NATION

Atela Turns Challenges into Driving Force

Some 15 years ago while in New Zealand, I volunteered for two months in a shipping company just to have a feel for what it’s like to be an employee, to work under someone’s leadership.
22 Aug 2021 15:21
Atela Turns Challenges into Driving Force
Businesswoman Atela Yee

From the rough neighbour­hood of Nadera to being a successful businesswoman, Atela Yee is someone who knows life can be tough.

So when she says ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, she means every word.

Ms Yee is the proud owner of Rai­waqa Bakery and Coffee Shotz.

What many do not know is that this woman has worked very hard to get where she is now.

She does not hide the fact that she became a mother at the age of 17. This meant that she had to drop out of school. This was not a setback, but a step she had to take in life to get to where she is now.

Many will not believe that Ms Yee is in fact 54-years-old. She looks much younger than she really is. In fact, at first glance she has been mistaken as a fitness model. She said she owed this to her commit­ment to health and fitness.

She is a proud mother of six chil­dren, and they are her motivation towards success in life.

The tough hood

“I was born 54 years ago in my parent’s home at the Qereqere Co­pra Settlement, Saqani in Vanua Levu,” said Ms Yee.

“My dad emigrated from China in 1951 and worked in various places before starting his small business in Nadera.

“My beautiful mum came from Kadavu. She was a waitress in a Chinese restaurant. Now she is in the United States of America after separating from my father.

“I have four siblings. Amy lives in Australia, Kitty lives in the United Kingdom, my brother Donny owns the Lami Kava and Pita is a bril­liant freelance videographer.”

The early years for Ms Yee were spent mostly in Nadera. This was the 1970s, when urbanization was just starting to hit Fiji and grow into other suburbs outside Suva.

For Ms Yee, growing up in this neighbourhood taught her how to become street smart and grow thick skin.

“We grew up amongst different cultures and being part Chinese, we got bullied sometimes. That did not mean that I backed out of fights,” Ms Yee said.

“I was a very angry child because the world seemed so cruel to me.

“When my dad started his can­teen in Nadera, we interacted more with the people in the community. We met more people from the great­er Nasinu area. People from differ­ent walks of life.

“It was tough, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Education cut short

Ms Yee’s primary school educa­tion was spent at the Annesley Pri­mary School in Toorak, then she went to a school in Nadera before settling finally for Yat Sen Primary School.

After her eighth year, she joined St Joseph’s Secondary School.

“I loved school in the beginning, but things changed. When my dad started his canteen we had to help out after school,” she said.

“This affected my studies and school became a struggle. I didn’t finish high school. I dropped out when I became a teenage mother so I never went to university or fur­thered my education after that.

“The real teacher for me was life itself. I learned a lot by observing life and reading whatever I could get hold of, including the Awake magazines, they were my favourite.

“Now YouTube is my go to li­brary.”

A businesswoman at heart

When life gives you lemons most would make lemonade, but Ms Yee managed to do much more than that. So much, that she has never worked for anyone in her life. She has always been her own boss.

“I have always done small busi­nesses. I owned a grocery shop in Nadera for nine years and then started Raiwaqa Bakery in 1999.

“In 2018, I opened Coffee Shotz in Nausori.”

Raiwaqa Bakery started to flour­ish. It served the large Raiwaqa community well since it was locat­ed in the Raiwaqa Market building.

But a possible leasing of the com­plex had businesses move out of the complex. Ms Yee relocated first to Nausori and now she has anoth­er shop in Nasese.

“Some 15 years ago while in New Zealand, I volunteered for two months in a shipping company just to have a feel for what it’s like to be an employee, to work under some­one’s leadership,” she said.

“My two months experience as a volunteer employee had challenges of its own. It was much more relax­ing compared to running your own business.

“Surprisingly the stress levels were lower. Being an entrepreneur is more challenging.

“Everything is on you 24 hours a day and seven days a week.”

COVID-19 and the future

Ms Yee feels that the pandemic has brought with it many challeng­es, as well as opportunities.

“On the positive side of things, COVID-19 has made us value our health and slowed us down to re­alise what’s important in life, like family,” Ms Yee said.

“Sadly it has affected a lot of busi­nesses, including ours and families that have lost income; a lesson that we should learn from and not take things for granted.”

Ms Yee said she felt she had new­found strength with her commit­ment towards health and fitness. She said she is more motivated than before and has more than business on her mind.

For the last five years Ms Yee has also focused much on her spiritual growth and aims to live a peaceful life with abundance of love from her family and friends.

 



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