For example, Celiac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Rheumatoid arthritis etc.,

How do you manage the demands of professional and personal commitment?

Daily management list with priorities

What are some of the important lessons that you learnt from your mother that has helped you grow in life?

Her spiritual knowledge that empowered me.

What were some of the memorable moments you spent with your mother that you would cherish for the rest of your life?

How she nursed me with love and tenderness whenever I was sick.

If you could do any other job, what would it be?

I enjoy nature’s beautiful scenery, colours, underwater scenes around the reefs with different coloured fish, I like making things like cooking, sewing and I like order. So, I would like to be an investor manager of digital assets options and make more money in the new economy to help the disadvantaged and needy.

If you could turn back time, what would you change in your life?

Ask for more legal advice on shareholding distribution of the family companies where I had invested all my money, time and effort and got little back for all that.

What is your advice to young females who are climbing up the corporate ladder?

Maintain high standard of integrity.

What advice would you give to young mothers?

Enjoy your motherhood.

What is your Mother’s Day message?

Enjoy your Mother’s Day according to your choice.

Facts:

Hobbies: I like walking, reading and listening to the news.

Favourite food: Sea food, miti with salad vegetables

Favourite book: The Killing Of Uncle Sam. The Demise of the United States of America by Rodney Howard-Browne & Paul L. Williams. 2018.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? I exercise and/or swim in the pool.

Your role models: Without a doubt my darling late mother.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

 

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